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Eight ways to annoy your Swiss friends

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, you might consider finding ways to annoy your Swiss friends and see how they react.

You need to master the wine drinking etiquette in Switzerland. Photo by Zan on Unsplash
You need to master the wine drinking etiquette in Switzerland. Photo by Zan on Unsplash

You may want to think twice about annoying your Swiss friends, as Swiss friends are very difficult to find.

In fact, it probably took you 150 arduous steps to get Swiss friends in the first place, and it takes only eight to piss them off.

But if you are really committed to doing do, just for the fun of it, here are some ways that are sure to make many locals wonder why you were allowed into their country.

Drop in without prior notice

The Swiss are very organised, live by the clock, and tend to micromanage everything around them.

Popular lore has it that this habit is not as entrenched in Italian and French-speaking regions as it is in the Swiss-German part.

But if you want to irk people, regardless of the geographical area, drop in announced. Don’t call or send messages telling them you’re coming — just show up at their doorstep.

And if you do tell them you’re coming….arrive late. Few things irritate Swiss people more than tardiness.

READ MORE: The pleasure of punctuality’: Why are the Swiss so obsessed with being on time?

Insult their national pride

If you tell a friend they are not really ‘Swiss’, but German, French or Italian (depending on the region in which they live and the language they speak), you will annoy them terribly.

The Swiss are very patriotic and proud of their country (sometimes even to the point of arrogance) and they will not take to this remark kindly.

Make fun of their army

To tell a Swiss person their military is not a ‘real army’, is sure to piss them off.

They regard army service not only as their patriotic and civic duty, but also as a rite of passage of sorts.

True, not every country’s military has army knives, cutlery, watches, travel gear and fragrances attached to their name, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t fight if they had to.

They probably could fight if they had to. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Laugh at their language(s)

One foreigner we know told a Swiss-German friend (now an ex-friend) that his language sounds like “bastardised Dutch”.

Let it be a good lesson: making fun of someone’s native language is a definite ‘nein-nein’.

‘Just so fun to say’: Are these the best Swiss German words to learn?

On the other hand, if you learn to speak it, even imperfectly, you might just make a friend or two.

Not master the proper wine etiquette

Switzerland is a nation of wine drinkers. To Swiss people, French wines are, needless to say, inferior (as everything French is), and don’t even try to sell them on Italian or Spanish wines. They will, literally and figuratively, turn up their noses at them.

Also, if you drink with a Swiss friend, you don’t unceremoniously chug your wine down and ask for more. You have to hold your glass by the stem, look into your friend’s eyes, preferably without blinking, for at least five seconds, then clink your glasses.

Only then can you sip your wine, praising its fragrance, aroma, depth of colour, and the Swiss region it came from.

Not appreciate Aromat

The Swiss love their Aromat seasoning and there’s hardly a household that doesn’t keep it on their spice rack.

It goes on everything from boiled eggs to meat and fish, and some people even carry it with them when they eat out or go on holidays.

As a foreigner, you may not understand what all the fuss is about, but to say outright to a Swiss that Aromat tastes awful or that it shouldn’t be sprinkled on everything is almost as offensive as criticising their language and army (see above) .

Disrupt peace and quiet

If your Swiss friends are also your neighbours, you are sure to irritate them by being loud on inappropriate days and at inappropriate hours.

READ MORE: Nine ways you might be annoying your neighbours (and not realising it) in Switzerland

All apartment buildings in Switzerland have a noise ordinance in place, which bans loud noises after 10pm. You might have heard that you are not even allowed to flush your toilet after this time, but in most buildings this is not the case, unless your toilet sounds like a jackhammer.

However, loud music, TV, and other noises are strictly ‘verboten’.

And Sundays are considered rest days so your neighbours’ peace and quiet should not be disrupted by a sound of a lawn mower, hedge cutter, or nail being hammered into a wall.

Never on Sunday. Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash

Not support Swiss national football team or Roger Federer

When it comes to sports, the Swiss are firmly behind their teams and champions.

If you tell a friend you are a fan of another team or tennis player, expect to become an outcast in your social circle and maybe even the whole country.

READ MORE: ‘We don’t like France, Germany or Italy’: How linguistic diversity unites Swiss football fans

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OFFBEAT

Is Switzerland’s male-only mandatory military service ‘discriminatory’?

Under Swiss law, all men must serve at least one year in compulsory national service. But is this discriminatory?

Swiss military members walk across a road carrying guns
A new lawsuit seeks to challenge Switzerland's male-only military service requirement. Is this discriminatory? FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

All men aged between the ages of 18 and 30 are required to complete compulsory military service in Switzerland. 

A lawsuit which worked its way through the Swiss courts has now ended up in the European Court of Human Rights, where the judges will decide if Switzerland’s male-only conscription requirement violates anti-discrimination rules. 

Switzerland’s NZZ newspaper wrote on Monday the case has “explosive potential” and has “what it takes to cause a tremor” to a policy which was first laid out in Switzerland’s 1848 and 1874 Federal Constitutions. 

What is Switzerland’s compulsory military service? 

Article 59 of the Federal Constitution of Switzerland says “Every man with Swiss citizenship is liable for military service. Alternative civilian service shall be provided for by law.”

Recruits must generally do 18 weeks of boot camp (longer in some cases). 

They are then required to spend several weeks in the army every year until they have completed a minimum 245 days of service.

Military service is compulsory for Swiss men aged 18 and over. Women can chose to do military service but this is rare.

What about national rather than military service? 

Introduced in 1996, this is an alternative to the army, originally intended for those who objected to military service on moral grounds. 

READ MORE: The Swiss army’s growing problem with civilian service

Service is longer there than in the army, from the age of 20 to 40. 

This must be for 340 days in total, longer than the military service requirement. 

What about foreigners and dual nationals? 

Once you become a Swiss citizen and are between the ages of 18 and 30, you can expect to be conscripted. 

READ MORE: Do naturalised Swiss citizens have to do military service?

In general, having another citizenship in addition to the Swiss one is not going to exempt you from military service in Switzerland.

However, there is one exception: the obligation to serve will be waved, provided you can show that you have fulfilled your military duties in your other home country.

If you are a Swiss (naturalised or not) who lives abroad, you are not required to serve in the military in Switzerland, though you can voluntarily enlist. 

How do Swiss people feel about military and national service? 

Generally, the obligation is viewed relatively positively, both by the general public and by those who take part in compulsory service. 

While several other European countries have gotten rid of mandatory service, a 2013 referendum which attempted to abolish conscription was rejected by 73 percent of Swiss voters. 

What is the court case and what does it say? 

Martin D. Küng, the lawyer from the Swiss canton of Bern who has driven the case through the courts, has a personal interest in its success. 

He was found unfit for service but is still required to pay an annual bill to the Swiss government, which was 1662CHF for the last year he was required to pay it. 

While the 36-year-old no longer has to pay the amount – the obligation only lasts between the ages of 18 and 30 – Küng is bring the case on principle. 

So far, Küng has had little success in the Swiss courts, with his appeal rejected by the cantonal administrative court and later by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court. 

Previous Supreme Court cases, when hearing objections to men-only military service, said that women are less suitable for conscription due to “physiological and biological differences”.

In Küng’s case, the judges avoided this justification, saying instead that the matter was a constitutional issue. 

‘No objective reason why only men have to do military service’

He has now appealed the decision to the European level. 

While men have previously tried and failed when taking their case to the Supreme Court, no Swiss man has ever brought the matter to the European Court of Human Rights. 

Küng told the NZZ that he considered the rule to be unjust and said the Supreme Court’s decision is based on political considerations. 

“I would have expected the Federal Supreme Court to have the courage to clearly state the obvious in my case and not to decide on political grounds,” Küng said. 

“There is no objective reason why only men have to do military service or pay replacement taxes. On average, women may not be as physically productive as men, but that is not a criterion for excluding them from compulsory military service. 

There are quite a few men who cannot keep up with women in terms of stamina. Gender is simply the wrong demarcation criterion for deciding on compulsory service. If so, then one would have to focus on physical performance.”

Is it likely to pass? 

Küng is optimistic that the Strasbourg court will find in his favour, pointing to a successful appeal by a German man who complained about a fire brigade tax, which was only imposed on men. 

“This question has not yet been conclusively answered by the court” Küng said. 

The impact of a decision in his favour could be considerable, with European law technically taking precedence over Swiss law.

It would set Switzerland on a collision course with the bloc, particularly given the popularity of the conscription provision. 

Küng clarified that political outcomes and repercussions don’t concern him. 

“My only concern is for a court to determine that the current regulation is legally wrong.”

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