For members


Reader question: What time do the Swiss eat dinner?

With home office on the rise, many Swiss people eat their meals whenever they have time or are hungry, with some preferring snacks in between. Yet the majority still stick to ‘set’ mealtimes – but when are those?

Potatoes dipped into cheese.
When do the Swiss like to eat? Photo by angela pham on Unsplash

While the Swiss are flexible when it comes to what type of bread they eat for breakfast (though they prefer so-called house bread), they usually opt for a honey or jam spread to go with it.

Lunchtimes are equally rushed, with many people grabbing a quick sandwich on the go or placing an order at a local fast food outlet, though you won’t regret finding the time for some cheesy Älplermagronen (a dish with pasta, potatoes, cream, cheese and onions) – a Swiss favourite!

Dinner is largely considered the main meal of the day throughout the country and many Swiss like to sit down for heart meal with cheese (of course!) and a glass of wine.

To give you an idea of what to expect when dining in Switzerland, here are some basic guidelines.


Dinnertime in Switzerland is dictated by working hours – which range anywhere from a 6 am start to an 8 pm finish – and restaurant opening times. Generally, the Swiss wine and dine between 6 pm and 9.30 pm depending on where they have their dinner that day.

READ ALSO: What is Aromat and why are the Swiss so obsessed with it?

Dinners in the home are commonly served around 6 pm if no guests are expected. Those planning a soirée with friends and family which is often preceded by an informal dinner may choose to host just after 6pm.

If you have been invited to a party or home cooked dinner by a friend, colleague, or acquaintance, the etiquette is to bring a small gift as a thank you. In Switzerland, most people choose to bring a bottle of wine or a seasonal bouquet of flowers.

When making dinner reservations with a date or friend, the Swiss tend to book a table from 8 pm onwards. Many restaurants and pubs in Switzerland – particularly the ones in larger cities – offer hot dishes all day (from 11 am to 10 pm).

A restaurant in Switzerland.

A restaurant in Switzerland. Photo by Kinga Lopatin on Unsplash

In the evening, many restaurants will have set meals consisting of a starter, main and dessert course which will be somewhat cheaper than choosing freely from the menu.

If you fancy yourself a late-night dinner in Switzerland, remember to make a reservation and don’t panic if you forget to tip. In Switzerland, guests are not obliged to tip. Nevertheless, in many restaurants it is customary to leave a tip and you are very likely to see your Swiss friend round up to the nearest sensible figure (usually around 10 percent).

READ ALSO: You are not Swiss until you try these seven weird foods


As a general rule of thumb, lunch in Switzerland is served between 12 pm and 2 pm however some restaurants cater to customers whose stomachs growl even before the clock strikes 12.

The Migros Restaurant and its rival Coop Restaurant are both popular stops for a quick lunch on a budget (open from 7.30 am) and are spread throughout Switzerland – small towns included.

You usually get the cheapest option if you order a “menu of the day” in the restaurant at lunchtime, which usually consists of a starter (soup or salad) and a main course.

The familiar orange lettering of Swiss supermarket chain Migros

The familiar orange lettering of Swiss supermarket chain Migros. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

While grabbing a lunch at home may still be the norm for schoolchildren – the majority of Swiss schools do not serve food – it is very much out of fashion with adults who prefer to eat on the go.

At best, the Swiss will eat at a restaurant or canteen, but they are more likely to opt for a fast-food chain, a Kebab or just buy an inexpensive sandwich at Denner.


Given that the Swiss working day can start as early as 6 am, breakfast is the one meal that has no set times in Switzerland but is generally eaten between the hours of 6 am and 9.30 am.

Muesli is a popular breakfast in Switzerland.

Muesli is a popular breakfast in Switzerland. Photo by Daria Nepriakhina 🇺🇦 on Unsplash

Whether for “Zmorge”, “petit déjeuner” or “colazione” – in German, French or Italian-speaking Switzerland, something sweet must be part of your breakfast.

While Swiss living in the city tend to either eat less or forgo the early meal altogether, people living in the Alps like to sit down with a homemade Birchermüesli. In either case, a milk coffee for breakfast is a Swiss must.

But if you’re looking to feel really Swiss, you’ll be happy to find that sticking to set mealtimes isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – hence, why the Znüni (morning snack) and Zvieri (afternoon snack) exist.

Znüni literally translates to ‘at nine o’clock’ and is derived from the number nine since traditionally, a morning break at work is usually taken around this time. However, the term is also used when said break – usually accompanied by a Gipfeli – is made at different times, such as at 10 o’clock.

Similarly, the Zvieri (‘at four o’clock’) signifies a quick afternoon meal – usually a bag of crisps or chocolate – at any given time.

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For members


Reader question: How can I find out if my Swiss employer is underpaying me?

Wages in Switzerland are generally higher than almost everywhere else in Europe. But how can you know if you are being paid enough — and what can you do if you are not?

Reader question: How can I find out if my Swiss employer is underpaying me?

Obviously, some jobs and industries pay more (or less) than others, so your salary will be based on a general pay scale for your specific position within that sector.

It is also determined by other factors, such as your education, skills, experience, length of employment, and the canton / city where you work.

For instance, if you work in Zurich, Geneva, or Basel, you are likely to earn more than someone employed in a similar job in a small town or rural area.

Based on all these variables, your pay may very well be lower — or higher — than that of other employees in your company or sector.

However, regardless of where in Switzerland you work, there are ways to find out whether you are being compensated sufficiently for the kind of work and position you have, or whether your salary is lower than normal for your industry (a practice known as “wage dumping”).

Swiss labour practices

While some employers have been accused of wage dumping, this is not a widespread practice in Switzerland, and is predominantly limited to small companies that subcontract work.

The country has strong labour laws which protect workers in terms of wages, work conditions, and other employment-related rights.

In addition to the basic rules and conditions outlined in this legislation, many employees are also covered by the collective bargaining agreement (CLA), a kind of contract that is negotiated between Switzerland’s trade unions and employers.

Generally speaking, they cover a minimum wage for each type of work; regulations relating to work hours; payment of wages in the event of illness or maternity; vacation and days off; and protection against dismissal.

CLAs are sector-specific; in other words, they take into account the particular aspects of each branch. As an example, Switzerland’s largest labour union, The Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (UNIA), maintains 265 collective agreements in the areas of industry and construction.

READ  MORE: What is a Swiss collective bargaining agreement — and how could it benefit you?

So if your company and employees are covered by a CLA, you can be sure that you are getting a fair wage — and that your other rights are protected as well.

What if your company has not concluded a CLA?

In this case, you are still protected by the above-mentioned labour legislation, which ensures that your welfare and rights are being respected.

You will also sign an employment contract with your company, which outlines your salary, rights and obligations, as well as everything your employer can and cannot do, or expect from you.

According to a government site, “in professional sectors that do not have a collective employment agreement, the federal or cantonal authorities can establish a standard employment contract …The employer can only modify these conditions to offer better terms for employees.”

Due diligence

If you want to know what a standard wage is for your type of job and industry you can do so by checking out the wage calculator created by UNIA. 

It is programmed with the latest salary levels from 72 different industry sectors and 36,000 companies in Switzerland, so it will give you a good indication of what a fair wage is in your case.

If the pay your employer is offering you is below the industry standard, you have the option of not accepting the job.

In case you are already working and realise your employer is short-changing you — especially based on your nationality, race, gender or disability — there are some options open to you, all of which are outlined on this government site

If a court or another official body decides the employer was paying you unfairly, the company will have to repay the wage difference.

READ MORE: How much do you need to earn in your Swiss canton to be well off?