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How to Greet a Stranger in Switzerland

In my last posts, I wrote about the behavior of Swiss people on public busses and how they seem to feel uncomfortable when too close to a strange person. This makes us Swiss look quite introverted and maybe even a bit rude. While walking to the train this week, however, I was reminded of how polite and friendly the Swiss actually are.

In Switzerland, we have a clearly defined code of greeting. We greet friends and family but also acquaintances and even strangers we meet on the streets. This code only only applies to rural areas or neighborhoods because in urban areas it simply doesn't work because there are too many people walking around. 

How to Greet a Stranger in Switzerland

This is how it works: If you walk in a small town or village and you cross paths with another person you should greet that person with a friendly "Grüezi" (= polite form of hello in Switzerland) or a "Guete Tag" (= good day). It doesn't matter if you know the person or not. This greeting code also applies while hiking in the mountains or sometimes even while boating. This means basically everywhere where it's quite clear that you are crossing paths with someone. As mentioned above, this doesn't work in a city where you have no idea who is going where and who is looking at what).
Greeting a Stranger - Rainer Sturm  / pixelio.de
As a rule of thumb, the younger person is expected to greet first as a sign of respect. If you don't know the person or if it's someone you only have a formal relationship with, you must greet them with "Grüezi" or "Guete Tag". If you happen to meet someone you know better or a child, you can also greet them with the more informal "Hallo" or "Hoi" (= hello). Of course, it is also nice if you stop and chat for a bit. 

I must admit, I don't always feel like greeting strangers when I pass them on my way to the bus station or the train. Sometimes I just want my stay absorbed in my thoughts. However, I generally think its a nice custom to greet people and acknowledge their presence. If you have the chance to go hiking in the Swiss mountains and you see a group of Swiss people walking towards you, please make sure to greet with a friendly "Grüezi" and you'll probably make their day!


How do people greet in your country or region? Are there certain ways and traditions? Share with us in the comments!


© 2011 IRENE WYRSCH "A HUMOROUS GUIDE TO SWITZERLAND" ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

LAST UPDATED: JANUARY 2019

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