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Showing posts from June, 2011

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 SwitzerlandThis 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 greeti…

How to Eat Cake in Switzerland

One thing about Switzerland that really plays in its favor is the tasty food. Most famously cheese and chocolate. However, today I want to talk about a famous Swiss cake and the unwritten rules you have to follow in order to politely eat cake in Switzerland. I believe the cake eating rules are the same  also for chocolate, lemon or strawberry cake.

The cake I will talk about is named after the region of Switzerland I grew up in, the canton of Aargau  and is called the Argovian Carrot Cake ("Aargauer Rüeblitorte"). I am not sure why the cake originated in this area but some people claim it was because carrots were and are planted and harvested in great amounts in that region. Whatever its origins, the carrot cake is now an extremely popular cake in Switzerland as can be seen in the fact that little decorative (but also edible and quite tasty) marzipan carrots that can be bought in every super market of the country. It is basically the Swiss standard marzipan figurine.
How to …

The Strategy in Choosing a Seat on a Public Bus

In my last blog entry, I described how many Swiss people prefer to stand in a public bus rather than sit down next to someone they don't know. While this may seem a strange thing for many, an even more peculiar behavior can be observed in the seat an average Swiss person chooses on a public bus.

Let us assume that a passenger boards an empty bus and sits down in the rear part of the bus. A second passengers enters and now has to decide where to sit down. He takes into consideration personal preferences (e.g. window or aisle seat) and proximity to the driver (older people generally sit closer to the driver in the front part of the bus). According to my observations, the most important factor in the choice of seating, however, is the presence of one or more other passengers on the bus. In an almost natural inclination the new passenger sits down in a seat two rows away from an already sitting passenger. This means, there is at least one row of empty seats or one empty seat between t…

Do Not Sit Down Next to Strangers

I usually take a bus to work since public transportation in Switzerland is quite convenient and punctual. Lets do the math: I take the bus to and from work and I work five days a week so we can safely assume that I ride a bus in Switzerland at least ten times a week.

While riding the bus to work this last week I observed a most interesting phenomenon. People chose their seat on the bus according to a repeating pattern: If the bus was empty or almost empty the passenger chose any free seat with older people usually choosing one in the front of the bus and younger people one in the back. If the bus was full or almost full newly boarding passengers chose  any free seat available without giving much importance to its location.

However, a very strange thing occurred if the bus was half empty (or half full depending on your point of view): At first, newly boarding passengers chose either a free singular seat or a free seat in a free double seat (two free seats next to each other). Once all …