Successful Entertaining in Switzerland

Although business entertaining is by no means uncommon in Switzerland, there is not as strong a business entertaining culture as some other, more southern European countries.

You are much more likely to be invited out for lunch than for dinner or breakfast. As with many other more northerly European cultures, the Swiss make a fairly strong separation between their work life and their private life — and so prefer to keep any business entertaining within the confines of normal working hours.

Thus entertaining will usually take place at a good restaurant at lunchtime. During the meal, it is possible to talk about business, but it might be wisest to delay introducing work related issues until the host raises the matter.

If invited out for a meal, the host will always expect to pay. Similarly, if you invite someone for a business lunch, you will be expected to pick up the bill.

As a highly regionalized country, the types of cuisine on offer vary from district to district and the Swiss can be inordinately proud of the regional specialities from their particular Canton. (Regional variations in cuisine are a good topic of conversation over a meal.)

Alcohol will usually be offered at lunch and dinner but many Swiss will refrain from drinking at lunch time. It is probably best to take your lead from your host. You may be surprised by the quality and variety of Swiss wine which are not really heavily exported and therefore little known internationally but are very good. Local wine is another good topic for the lunch table.

It is quite usual to tip in Switzerland. People very often round up to the nearest 10 CHF. As a rule of thumb, a tip of around 5% – 10% should be fine.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Switzerland

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Switzerland must rank as one of the most politically and economically stable countries in the world. It has for years managed to deliver ongoing prosperity for its highly educated, multi-lingual population and, although the country did feel the impact of the banking crisis, the long-term signs seem very positive.

Switzerland is a land-locked country yet despite that seeming disadvantage it is an extremely successful export economy with sector strengths ranging from advanced manufacturing through to high-end financial services. As well as being export-oriented, Switzerland has also been able to attract massive levels of inward investment through a combination of fiscal incentives and a very high standard of living.

Recent years have seen large numbers of immigrants entering Swiss society and whilst this has led to some internal tensions, it has also allowed Switzerland to benefit from the arrival of highly skilled workers who have helped Swiss industry remain at the forefront of innovation and productivity.

Switzerland is a high-cost, high-skilled economy which must be an attractive proposition for many international organisations who are looking to grow their business by entering new markets. Don’t be put off by the seemingly high costs – Switzerland is worth a closer look.

However, Switzerland is a culturally complex country – as you would expect from a country with four official languages. Before starting to do business in Switzerland you would be well-advised to develop a good understanding of the significant cultural differences you can find within the country. Don’t be fooled by the fact that so many people speak good English – their fluency in English doesn’t mean they don’t think, act and behave in a Swiss way.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Swiss business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips