Swiss traditions and customs

What traditions and customs are there in Switzerland?

We describe the customs and traditions of Switzerland.

Food in daily life

Regional and local culinary specialties are generally based on a traditional type of cuisine, rich in calories and fat, more adapted to outdoor activity than to a sedentary lifestyle.

Dairy products such as butter, cream and cheese are important parts of the diet, along with pork. The most recent eating habits show a growing concern for healthy foods and a growing taste for exotic foods.


Respect for privacy and discretion are key values ​​in social interaction. In public spaces like trains, strangers don’t usually talk to each other. Kindness and courtesy are expected in social interaction; in smaller stores, customers and salespeople thank each other multiple times.

Cultural differences between the linguistic regions include the more frequent use of professional titles and roles in the German-speaking region, and the use of a kiss instead of a handshake in the French -speaking region.


Religious beliefs

Catholicism and Protestantism are the main religions. For centuries, Catholics were a minority, but in 1990 there were more Catholics (46 percent) than Protestants (40 percent). The proportion of people belonging to other churches has increased since 1980.

The Muslim community, which represented more than 2 percent of the population in 1990, is the largest religious minority. The Jewish community has always been very small and has suffered discrimination; in 1866 Swiss Jews received the constitutional rights of their Christian fellow citizens.

Church attendance is declining, but the practice of prayer has not disappeared.

Religious professionals

Although the Constitution requires the separation of church and state, the churches remain dependent on the state. In many cantons, pastors and priests receive salaries from civil servants, and church taxes are collected by the state.

These taxes are mandatory for people who are registered as members of a publicly recognized religion, unless they officially resign from a church. In some cantons, the churches have sought independence from the state and now face significant economic difficulties.

Death and the afterlife

In the past, death was part of the social life of a community and involved a precise set of rituals, but the modern trend has been to minimize the social visibility of death. More people die in hospital than at home, funeral homes hold funerals, and there are no more funeral processions or mourning clothes.

Secular celebrations

Official celebrations and holidays differ from canton to canton. National Day (August 1) and New Year’s Day (January 1) are common throughout the country; Religious celebrations shared by Protestants and Catholics include Christmas (December 25), Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost.

The arts and humanities

Arts support

Various institutions support cultural activities, including cantons and communes, the confederation, foundations, corporations and private donors. At the national level, this is the task of the Federal Office for Culture and Pro Helvetia, an autonomous foundation financed by the confederation.

To support artists, the Federal Office for Culture is advised by experts who represent the linguistic regions and who are often artists themselves.

Pro Helvetia supports or organizes cultural activities abroad; within the nation, it supports literary and musical work, as well as cultural exchanges between linguistic regions.

These interregional cultural exchanges are particularly difficult for literature, since the different regional literatures are oriented towards neighboring countries of the same language. A foundation called ch-Stiftung, subsidized by the cantons, supports the translation of literary works into other national languages.


Literature reflects the national linguistic situation: very few authors reach a national audience due to language but also due to cultural differences between linguistic regions.

Francophone Swiss literature is oriented towards France, and German Swiss literature towards Germany; both maintain a love-hate relationship with their impostor neighbors and try to create a distinctive identity.

Graphic arts

Switzerland has a rich tradition in graphic arts; A number of Swiss painters and graphic artists are internationally known for their work, primarily creating posters, banknotes, and fonts for printing (for example, Albrecht Dürer, Hans Erni, Adrian Frutiger, Urs Graf, Ferdinand Hodler, and Roger Pfund).

Performing arts

In addition to subsidized theaters (most often subsidized by cities), numerous partially subsidized theaters and amateur companies offer rich programs to their audiences, with both local and international productions.

The history of dance in Switzerland began at the beginning of the 20th century, when well-known international dancers and choreographers sought asylum in Switzerland.

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