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Old 13.01.2011, 17:10
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Swiss working culture

Happy New Year! Hope everyone had a good start (as Swiss people would say)

I have this frustration as the result of the first day back to work - I am not adjusting well to Swiss working culture.
(I have done my search to find any existing posts, and got to love the new search version)

I work with majority of Swiss people, my team is like 97% swiss, not to mention most people work in the building are Swiss.
Because of the ratio of Swiss and International, I could say I've experienced the cultural difference (shock) first hand. Not all the differences are bad, so some of the differences I can cope, but some of them I am not adjusting to it well at all

This is what I found:
- Swiss people do not mix work and private life:
I was told it’s because if someone knows about too much about your private life, they might hold it against you when it comes to the promotion.
Of course, I have some noisy Swiss in my team just want to know everything.

- Swiss people hardly go for a drink after work unless invitation was sent out few weeks in advance:
There is no casual drink after work or spontaneous invitation. When it comes to social events, it must be organised in advance.

- Swiss people go to work early and work hard:
It seems everyone starts early, I am not a morning person but manage to be in the office by 830am, everyone is already there and start working.
Hardly anyone is seen surfing the net (even reading the news), it all about work work work. No coffee break, social chat, even the lunch break is short although everyone is entitled to have 1 hour, but it seems that everyone goes to lunch early (before 12pm) and finish in 30 mins and back to work.

- Do as you told, no questions:
Yup, most Swiss will tell you just do as you told. They don't like questions, either they don't know the answers or they don't like being challenged. So most of the time, they will just tell you 'this is the way it is, don't ask me why'. For example, if the number is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, if someone's job is to handle 3 and 4, they just know 3 and 4, they don't know 1 and 2 are before 3 and 4, or don't know 5, 6, and 7 are after. 3 and 4 it is and its their world.

- The way it is, no changes:
Some Swiss people don't like changes. They like to stick the way it has always been and are not open to changes.

- Communication?
I don’t think Swiss people communicate to each other often, I found myself explain the same thing over and over again to different people, which if they talked to each other, everyone would’ve been on the same page easy. But they don’t.

- Swiss people are not open minded and inflexible, its more like military top down order:
This annoys me the most is Swiss people are not open minded, (ok some of them), the view is only mountains high. Also it is very hierarchy, no flexibility no negotiation.

- Check, recheck, trip check, keep checking….
Swiss are careful and cautious, they check everything, need confirmation, make sure everything is ok, , so checking, keep checking…..until its bullet proof and sign off.

This is what I have gathered so far, I am pretty sure there are heaps more (good or bad or ugly) to discover.
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Old 13.01.2011, 18:35
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Re: Swiss working culture

I'm swiss and have about the same issues with swiss people in the office.
You get used to it and there will always be someone in the building to have a beer after work, it's just hard to find them.
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Old 13.01.2011, 18:37
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Re: Swiss working culture

Without being rude, maybe they don't want to mix with you, do you speak Swiss German ? Normally, or certainly in the French part, if you make an effort people here will make an effort to include you and assist you.

You don't seem to like the way they work, maybe this shows through. I agree it is often quite archaïque, but this is the Swiss, they are loathe to change and you certianly are not going to change them over night.

It takes a lot of patience and a cunning plan...
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Old 13.01.2011, 18:48
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Re: Swiss working culture

What absolutely pisses me off:

Dear Lost_Inbroad

Yes, I agree.

Sincerely,

-Bob


How much time they ****ing waste on writing a stupid reponse, formalities and other mindless nitpicking.
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Old 13.01.2011, 18:54
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Re: Swiss working culture

This page says it all insofar as my exposure with them is concerned:

http://www.fit-swiss.ch/index-22--L-en.html
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Old 13.01.2011, 19:06
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Re: Swiss working culture

After a long day of Swiss work culture, I had my first smile.

My worse bit is that foreigners to fit in end up being more "swiss" than the Swiss. It was a miserable day.
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Old 13.01.2011, 19:21
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Re: Swiss working culture

i agree with what you say about coming to work early.
but i find they are having way too many/long breaks....and i am greek!
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Old 13.01.2011, 19:26
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Re: Swiss working culture

I had experience working with really Swiss company (Family Owned) and i found it to be a pleasant experience, we were always discussing about work progress and i tried to offer new ideas, that wasn't really easy as we had to go through debates but i ended up emailing them comparison charts of various ideas to proof my point.

Swiss are so cautious and like to know all details before making new moves, they're slow but accurate, the only way to deal with that is via official communications (reports, emails, memos).

On the personal level, don't expect to be one of them in 24 hours, they'rs defo not Australians, they will take their time to study you and trust you, once they do, things will change and you'll discover their real persona.
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Old 13.01.2011, 20:30
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Re: Swiss working culture

It's an interessant thread. I'm from south of france, with a whole different culture and I have some interviews for jobs in big swiss compagnies. I hope not having too much difficulties to integrate myself in this country...
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Old 13.01.2011, 21:09
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Re: Swiss working culture

I have the feeling that I am working in a different country than the OP. I guess it is all dependent on the company you work for
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Old 13.01.2011, 21:09
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Re: Swiss working culture

It might be much easier for you to fit in Suisse Romande or Ticino. People so often make sweeping remarks about THE Swiss, and forget there there are several cultures here. Bonne chance.
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Old 13.01.2011, 21:16
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Re: Swiss working culture

Giang forgot to mention, that the Swiss voted for the 42 hr. week instead of the 40h.
I cant help thinking that the work moral of the Swiss people is guilty for the country's
relative wealth.
Frustrating of course, if you are looking for friends at the place you work.
But I agree with the description of the Swiss workers. Sounds dull, but it works for the economy.
On the other hand it is quite possible to bring some change into the atmosphere, but it takes time. Keep trying!
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Old 13.01.2011, 21:17
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Re: Swiss working culture

i can empathise with you. i recognise some of the above and have heard many complaints from others on the points also.

it's not all bad, the "no questions/no changes" attitude (also prevalent in china) is a great opportunity creating jobs for those of us who are more 'troublesome' employees who question the status quo and push challenge the rules to drive improvements.
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Old 13.01.2011, 21:29
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Re: Swiss working culture

Quote:
- Swiss people go to work early and work hard:
honestly, that really depends on the company you work for and on their rules in terms of flexible work hours. I'm Swiss. I work for a Swiss institution with about 60-70% Swiss staff. I actually like to work early (but I also leave early in the evening) and it drives me nuts that literally everybody else doesn't show up for work until 9:30.

It's very true, though, that the Swiss, me included, don't like to mix work and private life. That's the main reason why most people don't want to go for drinks after work. Strictly separating work and private life helps me to stay sane. I just absolutely don't understand how people can keep their sanity when they constantly see their work colleagues after work as well - work just continues in the pub. My advice: if you like to get to know some of your colleagues better, take them out to lunch. Most Swiss will gladly extend their lunch breaks.

The length of the lunch breaks, btw., also depends on the work rules. We don't have any lunch breaks included in our work-time but we're required to take 30 minutes (meaning our work-day simply is 9 hours instead of 8:30). If we take more, we just have to work longer. That's why most people only take 30 minutes here.

Peter
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Old 13.01.2011, 21:36
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Re: Swiss working culture

I could rant for days about this - it is my daily life now. To shift gears, I appreciate, greatly, their fanatical, relentless tendency to document everything that happens that they ever did. We have a library in our building of binders that is absolutely staggering, but we can go back retrace our steps any time we want.

Culturally, I feel like I am running in quicksand. When the Swiss work, they work hard, and are diligent and thorough. However, they clearly work to live, not live to work. Coffee breaks are relaxed, and last until the conversation is finished, not until the clocks says so. Flextime is used happily, and often in the employee's favor. On the other side, the union takes a remarkably fair attitude towards the business, and itself. They are amazingly reasonable on small matters, and extremely inflexible on large ones. As an American, it often feels like the antithesis of my own working culture. It's absolutely mind-boggling to walk into a meeting room, show them their set of miniscule earnings, staggering costs, and bare sales channel, and be told it's quite fine. I literally expect one day, upon commenting the sky is blue, to be politely corrected and told it's red here in Switzerland.

On the other hand - if I want to rearrange the building to empty out a floor, the will cock their head, work quite industriously and provide a very detailed plan of to make it work.

I'm learning a lot here, that I will say.

Last edited by dmay; 13.01.2011 at 21:36. Reason: spelling error
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Old 13.01.2011, 21:44
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Re: Swiss working culture

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However, they clearly work to live, not live to work. Coffee breaks are relaxed, and last until the conversation is finished, not until the clocks says so.
Where's the problem ? live to work, you got to be nuts !
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Old 13.01.2011, 21:46
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Re: Swiss working culture

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I could rant for days about this - it is my daily life now.
well, as someone who's lived in the States before, I have to say that the Americans' work-ethics really isn't that different from the Swiss. People don't generally like to have a drink after work. They might invite you for a BBQ on the weekend, though - which very rarely happens here.
The Americans I know have a harder time to separate work from private life than the Swiss because they feel more obliged to their work-place (perhaps because they're constantly afraid that they could get fired without notice if they don't excel), but they actually suffer from that - they love their private lives and most people would very much like to completely separate work from private life.

On the other hand, in the US there actually are 9 to 5 jobs. That just doesn't exist here. First of all, work time for most people is longer than 8 hours per day to start with (usually close to 8 hours and 30 minutes plus 30-60 minutes of lunch breaks that aren't included in your work-time. So most people spend 9 to 9 1/2 hours at the office before they even start logging over-time). Then, most people have to work over-time most of the time - not something that routinely happens for many Americans. I've talked to dozens of IT guys in the US and found it extremely surprising that most people actually were able to limit their work-time to the 40 hours they were required to work. Here, IT jobs are 42 hours on paper and between 45 and 60 hours in reality.
Of course, many Americans work their asses off and spend their weekends at the office - I'm not trying to imply that they're lazy.

Peter
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Old 13.01.2011, 21:51
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Re: Swiss working culture

Quote:
Where's the problem ? live to work, you got to be nuts !
That wasn't necessarily a criticism. Just...something to adapt to.
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Old 13.01.2011, 21:53
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Re: Swiss working culture

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well, as someone who's lived in the States before, I have to say that the Americans' work-ethics really isn't that different from the Swiss. People don't generally like to have a drink after work. They might invite you for a BBQ on the weekend, though - which very rarely happens here.
Americans don't like to have drink after work? Guess I came from a different part of the States.
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Old 13.01.2011, 21:53
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Re: Swiss working culture

Being from New England, I find the Swiss refreshingly open!

Tom

P.S. If you don't understand this, you are NOT from New England!
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