Diversity in Switzerland

A few cultural differences on a cantonal level

Diversity in Switzerland

Due to a strong federal system, there are many cultural differences on a cantonal level. As an expat, you should be aware of those as they can impact your daily life.


Generally speaking, there can be some cultural differences between the French and the German speaking parts of Switzerland. Referring to this, you will hear the humorous term Röstigraben (the gap of the rösti or hashed potatoes) being used. Another commonly used term is “on the other side of the Sarine,” which is the river following roughly the separation between these two linguistic parts of the country.

These cultural differences in Switzerland have also created some clichés that are part of the Röstigraben. The French speakers are regarded by the German speakers as lazy people who don't work hard and who only like to party. In contrast, the German speakers are regarded as less open-minded, less easy going and less friendly.

Needless to say that these are exaggerations, and your idea of the Röstigraben will depend a lot on the personality of the people you meet.

Salary differences

A lot of people move to Switzerland for the generally higher salaries. But you should know that there are many differences between the salary that you can earn: it depends on your canton of employment.

In 2019, the average salary in Zürich (men and women, all sectors averaged) is 10,450 CHF/month, slightly more than in the Geneva lake region (10,200 CHF).

Then comes the cantons of Basel Stadt, Basel Landschaft and Aargau with an average salary of 10,100 CHF. The canton where employees earn the least is Ticino with an average monthly salary of 9,000 CHF. The top percentile of people are, of course, awarded the highest salaries - increasing average salary figures. Average salary figures in CH, therefore, cannot be seen as an accurate representation of the working or lower class salaries.

If you want to know more about the salary differences for your profession, check the Federal Office of Statistics  website.

Public holidays

The only national holiday for all the Swiss citizens is the 1st of August. The rest of public holidays vary from one canton to another, and you will have to see with your employer whether you have to work or not.

On a federal level, employees are not required to receive pay for any holiday other than the 1st of August. Cultural differences dictate whether a certain date is a holiday in one canton, but not on another - especially on a religious level, where Protestant and Catholic majorities vary.

An example of a cantonal difference in holiday is New Year's Day, which is a public holiday in nearly all of Switzerland, except for the canton of Obwalden. The same is true for Good Friday, where it is a public holiday in all regions except for Ticino and Valais/Wallis.

While the Ascension and Christmas are not national holidays, they have been made public holidays by all cantons.

Moreover, it is worth mentioning that the Geneva-based international organizations have their own calendar of days off that do not always coincide with the ones of the canton of Geneva.

Further reading

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