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, political differences can happen to follow the geographical border between the French speaking and the German speaking parts of Switzerland. To define this, you will hear the term Röstigraben (the gap of the Rösti) 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.

The cultural diffrences in Switzerland have also created some clichés that have increased 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.


Many people move to Switzerland fo the generally higher salaries. But you should know that there are many differences between the salary that you can earn depending on your canton of employment.

The average salary in Zürich (men and women, all sectors averaged) is 6'250 chf/month, slightly more than in the cantons of Basel Stadt, Basel Landschaft and Argau (6'095 chf).

Then comes the Geneva lake region (Leman) with an average salary of 5'938 chf. The canton where employees earn the least is Ticino with an average monthly salary of 4'983 chf.

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


Public holidays

There is only one national public holiday, and that is for the Swiss national day on the 1st of August. This is the only federally declared holiday. In Switzerland, cantons can declare their own holidays.

This is why all other 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.

On 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 Obwald. 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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