Swiss business etiquette
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For the international business person doing business in a foreign country offers certain intercultural challenges. Differences in culture mean differences in etiquette and protocol. Understanding a country's business culture, protocol and etiquette is important in achieving success abroad.
This guide to doing business in Switzerland offers some introductory points to some of the above mentioned areas such as business culture and etiquette. It is not intended to summarise all 'doing business tips' nor meant to stereotype the Spanish people. Rather, it highlights some important key areas for consideration when doing business in Switzerland. We have focused on three areas: how to meet and greet, communicate and conduct business meetings.
Meeting & Greeting:
When meeting people, shake hands with all present. Swiss society is rather formal and people tend to address each other, whether colleague, neighbour or acquaintance, by their surname. This is not only a sign and respect but one of the manifestations of the Swiss propensity for privacy. However, in some of the multinationals in Switzerland this is changing and first names are a little more common.
At first always address someone first by his or her professional title and family name. Only when invited to should one use first names.
Switzerland has four official languages - German, French, Italian and Romansch. Romansch is spoken by 1 percent of the population in the eastern part of the country. Swiss-German is a dialect spoken in all the German-speaking cantons.
In German-speaking Switzerland, use the courtesy titles "Herr" to address a man and "Frau" to address a woman; in French-speaking areas, use "Monsieur" and "Madame"; in Italian- speaking areas, use "Signore" and "Signora".
The Swiss are a private people, so try to avoid asking personal questions until a good relationship has been established. What constitutes personal are areas such as occupation, age, marital status, religion, etc.
The communication style can come across as quite sober; initially it is advisable to avoid jokes and engaging in any banter as this may be misconstrued.
Meetings & Negotiations:
The Swiss are known for getting the best possible deal in negotiations without ever appearing aggressive or demanding. Through quiet self-confidence and a no-nonsense approach to business they sidestep 'hard-sell' and other high- pressure tactics. In addition they will refuse to rush a decision until they have properly examined all the facts and information and reported these to the decision maker(s).
18 oct 2007, 01:00 Julia
In the Swiss German-speaking part of Switzerland, people tend to make business meetings as short as possible. You arrive, tell them what you want, they answer and after the business discussion is over, they will close the meeting. A central European businessman reports that only after the fifth meeting and having bough millions from his Swiss supplier was he invited for lunch. The senior manager (Chef) will speak first and lead the show. His lower-ranking colleagues will usually speak only when told to do so, and you should not address them directly during the first meeting.
Karl 18 oct 2007, 01:03 - Denunciar
If you come late to a Swiss meeting, even by 5 minutes, this is a bad beginning. Of course, Swiss business people know that other countries have a less rigid conception of time but this is nevertheless considered rude. If, for example, you are 10 minutes late, some Swiss will make you sit a further 10 minutes in the waiting room, so take something to read.
Karl 18 oct 2007, 01:03 - Denunciar
Businesspeople are expected to wear suits. Although English is widely spoken, it is always appreciated if a visitor attempts to say a few words in the language of the host. When visiting a firm, a business card is essential.Karl 18 oct 2007, 01:05 - Denunciar