Many are aware of the stereotype that the Swiss are introverted and somewhat distant. Therefore, it is hard to build meaningful connections with them. In a recent study on the best places for expats, 62% found it hard to make Swiss friends. The truth is that it also depends on the other person and even if making local friends could take just a bit longer in Switzerland then elsewhere, it is surely worth the try. So how can you break through the expat communities and establish lasting friendships with local people?
Make the first move
TheSwiss are not exactly known for being outgoing and often come across as shy. However, they are actually just trying to be respectful of others’ privacy. So, keep that in mind when approaching Swiss people. Naturally, with this kind of mindset, they hardly ever start conversations with foreigners. But take the first step and you will see; Swiss people are generally friendlier than they may first appear. Personally, the best advice I was given so far, is to be patient even after making the first move. It might take a bit longer than in other cultures for them to return the favour of an invitation, but it’s worth the wait.
Join online communities
There are a lot of Facebook groups and other online communities focused on specific interests. Looking for hiking buddies? Join a hiking group online and explore the Swiss alps while getting to know new people. There are also meetups for specific professional fields, especially within the IT sector. While on those meetups, you might meet more expats than Swiss people, it’s still a great way to expand your network and make new friends, potentially even Swiss ones.
Go for after-work drinks
If you already work in Switzerland, chances are you have Swiss co-workers. Invite your team out for drinks after a successful day at work. They will appreciate you making the first step and even more so appreciate you paying since drinks are very expensive in Switzerland. Obviously, you shouldn’t invite your team mates for drinks after the first day of work. Wait until you’ve settled in and established a good relationship in the office and go from there.
Join a club
A good place to meet people outside of work are clubs. Almost half of Swiss adults are active members in a club and there are a lot of clubs. From sports and culture to music and games: with over 80’000 clubs in Switzerland, you will most certainly find one that suits your interests.If you’re enrolled in a university, you will have access to even more clubs with a lot of potential Swiss friends. Situated on the campus of ETH and the University of Zurich ,the Academic Sports Association of Zurich (ASVZ) is host to a lot of sports classes and events, which makes it a great place to meet people. An advantage of meeting someone in a club is that you already have common interests, which makes it easier to start a conversation, even with a shy Swiss person.
First-hand experience from an expat
If I may, I will add my personal experience from moving to Switzerland just recently. On the one hand I perceive people in Zurich to be a bit more stressed and distant than in other major cities like Brussels, New York or Budapest. It would never even cross my mind to just approach a stranger with a line like “I like your shoes” simply because I sense a very busy vibe which gives the impression that people just don’t have time for this kind of smalltalk. On the other hand, if you get lost, Swiss people are friendly and will politely try to help you out and show the right way. They are generally friendly and respectful when it comes to surface level conversations.
However, deepening relationships will take some time. It surely helps if you like outdoor sports like hiking, cycling or swimming because most of the Swiss are very outdoorsy and you would miss out on the beautiful landscape otherwise.
Unfortunately, the current coronavirus situation will only hinder close human interactions. These days, people might be a bit more hesitant, especially towards foreigners. Don’t take this personal and keep trying, but with the necessary amount of respect, given the current situation.
If you feel like all this did not work for and you still feel clueless, you can always try mentioning the Swiss’ favourite,Roger Federer.That should set you up for success.Good luck!