Doing Business in SwitzerlandFor 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).
Swiss business culture is very hierarchical. Although those in senior positions will come across as modest there exist very clear lines of authority that are not crossed. Only the highest individuals in authority make final decisions even if others disagree with it.
A successful meeting and/or business relationship revolves around one being a responsible, sound and honest businessperson. Maintaining control over your emotions and leading a disciplined personal life are also esteemed qualities
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