My Swiss Culture Shock


Its been about 3.5 years since I moved to good old Switzerland and as I was thinking back I realized that there are some things that are somewhat normal for me now that were complete shockers in the beginning.

We all experience things differently and I do not assume that everyone has had it this way, this is just my version.

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Culture shocks

  1. Calling older people by first name – It was all mixed emotions meeting his family in person. It was not until his parents introduced themselves by first name that I thought about what I would call them. We were raised calling adults aunt, uncle, mum and dad and now I was confronted with calling his parents by first name. This went against everything I was taught. I later learnt that it is actually nice for people when you call them by first name. I am fine with it now but I will not pretend that it came naturally to me!
  2. Being served by my father in law – in the Shona culture, we are expected to show respect to our in-laws in many ways. I knew from the onset that I would not be expected to kneel and serve food but what I did not see coming was my father-in-law bringing me tea while I sat comfortably on the couch. I have never felt lazier in my life than I did in that moment, I could not help but think my family would be so disappointed in me if they witnessed this level of laziness. After 3 plus years its easy come easy go.
  3. Elections– Heck these folks vote all the time, for everything! I quickly learnt another definition to democracy. I guess its one of the few countries in the world where the voters, not the vote counters determine the election outcome.
  4. Drinking – My notions of drinking were toppled. Women openly drink beer and are not looked down on. This may not apply universally but the way I know it is that back home, women can have wine and ciders but for them to handle a bottle of beer with the men and it be easy going was a shocker for me. Am scratching the surface on prejudices here, I know, this is just the tip.
  5. The three kisses – My first “three kiss experience” was after a camp in Zimbabwe when my husband was saying goodbye, two weeks after we met. I took this personal as a declaration of his undying love for me. You can imagine what went through my head when I arrived in Switzerland half a year later and noticed that it was a common greeting (luckily there were other signs that he would love me for a really long time). I am used to the idea of three kisses, I just never know who to handshake, hug, chest bump and who to give the three kisses. I will probably never figure it out but thats alright for me.


3.5 years down the line and all I can say about me and Zurich is that it was love at first sight. My all time favorite food has become Raclette, I just cannot stop! I support the Zurich Grasshoppers all the way and am sure that they are way better than FC Basel and Young Boys. I panic when the tram is 2mins late. I run for trams like a maniac even when I know that another will arrive in 7mins. I usually try to be on time or earlier for appointments because its Switzerland and also cause I am on a mission to break the stereotype that Africans are always late!

Don’t get it twisted though, I am happy to fit in but I know that I was born to stand out. I adjust to my surroundings but remain true to by inner-being. This is my happy place, when you find yours, then I hope you dance!

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8 Responses
  1. Ezekiel

    That was a very nice and funny read. I can relate to a lot of those things. Giggled at the three kisses very funny. Its such a blessings to interact with other cultures. Keep writting.

  2. Ethel Manganda

    This is so interesting Fungai I can also relate to this but from a different angle, all my boys are married to whites and I was expecting to sleeping in on days off and getting told breakfast is ready mom (as we do in our culture) but eish its the other way round. (lol) I have now adapted to the culture and have told myself that as long as they are happy I am happy too. The 3 kisses though, I live in New Zealand (for the past 13 yrs) but still haven”t figured out whether to do the mouth or cheek kiss or maybe just a hug for a greeting. I think this part of the world leave the hand shake for business deals only?

    1. That is really funny Ethel, completely other version of my story, that would be a good story to hear! Thanks for reading and am glad you enjoyed it. Lets keep enjoying the combination of cultures in our lives ?

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