Skip to main content

Do Not Sit Down Next to Strangers

Two Swiss Postauto Busses
Swiss Postautos - Sommaruga Fabio  / pixelio.de
I usually take a bus to work since public transportation in Switzerland is quite convenient and punctual. Lets do the math: I take the bus to and from work and I work five days a week so we can safely assume that I ride a bus in Switzerland at least ten times a week.

While riding the bus to work this last week I observed a most interesting phenomenon. People chose their seat on the bus according to a repeating pattern: If the bus was empty or almost empty the passenger chose any free seat with older people usually choosing one in the front of the bus and younger people one in the back. If the bus was full or almost full newly boarding passengers chose  any free seat available without giving much importance to its location.

However, a very strange thing occurred if the bus was half empty (or half full depending on your point of view): At first, newly boarding passengers chose either a free singular seat or a free seat in a free double seat (two free seats next to each other). Once all singular and double seats were taken, most passengers actually preferred to stand even though there were still seats available in the double seats (although only one of the pair was free).

Apparently, there is a strong tendency not to sit down next to a stranger. Couples or friends boarding the bus seem to have no problem sitting next to each other. Thus, I concluded from my observations that Swiss people are generally hesitant to sit down next to someone they don't know.

The following picture illustrates the situation: The blue dots represent passengers who are already seated. In this situation, most boarding passengers would prefer to stand in the area of the left red dot rather than sitting in one of the still empty seats.

Choosing a seat on a public bus

My suggestion for anyone traveling in Switzerland with the intention of experiencing the country just as the Swiss do, would be to board a half empty bus and remain standing for the whole ride despite empty seats being available to sit down. I can assure you it is a very Swiss thing to do.

However, for those who do not mind being recognized as foreigners and/or visitors, I suggest you try sitting down next to a Swiss person on one of those ominous double seats and start a conversation. Despite their obvious preference to sit by themselves, the Swiss are very friendly and sometimes even quite chatty. You are a tourist and most likely will draw attention so you might as well overstep some unwritten rules. And after all, it's not like you're doing something prohibited!




© 2011 IRENE WYRSCH "A HUMOROUS GUIDE TO SWITZERLAND" ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Typical Swiss Birthday Party

My son and I recently attended a birthday party here in Cocachimba, Peru. It was the birthday of one of the kids in the village and since it's such a small place, almost everyone is invited. To be honest, I don't like going to children's birthday parties - or grown up's birthday parties - because there is usually too much noise and fuss and chaos. My husband usually takes it on himself to accompany our son to these birthdays but this time he was away so I had to step in.

If you've never been to a Peruvian birthday party, let me tell you one thing: it's loud and crowded! There is dancing and food and once in a while people are trying to say something above the deafening noise of the music. I guess, if you grew up with this it's probably normal and enjoyable but for me it was way too much noise. I could see all the children's ear go deaf in my minds eyes. Argh. Probably one of those cultural differences you'll have as a foreigner.
Memories of Birthda…

How to Spot a Swiss Person

As an expat one usually spots fellow expats right away. It's not only the language or the looks of people but rather the little peculiarities of life that seem so normal at home that give us away while abroad. Obviously, it's a cliche that all people from the same place (country, city, continent) behave in the same way and I am far from making that claim. However, growing up in a certain surrounding does rub off on people's behavior and some similarities can certainly be observed.

This is also true for Swiss people. According to the Swiss stereotype, we are a clean, punctual and strictly organized people. However, there are many exceptions like my Swiss friend who is always late or my brother whose room was a total mess while growing up. Yet, although they do not fit the description of a typical Swiss person, they still have some traits that give them away as Swiss. The same is probably true for myself - if I like it or not.
10 Signs you are dealing with a Swiss Person So,…

What I've Written about Swiss German so far

Over the last few years I've written quite a few articles about languages in Switzerland in general with a special focus on Swiss German. Thanks to Google Analytics, I know that many people visit my blog to find out more about this language and maybe even learn a few words or phrases on the way.

Hence, I decided to compile an ordered list of all language related articles of this blog. Hopefully, you'll find it helpful to learn a few new words or find out more about Swiss German.
Overview over all languages of Switzerland:Four Official Languages of Switzerland: German, French, Italian and Rumantsch are the official languages of Switzerland. Different Swiss German Dialects: What are the dialects of German spoken in Switzerland? Great overview with examples for several dialects.Swiss German 101: Short introduction to Swiss German with a basic glossaryOnline Resources for Learners of Swiss German: List with free resources for learning Swiss German over the internetSwiss German Di…