"Switzerland would be better if it didn't have Swiss people." - An asshole
I live in Bern, so the following observations about Swiss people can really only be classified as observations about Bernese peoples. One thing to note about Switzerland is that from Canton to Canton, region to region, everything from politics to traditions can vary greatly, and so you should know that I haven't actually gone to live amongst the Italian or French or Romansch tribes, and I haven't spent a lot of time in the wilds of Zurich or Graubuenden studying their homosapien wildlife; therefore, I can't make a broad sweeping generalization about what all Swiss people are like. However, I'm willing to bet they're all pretty much the same: regular people who are generally nice.
So a lot of expats feel that Swiss people are a cold and unwelcoming race who hate foreigners. I call bull shit on that.
Now I certainly do not discredit those expats who have been on the receiving end of a cold Swiss shoulder (I have a friend who has unfortunately had quite a few bad experiences), and I do acknowledge that Swiss people can seem to be abrupt and aggressive, especially if you're trying to get on a bus or a train. Why, just last night I was out with some friends and unbeknownst to us there was a lady behind us wheeling her work luggage and trying to get around us. Did she say excuse me? Did she clear her throat to let us know she was there? No. Instead she shoved right through our little trio and her luggage slammed into my friend's ankle.
Our one companion called after her in Swiss-German, but instead of an apology we received an over-the-shoulder withering stare before this rude woman continued on her way.
Am I to classify all Swiss people as rude, just because of this one woman?
There are jerks all over the world, and if you're in a densely populated environment you're going to encounter more of them: that's basic statistics peeps. That said, Swiss courtesies are not Canadian courtesies so there's no point in expecting as much.
When I walk into a store, chances of me being greeted, let alone asked if I need help, are slim to none.
I'm cool with that.
When we're at a restaurant, our waiter or waitress is not going to engage in pleasant conversation and chat us up: s/he is there to take our order, bring us our drinks, and that's it.
I'm cool with that.
If I'm running for the bus, and the bus driver sees me coming, but he's already late (ie. he should have left two seconds ago) he won't wait for me.
That's just the way it is.
If I pass people in my village, just two of us passing each other on a sidewalk, there won't be eye-contact let alone an exchanged hello; the cashier ringing in my order doesn't give a crap how my day is going and won't pretend to care; the girl cutting my hair wouldn't dream of being privy to the terrible and personal morning I've had; and you are not on a first name basis with people you have just met.
Now, conversely: if I pass people out for a hike, all of us will acknowledge each other with a friendly and formal hello.
When I am sitting down to eat, and I must closely pass a table of people who are just receiving their meal, it is the courtesy to wish them a pleasant meal.
Before taking a sip of our beverages, every one at the table will toast each other and wish each other good health.
In the evening, on a bus that isn't too busy, passengers getting off will wish the remaining passengers a good evening.
If I see a close friend or relation on the street, or meet them at their home, we will tap cheeks (think of it like an air kiss) three times--left, right, left--and ask how they are.
These are Swiss courtesies, so even though they might not queue for a bus or a train, it doesn't mean the Swiss are a population who have no respect for each other or for you, the expat. When I need assistance, I will ask the person in the store for help in my shaky German-English hybrid that still relies heavily on English. Am I shunned because I'm obviously not Swiss? No. The person in the store will help me...as briskly as possible; there is no point feeling slighted by this: they're helping me for five minutes so I don't need them to be my new best friend.
Now that said, do Swiss people get annoyed with expats? Yes. From what I have been able to discern, the biggest sticking point with people in Bern are individuals who move here and never bother to learn any German. The Bernese people are not so totalitarian as to believe that expats are going to learn Swiss-German (a spoken dialect that is not written), but the effort to learn German is appreciated and expected.
I speak horrible German.
It is terrible.
And it won't improve until later this year when I can get back to classes. However, every single time I try to attempt a transaction in German, the person helping me always says I speak 'very good German'. They're lying of course, but they're also encouraging me. They appreciate I'm making an effort and want to express as much.
Switzerland may seem quaint or funny to us expats who are coming from informal and boisterous societies, but it's not and you do it a disservice to classify it and its people as such. Just as Switzerland's foreign policy has been to keep itself to itself, so to do its people appear to keep themselves to themselves. This is a formal society, and I know it is really hard to break into it. I'm married to a Swiss guy who only has Swiss friends, and I haven't been able to break into any inner circles on my own. However, that doesn't mean I can say with sweeping certainty that all Swiss people are rude and they hate me just because I'm not from Switzerland.
If you don't understand a country's history, it's principles, and it's traditions than you can't say you really understand its people. To write off an entire population as being rude cold-fish is ignorant. Tally up every bad experience you've ever had in your own country, every government official who has been less than helpful, every customer service experience that didn't go as you wanted it to, every parking lot altercation, every confrontation with an inconsiderate neighbour, work colleague, or client.
Are you going to also classify all your own country's citizens as rude cold-fish because of these experiences? Or does the fact that your cashier might ask how your day is going, before she tunes you out, make it all better?