A page from the Swiss Rule Book: The Honor System

Post by Lauren

As you have probably noticed from our blog, the Swiss love to follow rules. Part of the reason I get yelled and honked at is that they assume everyone else wants to follow all the rules, perfectly, just like them. They aren’t trying to be mean, they just assume that others would want to know that we are doing something wrong so I could fix it. In their minds, they are “helping you out”. Sometimes, its okay, when I really do something wrong…I want to fix it. But when I am yelled at for crossing the street, with no cars coming for miles, just because the red man hasn’t turned to a green man, then that is when it annoys me.

But along the same lines, it’s this trait that shapes one of my favorite Swiss characteristics and that is their trust and honesty. It isn’t unusual for the Swiss to leave their doors unlocked, and even keys in the car on the street. Its that same assumption that no one would do anything wrong knowingly.

That is why Swiss bank accounts are numbered, without names in association. It’s each persons responsibility to report their taxes honestly. This is why there was such a big to-do when the US demanded Switzerland hand over the American’s bank account information who might be hiding money. To the Swiss, banking is private, and they believe their citizens will report honestly their bank information when it comes to tax time.

An example of this is the TPG, the transportation system. There are machines to buy tickets, but no one checks your tickets prior to boarding the bus or tram. Yet, they don’t seem to have any problem with this. I have seen two random checks in my 4 months here, and no one was in violation.

Another example is when paying for a paper. You aren’t required to put the coins in before taking a paper. You just drop them in a separate bucket. Its simple….just the honor system.

You never have to worry about someone short-changing you in Switzerland. It would be unheard of. Its a good thing, as my French numbers are still not up to par.

I find it refreshing that they have this must trust in others.


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