7 weird and wonderful superstitions in Switzerland

7 weird and wonderful superstitions in Switzerland

From cheese and drinking faux pas to mountain creatures and devils, Switzerland is full to the brim with interesting superstitions and folklore. To help you along, here are seven weird and wonderful Swiss superstitions that live on to this day.

1. Staring at each other while toasting

Picture this: you’ve sat down at a bar or restaurant with friends and your drink has arrived before everyone else’s. First off, one surefire way to start your pals on the road to becoming strangers is to start drinking before everyone else. 

In Switzerland, it is polite to wait until everyone at your table has a drink before you do the honours and take your first sip - even if you are at a table of 20. In fact, depending on the age of the company you keep, it may also be prudent to wait to toast every time a new round of drinks arrives. 

Once all the drinks are in place, be sure to clink your glasses while making eye contact with the person you are clinking with, along with a Zum Wohl, Santé or saluti. If you are too far away to clink glasses, a solemn nod, Zum Wohl and a smile will do. Be warned that it is considered impolite to not look your drinking buddies in the eye while toasting - the residents of some cantons say it also leads to seven years of bad sex!

2. Having cold drinks with Swiss fondue causes tummy trouble

Another popular piece of superstition concerns the consumption of the national dish: fondue. As you are tucking into this delicious melted concoction of Swiss cheese, garlic and white wine or schnapps, be aware that according to many, you shouldn’t have the meal with any cold or sparkling drinks.

The theory goes that if you eat the melted cheese and wash it down with cold liquid, it will re-solidify in your stomach and digestive system. This block of hard fromage then wreaks havoc, causing indigestion, tummy aches and stomach cramps for days.

Of course, there is no evidence to suggest that this is actually true, so feel free to wine and dine to your heart's content - just be sure to jokingly warn your friends before they dig in!

Fondue superstitions in Switzerland

3. Stepping in Swiss cow dung leads to wealth

Much like how it is good luck to be pooped on by a bird, the one crumb of comfort for those who have just accidentally stepped in a cow’s business is, according to the Swiss, it should lead to inordinate amounts of wealth. 

Interestingly, the alpine nation isn’t the only country which thinks this, with many people in India sharing the same belief. However, with Switzerland known as one of the most expensive places to live in the world, perhaps sacrificing a pair of shoes is worth the higher salary.

Stepping in cow dung in Switzerland

4. Planting a tree to celebrate marriage

To help symbolise the longevity of marriage, many couples in Switzerland choose to plant a tree to celebrate their nuptials. Traditionally, Swiss couples plant pine trees either during or after the wedding ceremony.

The pine itself is meant to symbolise fertility and the promise that the couple will have many children. As the tree grows it can also be seen as a reminder of the passing of time, and how (hopefully) the relationship has blossomed over the years.

Marriage celebrations planting a tree

5. The Devils of Les Diablerets

While it may be a top Swiss ski resort area today, Les Diablerets has a reputation befitting of its name, which is French for “home of devils.” According to medieval folklore, the sheer rocky walls of the mountains that surround the town were considered to be infested with devils and other evil spirits.

In fact, the old name of Tour St-Martin near Les Diablerets was La Quille du Diable or Devil’s Kneel. The peak of the mountain is said to be the meeting point for evil spirits and devils, and where they test each other with games and feats of strength - the sound of falling rocks led local children to believe that they were using the boulders to play bowling.

These rocks also fell on the pastures around the town, and upon investigation, farmers reported seeing satanic figures and people made withered and tired from being beset by spirits. The falling rocks and groans from the mountain, and two devastating landslides in the 1700s, only reinforced the myth.

Devils of Les Diablerets

6. The Wildmännli of Canton Graubünden

Nestled in the mountains of Switzerland’s "grey canton", Graubünden, are said to be communities of Small Wild Men or Wildmännli. These tiny semi-human creatures and their female counterparts are typically depicted as having a body full of hair, or as hairy creatures with only loin cloths and wreaths of undergrowth to cover them. 

They are said to live in the mountains and forests of the canton and are famous for their feats of strength and nimbleness - think hobbits with the strength of Hercules. While the origin of the myth is unknown, many say the Wildmännli were simply an early depiction of the first peoples to inhabit the Swiss Alps. Today, they are the guardians of miners, farmers and herders.

They are most associated with the Graubünden community of Klosters. The favoured resort of the British Royal Family has a Wildmännli as their coat of arms and a Wildmännli trail hiking route runs through the nearby hills.

7. Marzipan pigs at New Years’

Throw away the champagne and bring out the marzipan! While it may seem strange, in some parts of German-speaking Switzerland, being offered a pig made of marzipan is a symbol of good luck (Glücksschwein), especially on New Year’s Eve. 

The tradition has its origins in Germany and Scandinavia during the medieval period when owning a pig was a sign of wealth and affluence. However, the tradition of it being made of marzipan is likely a more recent addition, given how expensive marzipan was back then.

Marzipan pigs Switzerland

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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