Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Swiss Neighbourhood rules

"Borrow trouble for yourself, if that's your nature, but don't lend it to your neighbours."
Rudyard Kipling

Switzerland is know for its many regulations and superb organization. One of the reason this country works like a clock is that people stick to these regulations. It is drilled into them in Kindergarten (this includes myself).

In this post I would like to enlighten my readers about the myth of Switzerland's household rule that one is not allowed to use the toilet doing night time. This is not true. HOWEVER.....

... in any Swiss community when signing a lease it will contain general rules which apply to all resident tenants. In many apartment blocks with numerous tenants, these rules are often summarized in a separate document (Neighbourhood rules). Among other things, they can stipulate the following:

No excessive noise between 22:00-07:00 and 12:00-13:00 (Power drills, hammering, etc). Note that your Swiss neighbours will probably take this rule very seriously and will expect you to do likewise!

No working noises at all on Sunday and no visible labour work on Sunday.

No showers or baths between 22:00-06:00.

Restrictions for children, i.e. no playing on the grass.

These is a rule in some places stating that you’re not allowed to leave your shoes in front of your door.

Stipulations about the separation of different types of garbage.

If you have to practise your trumpet blowing or playing drums as a hobby, usually you are allowed 1-2hours per day during Monday to Saturday, usually before 6pm or 8pm. If you are an expert on piano playing, etc, more hours may be permissible but this is up to the neighbours to tell the piano player if his playing is bad or unwelcome. This is not law but social behaviour.

No smoking in the common areas. Cigarette butts should not be visible in the common areas or on grass around the house. No smoking in lifts. Smoking is allowed inside the apartment or on the balcony.

The staircase, the laundry room, the drying room, the attic, the basement and sometimes also the garden and patio are areas in an apartment building that are used by all tenants, it is therefore important that the concerns of all tenants are taken into account and that everyone respects the rules. There are generally rules on the use of a shared laundry room to ensure all tenants get a turn to do their laundry.

Take into account these rules form part of your contract; breaking them can give your landlord the legal right to kick you out of the apartment. This can come as a bit of a shock to foreigners coming from less ‘regulated’ countries. So do not be surprised if your housewarming party causes complaints from your new (and now very angry) neighbours. A personal introduction on your move in can help here, though it’s not standard in Switzerland. Speaking from personal experience, inviting your neighbours to your housewarming party is the best solution. They most probably won't turn up (but their sense of civility won't let them complain because they have been invited) and if they DO show up, they are worth meeting!

In houses with a number of tenants, there is often a "Concièrge" (caretaker) who is responsible for keeping everything running and organising repairs.

Common sense and formal politeness usually prevail amongst neighbours in Switzerland. You respect them and they will treat you with respect in turn.

Four last tips to improve your convivial atmosphere:
Always close and lock the common door to the building.
Stick to the garbage pick-up times religiously.
Always greet your neighbours politely eventhough you might have not officially been introduced formally
Inform your neighbours, if you have a mover coming or expecting some workers around (eg: buying new furniture).

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