International Co-op Students Experiences in Switzerland
"My experience at PSI was fantastic, I learned more than I ever dreamed possible. ...I cannot possibly put into words how much I learned everyday at PSI, and to add to it, I was in the wonderful and clean Switzerland environment, It was the best time in my life. ...I met people from around the world who were very interested in research, and it gave me the opportunity to decide what I really wanted to do...invent."
- Aron McKinnon Research Technician at the Paul Scherrer Institut, Villigen
"Going to the Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI) was a real change in my research from the day-to-day type interactions. Living at the PSI Gstehaus was very different, with so many people working at various hours, there was a constant amount of low-level noise making it always possible to be up and out for a jog, be back for breakfast and a shower and out to work regardless if it was 6AM or 10PM. Here in Vancouver, it is quite the contrary, there are days that I get up in the morning and say, "I don't feel like being an Scientist today."
- David Lee Research Technician at the Paul Scherrer Institut, Villigen (Switzerland)
About Switzerland: Country and Culture
Switzerland is beautifully located in Europe bordering Germany, Italy, Austria and France. Though a smaller country, with a population of approximately 7,523,934, Switzerland has three official languages: German, French and Italian. Italian is spoken in the southern cantons, French in the western cantons and a Swiss dialect of German known as Schweitzerdeutsch in the northern and eastern cantons. There is an indigenous Swiss culture and language in central Switzerland, Romansch, but it is spoken by a very small percentage of the Swiss people. Knowledge of English is becoming widespread; however, the Swiss appreciate those who speak their language or at least greet them in their native tongue. The currency in Switzerland is a Swiss franc (CHF) $1CDN = 1.02CHF.
Conversations may include sports, Swiss history, culture or travels to the country. The Swiss also enjoy discussing politics, so it is wise to brush up on current events. Personal subjects should be avoided during new interactions.
Be a Guest
If at any time you are a guest, you should always be on time. A gift of a small bouquet of flowers (always with an odd number of flowers) or candy for the hostess is appropriate (avoid carnations and chrysanthemums as they signify bad luck and death). The guest should wait for a toast before drinking or eating. Proscht is said before drinking and enGuete is said before eating a meal. Upon leaving, it is customary to shake hands with the entire family. It is always appropriate to follow up with a thank you note the next day.
Quality of ingredients and simplicity of preparation are essential for the Swiss. Daily foods include all that Switzerland is famous for: chocolate (Schokolade, chocolat, cioccolata), milk, cheese (and fondue), breads and msli (toasted oats, shredded dried fruit, and nuts served with milk or yogurt).
Working in Switzerland
The Swiss tend to be very formal in business dealings. It is rare for someone will lose his/her temper or criticize another person during a business meeting.
Timing and punctuality are critically important, especially in the north. Though things work at various times of the day, punctuality is respected.
Process and logic are highly valued, and form can be as important as function. Ideas must be presented in detail, with an unassailable logic, and with clear and unqualified backup evidence.