When I first came to Switzerland, the first place where I felt cultural differences with South Korea was a restaurant. While Korean restaurants pursue more efficiency and run fast, there are some more cultural practices in Switzerland. In Korea, most people find their seats on their own when they enter the restaurant (except in certain places), and once they choose a menu, they call a waiter with a loud voice or ring a bell on the table to call a waiter and to place an order. Likewise, if you have any requests during your meal, you can reach the waiter like you did when you ordered. Also, when you finish the food, you can go to the counter directly to check out without waiting for the waiter to bring your receipt. Therefore, when I came to Switzerland a few years ago, I was unfamiliar with Swiss restaurant practices and unintentionally acted in ways that could seem rude in Switzerland.
Now, I have learned restaurant etiquette from my friends, and when I enter the restaurant, I wait for a waiter to guide me to my seat. When I finish choosing the menu, I wait calmly without calling the waiter or waving my hand. In addition, when I want to pay, I do not rush out and wait for the waiter to come and give me the receipt. This cultural difference seems to have emerged since Korea has a culture that pursues Ppalli-ppalli (hurry-hurry) and efficiency, and Switzerland has a culture that enjoys meals relaxedly while chatting with people who come to eat together. In the past, as a Korean who pursues the Ppalli-ppalli culture, sometimes I felt the relaxed eating culture in Switzerland was too slow. However, when I have a chance to go out and eat with friends nowadays, I try to enjoy the time with them and take my time.
Another difference from Korea that I experienced at restaurants is that I have to pay for water! In Korea, you do not need to pay for water at restaurants. Just purified water is free. So, when I came to Switzerland, unfortunately, I did not notice that I had to pay for water and paid five swiss francs for a small bottle of water at the restaurant. I would have ordered coke or sprite if I had known this in advance. Now, if I want to drink water at a restaurant, I ask for tap water.
The other thing that I felt was very different from Korea is the night culture. In Korea, many cafes and restaurants run until late at night, and there are even places like cafes and convenience stores open 24 hours and 365 days. Therefore, there are no particular restrictions when making appointments with friends. Also, the city is bright and crowded with people at night. However, in Switzerland, most stores, cafes, and restaurants close earlier on weekdays than in Korea, and even earlier on Saturdays! When I went grocery shopping on Saturday, I found it closed at 5 p.m. and had to hurry to buy something to eat on the weekend. It reflects Swiss culture, which values spending time with family while resting at home after work or on weekends.
When you live in a new place and face new customs, you sometimes feel confused or have culture shock. However, it is much easier to understand and respect these customs if you study the practices and cultures of the place where you wish to stay and those backgrounds beforehand. Furthermore, you will not do what I did when I first arrived in Switzerland, which may seem rude to locals.
The Swiss culture, which was a bit hard to adjust to at first, is becoming more and more comfortable for me now. At the same time, after putting down Korea’s Ppalli-Ppalli culture a bit, I am getting more relaxed like Swiss people.