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Ten of the wackiest Swiss laws

Ten of the wackiest Swiss laws
Naked hiking is banned in Canton Appenzell

We love Switzerland and its pristine nature. And there’s no doubt about it: the country wouldn’t be the same without its idiosyncratic rules. Some of them are sensible, some of them keep things running smoothly and others are just plain kooky. Here are ten of our favourites.

1. Every house must have a nuclear bunker or access to one. Well, you never know when disaster might strike.

2. Parents must not give their child a name that might damage the child’s interests, as Swiss musician Christine Lauterburg knows only too well. The authorities banned her from naming her daughter Lexicon.

3. ‘Social species’ such as guinea pigs, goldfish and budgerigars must be kept in pairs or have contact with others of their own kind. Switzerland’s advanced animal rights laws see isolation as abuse, and we think that deserves applause.

4. Some places are not so animal friendly, though. In 2011 officials in tiny village Reconvilier dredged up a bylaw from 1904 that would allow them to kill pet dogs if owners did not pay their dog tax.

5. Yes, you have to pay a tax on your dog. The annual fee is determined by the dog’s size and weight.

6. On Sundays you must not hang your washing out to dry …

7. … or mow your lawn …

8. … or recycle. Last year German native Judith Schulte got on the wrong side of Zurich’s authorities when she dared to drop off her recycling on the wrong day. She was offered the choice between a fine and two nights in jail.

9. In some cantons it is forbidden for men to have a wee standing up after 10pm. The reasoning? It creates too much noise.

10. And our favourite: In 2009 Canton Appenzell banned hiking in the nude following an influx of ‘naked tourists’ from Germany. Two years later a man caught wandering naked past a picnic site was fined CHF 100.

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Swiss M
Swiss M

1. Every city/village etc. must provide bunker space for every citizen that hasn't got a own shelter. Beign a very small country with 5 active nuclear power plants situated in the very middle, it makes perfect sense.

5. The annual fee is defined by the community and it covers the cost of plasticbags and bins to dispose dog poo. Those dispensers and bins are available in public for free.

6. This isn't a law, it's just an old habit from back then when the church ruled the communities. Elder people wouldn't hang out their laundry on a sunday EVER. That's considered blasphemy.

7. This is part of the laws against disturbance. If you happen to live outside of a village without any close neighbours, then noone will care. But those rules are necessary when it comes to living in appartment houses.

8. That's annoyingly loud and therefore not allowed on sundays and at night. BTW you only go to prison if you're not able (or willing) to pay the fine. And swiss prisons are more like hotels... single room, tv, three meals a day. Not too bad...

10. That one became necessairy as nude hiking got popular. It's not cool when you're hiking with your kids or working at the alp and suddenly get to see barenaked people. And honestly: it's something that mainly ugly, overweight people do :-)

Switzerland is an amazing country, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. And we get to wash, hoover, mow etc. any time as we own a house in the country. Those "laws" are rules to make cohabitation in cities easier.

Maria B
Maria B

7 the one about cutting the grass is true indeed - if the mower is gas powered. If electrical (not so noisy) t is allowed. However, as we found out ourselves, the neighbours may not know the law or the difference and so they call the Police nevertheless...that is how most laws are enforced in Switzerland! so sad!

Christopher M
Christopher M

1. The nuclear bunker law is no longer in force, in Kanton Zurich at least (was flat hunting in 2010 and again in 2013, that's how I know).

6. Not sure; 7. is possible, but no noise between 12 and 2 on a Sunday, definately.

7. Not true / not enforcable (but that does not stop letters from being sent).

8. Bank Holidays too (as I friend and I discovered after hauling an impressive collection of bottles and empty beer cans on Jan 1st - yes, we took them home again, as I know of friends of friends who have been fined!).

9. A popular myth (in Zurich at least).

Neo C
Neo C

The rules about living in apartments in Switzerland are true. Have a look at this PDF (ge.ch/bruit/media/bruit.../bruit_de_voisinage_version_anglaise.pdf).

I have friends who say that the hot water in their apartment buildings is turned off at night to discourage showers. It's also been known for some buildings to even discourage flushing toilets after 10pm.

In our building, we've received a letter from the regie (the estate agent) warning us to avoid walking around in high heels at night because of the noise - as a male living alone at the time I thought that was funny. We're a bit luckier as our apartment was built on top of an existing building - we have a double-thickness floor to absorb noise.

The recycling stations have signs warning you not to drop stuff off on a Sunday.

The Swiss really do take this mutual respect thing very seriously. It doesn't stop the churches ringing their damn bells on a Sunday morning and ruining my sleep-in!

Nicolas D
Nicolas D

It would be nice to have sources. For example, I thought that house built after 1995 (?) or so don't need to have a bunker anymore, and I don't see why you couldn't hang your wash out to dry on Sundays (washing and drying of course not, it's too noisy, but hang out!!??).

Also, and I know it's supposed to be a fun article and not a "legally binding reference", but #10 is not a special Swiss crazy law... many countries ban public nudity :) What is actually crazy is that it was possible before!! :)

Sandy *
Sandy *

@Nicolas D Sunday likely because it's considered God's day...I know there are some cultural traditions in other places where you cannot do certain things on days that are considered holy...washing and cleaning always falls under this.

Neo C
Neo C

@Nicolas D My sister's house was built around 2007. It has a bunker, but it's crammed full with so much stuff that you'd have trouble fitting everyone in there during a nuclear strike. Our appartment building also has rooms in the basement which are mainly used for storage but in theory are there for protection.

Hayley F
Hayley F

@Nicolas D IDK if you live in Switzerland, but from my experience growing up there, I think all houses have a nuclear bunker there, I never lived in one that didn't, and I lived in 7 swiss houses. And no, you really can't hang your washing out to dry. And you can NEVER hang it out your windows. Not that the police will come get you, but your neighbours won't like you anymore for sure! But maybe that's just Zurich? They are very rule oriented there, more than other cantons imo. And I think #10 is special because so much of Switzerland DOESN'T have laws re: nudity, and appenzell had such a problem with it that it had to create a law! :D you may be living there now though, and perhaps the laws have changed. 

as a side note, it was soooo expensive getting small animals because you always had to get two, and a gerbil was like 60chf per. But really good law, it should be imposed in the UK too.