Host a foreign exchange student from Switzerland

Are you a fan of fondue? Well Guten Appetit as they say in Switzerland, because your exchange student will surely want to teach you their local recipe.

By understanding more about our Swiss exchange students’ lives back home, it will help you gain insight into their culture and background and prepare you for a successful hosting experience. Let’s start by learning about what’s typical in Swiss communication, home life, education and food, as described by our programme participants.

Educational system

After kindergarten, there are three basic school levels: primary school (ages 6-12), lower-secondary school (ages 12-15) and upper-secondary school (ages 15+). Upper-secondary school includes specialized schools, vocational schools and baccalaureate schools. After lower-secondary school, many students choose to attend Vocational Education and Training schools (VET) where coursework is combined with apprenticeship opportunities. This system is the reason the unemployment rate for young people is so low. Swiss students study the language of their canton, or state, plus one language from another canton. Most students begin learning English in primary school. Sports and clubs are common extracurricular activities after school. Many students also take academic courses during the summer and on weekends during the school year.

Tip From EF: Swiss students don't have to wear an uniform in their secondary school, so this will be a new experience to them. In fact, it's something they're looking forward as part of their exchange. It will be a great to get a picture of them beaming with joy posing for their 'first day of school'.

Communication style

Swiss are known for being direct communicators and appreciate having context in conversations. They tend not to engage in too much small talk, yet they are polite, clear and honest. When greeting both men and women, direct eye contact is appropriate. Close friends may exchange three kisses on the cheeks, first on the left, then the right and back to the left. There are four official languages in Switzerland: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Each canton has the authority to decide which language their canton will use, thus being the primary language taught and spoken in schools.

Tip From EF: Give your student space to speak directly and make sure you have open and honest conversations about language expectations in the home. Help your student by explaining Irish norms for expressing concerns and appreciation. Share expectations clearly and directly with your student to ensure that they are understood.


Hello/good day

Wie geht es dir?

How are you?

Food habits

Swiss tend to wake early, as many businesses open at 8 am. Breakfast is eaten between 6 – 8 am. Breakfast foods are usually light and may include fresh breads with butter or jam, various cheeses and coffee or tea. Muesli (granola) and cereal are also popular and typically eaten with yogurt. Lunch is eaten between noon and 2 pm, and dinner is eaten around 6:30 pm. Traditionally, Swiss eat meat, potatoes, bread, cheese, pasta, vegetables and milk products as their main staples. They eat mainly fresh food, rather than frozen or processed foods, and are proud of locally sourced meat, dairy and produce. Many Swiss shop at their local farmers market on Saturdays.

Tip From EF: Your student may need time to get used to the difference in meal times. Be clear about what time you will be eating meals and encouraging them to help with grocery shopping and meal preparation will also help them adjust.

Home life

Families in Switzerland are very close and family members tend to live near each other. Small families are common, with one or two children on average. Swiss parents receive four to six weeks of vacation time. This time is generally spent vacationing. Football and ice hockey are the most popular sports in Switzerland. Cross country and downhill skiing are also popular, with ski resorts located all over the country. Swiss value punctuality and responsibility. A favorite saying is, “If people are late, they are either not wearing Swiss watches or not riding Swiss trains.”

Tip From EF: Swiss students may be used to extended vacations with their natural parents. Plan some fun activities to do with your student throughout the year. These do not have to be grand activities and can be as simple as going for a hike, cooking a meal together or exploring nearby communities. Because your Swiss student may be accustomed to always being on time (or early), be sure to discuss what time you will be leaving for school, activities, etc.

Ich bin begeistert meinen Schweizer Austauschschüler zu treffen.

I am so excited to meet my Swiss exchange student.

Möchten Sie etwas mehr Toblerone?

Would you like some more Toblerone?

Hosting advice from our Swiss exchange students

“I wish my host family knew that I prefer to have everything planned and like being on time.”

Tip From EF: Swiss students are typically punctual and organized. Talk with your student about your family’s schedule and typical daily routine. Your Swiss student may be more affected by time and punctuality than you are used to in your home. You can work together to try to come to a routine that works well for both of you.

“I wish my host family knew that I use public transportation all the time in Switzerland, so it was a bit of a shock when I realised there's no frequent public transportation in parts of Ireland.”

Tip From EF: Some students have a difficult time adjusting to the lack of public transportation and are not used to involving parents in their social plans. We're preparing the students to plan for their weeks and discuss with their host family their plans. Talk to your student at the beginning of their exchange about transportation: how they’ll get to and from school, extracurricular activities and social events.

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Are you ready to experience a new culture at home? Get in touch with us and start your hosting journey today.

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