I moved to Switzerland three years ago, and am always keen to learn more about Swiss culture and traditions. By learning more about these important aspects of Swiss life and culture, it’s helping me to integrate in this beautiful country which I now call home!
I have learnt about many charming traditions, such as the Alp Abzug where cows adorned with flowers, bells and flags are brought down from their mountain grazing pastures to the farms.
Then there is Fasnacht, a festival celebrating the end of winter with parades and street parties, costumes and live music.
There is also the Bernese Zibelemärit, a traditional folk festival held annually where farmers head to the Swiss capital with more than 50 metric tons of onions and garlic in artistically woven braids and everyone gets up at 5am to drink Glühwein.
But before I learnt about any of this, the very first thing that I got invited to upon moving to Bern was an apéro.
This even came before an invitation to eat cheese fondue, so you get an idea of how important it is to the Swiss!
At the time, I had never heard of an apéro, and wasn’t sure what to expect. You cannot understand apéro from a dictionary because it is a state of mind, a concept, a social occasion.
So let’s find out what more about the Swiss apéro, and what to expect…
What actually is an apéro?
It is a get-together, usually featuring drinks such as wine and beer, fruit juices and water. These are accompanied by some light nibbles – commonly bread, cheese and ham.
What is interesting about an apéro is that the construct is flexible. I have been to some apéros where the food and drinks are totally different – sometimes it might just be chips and nuts with a soft drink, sometimes it’s an apéro riche with a wider selection of food platters available. Sometime cocktails are served, and other times it might be tea…
While no one knows for sure when apéros were first served. Medieval dinner guests often drank a mixture of bitter herbs with fruity wines prior to meals to improve digestion. Today, as mentioned, we drink a wider variety of aperitifs, although the reason hasn’t changed much.
The essence of an apéro is less about the food and drink on offer and more about the way that they are conducted.
From my experience, they involve a group of people who may or may not know each other. You meet everyone, make introductions, and then chat. The atmosphere is light and jovial. They are usually standing parties to allow for easier circulation between guests.
When do you host an apéro?
This also seems to be very flexible.
There is no occasion too big or too small for an apéro, whether it is hosted at a wedding, house-warming, a birthday, after work or even randomly and spontaneously if the mood is right. All that is required is a group of people who get together to enjoy each other’s company during their leisure time.
At Comfone, we arrange apéros after work for many different reasons. Somebody might host one for their birthday, we might be celebrating a particular team’s success or we might host one simply to get everyone together. We pride ourselves on our great company culture, and this comes in part from everyone’s enjoyment of spending time together after work enjoying each other’s company, talking about professional projects and/or out of work topics.
What do you do at an apéro?
An apéro provides everyone with the opportunity to chat and mingle in a relaxed setting.
You might be surprised how discussions around an apéro might even bring solutions for your business.
As a teaser, the following ingredients are part of one of the cocktails you might experience when traveling to Bern: The Hugo. For this you would need some ice cubes, 2 cl elderflower syrup, ½ dl sparkling mineral water, 1.5 dl Prosecco. To serve, add ¼ organic lime, cut into wedges and 1 sprig peppermint.