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Don’t mention the M Word
(originally published in the April 2009 issue of Expat In Switzerland)

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In a country full of banks and financiers you'd think that the M word - Money that is - would be bandied about left right and centre wouldn't you. But have you noticed that the Swiss don't readily ask the "how much?" question? Quality, delivery dates, exact terms and conditions all come before that final "and what does it cost?" question. In England it seems to be the other way round - how much does it cost? followed by "what do you get for that amount?" is the order of the day. This difference is reflected in many areas of life here, for example, generally a job advertisement in the UK will describe the job, what qualifications are required and then blatantly state the salary you can expect to receive. Here, you might get as far as a 3rd interview before the M word is actually even mentioned and you certainly wouldn't share with the world infor-mation on how much you earn.

Haggling over prices (which I love when travelling to countries where it is par for the course) is of course totally inappropriate here but I can never resist rising to the chal-lenge when it comes to buying something big, such as a car - much to my son's dis-taste - "oh no, Daddy, Mummy's going to ask them to throw in the winter tyres for free again!". So embarrassing!

It is almost suspicious that products such as the Migros "Budget" line have found resonance and actually taken off here - if it is cheaper it must be inferior is the way of thinking that I would usually associate with the Swiss. I suspect the reason for the Budget line's success has to do with the clever marketing that initially turned it into a "cult" brand i.e. it is cool to proclaim and even display that one has bought cheaper, making you trendy, different, in.

As far as my business is concerned I have found that the soft sell approach is the only approach. People do want to be informed about the price but even more importantly they want to know they can trust you to deliver what you say you will deliver and in the highest possible quality. Explaining to the Swiss what I am going to deliver followed by informing them of the cost off my own back seems to relieve them of the burden of having to open up the M discussion. Once the M word has been approached in this way it becomes a natural part of the conversation again, but certainly not something to be barged in with from the outset.

The M word - handle with care! this way up! - depending on where you live - a fragile subject!

Linda Atschreiter

Linda is a regular contributor to the ExpatInCH.com newsletter and runs the Foto eMotion photographic studio in Zug. See www.foto-emotion.ch for more information.

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