I rarely buy things on Sunday. This has been true my whole life. For religious reasons, I treat Sunday as a day of rest, which means I don’t want anyone else to have to work so that I can go shopping. So, when I moved to Switzerland, it wasn’t a shock to my system to find out that almost all stores were closed on Sundays. It didn’t affect my lifestyle much since I’m not a Sunday shopper.
I don’t shop on Sunday for religious reasons, but it surprised me that the Swiss kept their shops closed on Sunday (outside of tourist districts) since they aren’t terribly religious. While religion is still taught in public schools (Protestantism or Catholicism, depending on the canton), church attendance is relatively low.
Church registration for Catholics and Protestants accounts for more than 60 percent of the population. But only 26 percent of the population attends church five or more times yearly. (If you register as Catholic or Protestant, you pay a church tax rather than giving freely to your congregation. You can deregister any time you like–it’s voluntary. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I pay tithing directly to my church but no church tax, as we are neither protestant nor Catholic.) Compare that to the United States, where 41 percent of Americans attend religious services at least once a month and another 26 percent “seldom” attend.
In other words, people voluntarily pay a tax to support churches they don’t attend. While that is interesting in and of itself and worthy of study; the Sunday issue is something I find far more interesting. Why would a country where the vast majority rarely attend church want stores closed on Sunday?
In the United States, Sunday closures are associated with Christianity. But here? While Sunday closures undoubtedly originated for religious reasons, it’s no longer the case: It’s all about giving people a break.
“If people want to shop at night or on Sundays, they should be aware that it’s at the expense of retail workers. These people usually have not volunteered to be sitting at the cash desk. With the constant extension of retail opening hours, sales staff are being deprived of free time to spend with family and friends or participate in associations or the community at large.”
This argument was against opening stores on Sunday and later into the evening. It failed in a referendum rather spectacularly.
Now, for those of you in a panic about how people survive without stores being open, train stations have open grocery stores, and there are few mini-marts around town. But, if your toilet seat breaks, you will have to plead on Facebook Marketplace or wait until Monday.
Sometimes I think the US gets so caught up in not wanting other people to force their religion on them (fair) that they forget that everyone deserves a break. I love that the vast majority of retail workers get every Sunday off. And every holiday, but that’s a different post.