The Basel Münster, a Protestant Cathedral located on the Rhine. I can walk to it from my house in about 10 minutes.

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.

Image by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay

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4 thoughts on “Swiss Saturday: Sundays

  1. The problem is that making Sunday THE day off can create some real problems for people, and lead to significant religious discrimination. Because for people who are religious but observe a different day of rest, they are essentially forced to 2 days closed a week, rather than one.

    I think that the US is on to something with some of its labor laws, and there are some local (proposed / exiting) laws that tackles this in a better fashion.

    The idea is that you have to pay extra (time and a half) for people who work more than 40 hours a week. That’s a Federal law. There are also local laws that require that people are either given a consistent schedule or be given their work schedule a certain amount of time in advance (1 -2 weeks is common I believe). There are rules around “clopens” (where a person closes and opens the workplace without sufficient time between shifts). These types of rules, when properly crafted and implemented provide the same protection while being neutral to religion – and to the needs of the communities in which businesses operate.

  2. Giving people a break is a good thing, but it does not follow all people need that break to on Sundays and nights. In fact, many people need a break at a different time – so why should those people by limited by what the government decides they need? What if harm is being done by those limitations? For example, let’s look at my situation. I’m in the US. I have a chronic illness that requires many doctor’s appointments, some of which are urgent and unpredictable. I work from 4pm-midnight, Sunday-Thursday (international clients), which allows me the flexibility to see a doctor whenever I need to without missing work. If I had to work the same business hours as my doctor, it would be disastrous for my career.

    I firmly believe that one of the benefits of living in a global society is that it can give us the chance to structure our work lives to best suit our personal lives. However, that will only happen if people, especially bosses and governments, are willing to shift their perspective from “how things have always been done” to “how people can maximize their opportunities.” We do ourselves no favors by forcing everyone to relax in lockstep.

  3. There are so many perceptions of this day off for “rest” or “religious” purposes plus the added “multiple” numerous other claims of “freedom to observe”clauses, practically any day can be claimed as being a required paid to be off covered benefit. In the US, no one is “forced to worship” a declared denomination. Still, there’s a strong division between what corporate business needs as a paid time to continue work activity and paid days off under this “day of rest/religious reason”. And a lot of time. the privilege to get every single kind of day off ( for whatever reason) is not available to the lower income workers anyway unless they get via a union or hire contract guaranteed paid “holidays/PTO” beyond the days scheduled to work, especially as most of the USA is under a right to work ( you work you get paid, you don’t work, you don’t get paid). As a member of the generation, that knew when Sundays and most nights after a certain hour in the USA, had no stores open, the only thing gained by expanded hours and open Sundays was created more opportunities of ways to earn money working, by people working those odd hours. I am quite sure there are many people who can’t imagine not being able to get something any time of the day because of the way people are used to instantaneous gratification, while totally forgetting that those people who work those hours are really human beings too.
    But because we live in a 24/7 world today, the concept of needing certain time off for whatever reasons fall on the individual themself to let their employer know upfront about their availability and not decide after being hired that they need to have off the day they agreed to be available for on a regular basis. Don’t expect the job to know.

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