A - Z 2020 Switzerland - Hofladen (Honesty System)

Welcome back to my Switzerland themed A - Z. Today I'll be talking about a value (more of them as it's the letter V's turn) that is still amazingly observed around here: Honesty.

Board the bus right down the street. You'll get in without showing your ticket or scanning a travel card or QR code - there, you've used our honesty system! 

Our public transportation mostly relies on passengers being honest. Every now and then an inspector walks through the train or bus and checks people's tickets. If you are caught dodging the fare for the first time, you pay a fine of CHF 90 (about the same in USD) in addition to the actual price for your journey. The amount increases, should you do it again, and by the third time they'll file charges against you.

But that's not what I want to tell you about in this post, I want to show you what a Hofladen is!

You all know the roadside stands you pass on a road trip? Selling strawberries and stuff?

There are many varieties of them. I like the one that displays gigantic cherries in July and August. The ones they sell are almost as big ;-)

At this time of year they specialize in dyed Easter eggs!

Remember yesterday's post? Grüezi being a common way of saying hello? Look at the door! Look closely. What does It say? There you go!

A Hofladen is the advanced version of the stands. It's an indoor farm store offering dairy products and fresh, baked goods, seasonal produce like fruit, veggies and berries, canned and jarred delicacies.

They can be found everywhere outside the city. Here's a directory. 

Many Hofladen that I know of are not listed, though, so just keep your eyes open. Most have a wooden sign by the graveled road leading to their farm. Some just say Hofladen, others state what they're currently selling, so you'll just drive by and read "heute frisches Brot und Zopf" (today's offer is fresh bread and Zopf is a braided bread specialty)

In the fall it may say "frisch gepresster Most" (freshly pressed cider).

The level of presentation varies greatly. We have one in our village, a five minutes' walk from our house. The lady who runs it used to be my elementary school classmate.

Currently there are many signs out for two reason:
  • Corona rules and the announcement that they will deliver to people who belong to risk groups
  • Easter, respectively today is Gründonnerstag, Holy Thursday, and they are baking Zopf and Bread.

The inside is one large vending system. You insert coins (Swiss money has coins up to five Francs, comparable to five U.S. Dollars), then you press a combination of letters and figures --> the little door will open, and you can remove your head of salad or loaf of bread.

One of the worst farm stores I have visited at our neighbour village was cluttered with hand-written notes that said plastic bags cost 5 cents, you should remember to close the fridge door after removing your milk, you were not allowed to touch the stuff unless you were buying, and even though this store was unmanned, you were expected to pay for your merchandise. 

Geez, have they had bad experiences? Also the place looked filthy, there were flies everywhere, and I was not going to purchase anything there.

Especially if the next one was only about a mile away. Colin and I used our bicycle to get there. 

This was the complete opposite: air conditioned, clean, inviting and uplifting! 

They provide a great product range and - very important - resources to figure out how much you owe: everything is clearly marked, there is a notepad, a pen and a calculator. You put in bills in a safe-like container and remove change from a petty cash box. 

He did a great job checking our purchases out. This was in 2017, so he was 8 years old. Time flies!

Are there honesty system stores or roadside stands where you live? Do you use them? Why (not)? Let me know down below. 

Tomorrow's post will be about International Organizations based in Switzerland. And because most of them are actually located in Geneva, I'll also sneak in a good deal of sightseeing. You will enjoy the trip, I promise.


  1. Occasionally, there will be a honor system in place at a roadside stand here in Maine. We bought maple syrup last week from a local farm and that was on the honor system. They had all their products setup on their front porch and a slot for you to put the money.

    I've never seen a market setup with the vending machines here though. They look more like your later pictures where everything is out and you pick what you want. I enjoying going to the markets too.

    Funny that we have tandem posts about fresh produce!

  2. Hmm, you know how French people love the cheat ;) Well, we have places like that, and it works actually.
    H is for Hand Dyed Fabric

  3. Very interesting post. I'm learning so much about Switzerland! I love the way you use the honor system on the bus, but still check from time to time to be sure. The hofladen that look like fruits are so cute! The small ones in rural areas here often are a rustic-looking table with an umbrella for shade, and a steel box with a slot in it and is chained to something. It's on the honor system in that you could take produce without paying, but at the same time you aren't able to steal the box (unless you have some good bolt cutters.) In MI we also have the larger hofladen, and like yours, they run the gamut from shabby to shining. We do NOT have the cubicle vending systems for produce. The bigger ones are alway staffed with friendly people. Many times it's a family farm so family members wait on you. We also have lots of farmer's markets where there are stalls and farmers bring their produce in. We have an Amish community not too many miles away that has as you described, a sign by the road saying what they sell. Question: at that place with Grüezi on the door, do you know what all of those shaped things above the doorway are? Some look like they have eagles on them.

    1. I think the things are prizes from horse competitions

  4. We have honesty boxes at museums here. The vending machines will be very handy in these times. Supermarkets here have a similar system for online ordering and pickup.

    Suzy Someday Somewhere Letter H

  5. I don't know of any honesty system stores where I live in Texas. There could have been years ago in the small town where I grew up, but things have changed--farms have disappeared, the population has grown, and relationships are less personal. It must feel good to live in a place where people trust one another.

  6. How beautiful! I'm sure there are some in the very rural areas of Virginia, but where I live, all the farm stands are manned. Mostly, though, our local farmers sell produce, etc through CSAs and farmers' markets. During Covid-19 distancing, a couple of local places have set up a drive through market stand.

    I love learning all the new words!

  7. What a fantastic post! I grew up in Germany, but I don't think I have ever been to a Hofladen before. I visited the Alps when I was a teenager, but I can't remember if we traveled through Switzerland. The honesty system ... I live in the USA now, and I can't see that working here. It's quite a different culture.


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