The Swiss way: an hour of hooting but no flags

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Even if Switzerland's footballers pull off a surprise against England this evening in Portugal, the authorities in many of their home cantons see no reason why supporters should let their hair down.

Even if Switzerland's footballers pull off a surprise against England this evening in Portugal, the authorities in many of their home cantons see no reason why supporters should let their hair down.

The police have issued warnings in several parts of the country aimed at keeping a lid on any unseemly high spirits. Canton Aargau is taking a particularly hard line: the police have cautioned drivers against expressing patriotic joy via their car horns after matches. They will also crack down on those hanging flags from their cars.

Lausanne is relatively relaxed by comparison. Drivers whose team has won are being allowed to toot their car horns in celebration for exactly one hour after the final whistle. Action will be taken against anybody still beeping after the limit.

During the 60 minutes of grace the police will also tolerate gatherings on the streets - so long as traffic is not obstructed. They will, however, be on the look-out for other excesses associated with post-match revelry. Those who wish to party the whole night away had better do so quietly.

Happy hooters in Canton Schwyz can also expect fines for the "misuse of warning signals" if they carry on too long and the police in Lucerne will consider closing a whole bridge if necessary in order to block the route of informal, motorised victory parades through the old town.

In those regions where no special regulations are being enforced, the next two and a half weeks are likely to be noisy. New figures released this week revealed that one in five inhabitants of Switzerland is foreign.

In addition to the 20.2 per cent of the population without a Swiss passport, there are many naturalised first and second generation immigrants who still tend to support the lands of their fathers - perhaps understandably, given their adopted home country's less than glorious footballing pedigree.

Switzerland is home to substantial communities of Italians, Spaniards and Croatians, and, according to the new statistics, the largest increases last year were in immigration from Portugal, Germany and France.

With all these nations involved in the European Championships, cities such as Zurich, where the percentage of foreigners is even higher than the national average, are likely to witness almost nightly scenes of unwanted exuberance irrespective of whether the sober Swiss themselves have reason to go cuckoo.

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