Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Surviving the Schwietzerdütsch Meeting

Before he began, the CEO looked at me as if for approval to start speaking to the office in German. And who am I to stop him from speaking his own language? So I nod and say it’s ok. Then he looks at another German employee for approval and says, “Schweizerdütsch?” She too says ok, even though she probably meant, “heaven help me”. Needless to say, with this unfortunate development of not just German, but Swiss German, I understood only about 30% (as opposed to my high German understanding of about 70%). When it comes to trying to learn languages in Switzerland, I've come to one conclusion: you just can't win.

So my version of the meeting was limited to things like, “we’re going to have one main receptionist for both Zurich and Geneva”, “my door is always open”, “this person, this person, this person, and this person all quit this month”, and “we’re getting a new creative director in October. And he’s a German.” Needless to say, I was very proud of this much comprehension, as I thought I’d come away with only a few ands, buts, and bads.

Luckily, here and there, during other times like lunch, random employees fill me in by complaining—“can you believe he wants us to tell him what we did to grow our client’s business every Monday from now on?”

So little by little, I guess I’ll find out what really happened at the meeting and what I’m supposed to be doing through the old-fashioned method of discovering I didn’t do it. But after over two years of these kinds of experiences, while it still doesn’t get any easier to feel like a 2-year-old, at least I have an answer when asked how the meeting was. I smile and break out my very excellent Swiss German with a hearty, “Eschgutzee.”


Jul said...

Yikes, meetings in Schwiitzertüüsch! You're very brave.

My husband had to do that a lot when we lived in Zurich. He was learning High German, but hearing Swiss German all day long from his colleagues, who would switch to English to speak to him directly.

Chantal said...

Yeah, I think that's why I can't seem to learn German at all. When I'm not hearing Swiss German, people are speaking to me in English. By the way, I enjoy your reading your blog.

Jessica said...

I am so glad you left a post on my blog. I am reading your blog for the first time and I love it. I love your observations and story telling. It is great. I am going to be reading more of it tonight... not during work, oh no! :)

Chantal said...

Glad you like the blog. I enjoy yours as well. Especially when I need a break at work ;)

Sarah Saad said...

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