Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What the Swiss Laugh At

Is it me, or does it sometimes seem like the Swiss have no sense of humor? I've had a number of experiences that have just left me confused:

1. Once, when ordering tickets at the SBB ticket window, the agent asked me if I had a student ID card so I could get the student discount. I laughed, thanking him for the compliment, but telling him I wasn't a student. Instead of joking back, he got all serious on me, "Oh I'm sorry, ma'am," he said without a smile.

2. Sarcasm. The Swiss just don't get it. Unfortunately, as a copywriter, my preferred headlines were always sarcastic, but my Swiss boss would just stare at them and scratch his head while a South African guy I worked with would laugh and laugh.

There are many other experiences, but the point is, the Swiss do have a sense of humor, and we foreigners just don't see it. Because what do the Swiss laugh at? Us.

According to the Witzerland exhibit at the Landesmuseum, the Swiss laugh mainly at foreigners.


If you don't believe me, here are some examples:

Making Fun of the Russians:


Making Fun of the Polish:


Making fun of dark-skinned foreigners:


To see these "jokes" and more, the Witzerland exhibit at the Landesmuseum in Zurich goes until September 13th. But it's probably only worth spending the CHF 10 if you can read a bit of German. The exhibits aren't translated so you can either read them or you can't. But either way, you might end up confused anyway, like I was by this:


This one, however, made perfect sense, especially if you consider how fast change comes to Switzerland:

63 comments:

bergo said...

Actually they make fun of the Swiss.

M'dame Jo said...

We french speaking swiss make fun of the swiss german, which can actually be really funny. They're just frustrated and have to take it on foreigners ;-)

But I'm joking, we love each other.

Don't we?

Chantal said...

Yes, I also saw many instances of the German Swiss making fun of the French Swiss in the exhibit as well. In a way it was like the Swiss were treating each other as foreigners as well.

M'dame Jo said...

Except they offer more joke material than we do :)

Well, swiss identity is a weird thing. We don't speak the same language, our shared culture is quite small, we're more influenced by French TV, films, music. But there's definitely something that make us all swiss. Except after "notations"... Like I said, it's a weird thing.


I don't know if you understand some French, but he're a famous example of our relationship (he created this show when he was playing in Paris.)

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x32l62_marietherese-porchet-la-lecon-de-ge

M'dame Jo said...

I meant "votations", well, voting.

Chantal said...

I'm sure that's part of why your humor is also so interesting. Thanks for the link.

Hattie said...

When you live in Switzerland you are always feeling forced to be concerned about what the Swiss are thinking. This is not necessarily part and parcel of being a foreigner elsewhere.
Living there,at some point, I decided not to care any more what the Swiss thought, and I'm sure many other foreigners have made similar decisions.
Nowadays I think what I think and let others think what they think.

Chantal said...

That's a great mindset to live anywhere, foreigner or not.

WILBO43 said...

The Swiss DO have a sense of humour, it's just different! There was a barber named Kari Daellenbach in Bern in the late 1800s of whom dozens of jokes are attributed. Most English-speaking countries also have different senses of humour. The English (UK) use wit or subtle humour and you have to be quick to pick it up, while in the USA you usually have to explain a joke before they get it or of course a cram pie in the face is the ultimate humour in the USA.

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