Thursday, June 27, 2013

9 Questions About Switzerland

The Frau has been living in Switzerland for seven years, but that doesn't mean she has all the answers. In fact, she still has viele Fragen. Here they are, in no particular order:

What should The Frau say when she sees a former co-worker bathing topless during her lunch hour? Say hello? Say nothing?

Why does The Frau always end up walking behind someone with a cigarette?

Can a person ever say En Guete too much?

Why do people who hate noise and/or kids sit in the family car on the train?

If The Frau leaves Switzerland but eats the same amount of chocolate, will she finally gain weight?

Why is it that the more German The Frau knows, the less she wants to talk?

Why do people always ask if Baby M is a girl when she is wearing pink? Is it because European boys and men wear pink too?

Why do the Swiss French learn German and the Swiss Germans learn French and then they speak to each other in English?

Is it really necessary to always go to lunch exactly at 12?

The Frau welcomes answers in the comments.


LN said...

i have no answer, but i like the questions :)

Chantal said...


swisssidejewelleryetc said...

Chantal - I'm laughing out loud at those oh so true questions, but unfortunately I've yet to find the answers too!
Viel Glück

Unknown said...

I can answer some of these:

- topless colleague. By all means. It is completely normal to be topless, anyone who chooses to do so will not be embarassed to be seen doing so, and will be comfortable having conversations. I'm in my 40s and I grew up from childhood seeing my mother and her friends topless at the beach or swimming pool etc. and having all sorts of conversations with all sorts of people. Normal.

- pink/blue this gender convention is far more common in the anglo saxon world than it is in Switzerland, although the mondialisation of marketing seems to be slowly making it seep in. So yes, best to not assume pink=girl blue=boy to the same extent. Asking is always safer, as assuming could get you to look like an idiot especially if the mother is feminist.
I am still shocked that they do this in the US and the UK it seems so absurd (my dog has a blue harness so people assume it's a male. uh? i just liked that blue with her coat!)

- swiss german and swiss french speaking english. That one is true and weird. This is mostly in Zurich and Geneva, you don't see it to the same extent in the more central areas where people have more familiarity hearing the other language. Partly it is whoever speaks the other's language is uncomfortable. Also the Swiss French learn german and know that German is a "foreign language" to the Swiss German anyway, and they tend to dislike German and feel incompetent in Swiss German. Some Swiss German around Zurich see trying to speak French as "going down" to the level of the minority... cute but they shouldn't have to do it.
And many end up having to speak English routinely due to all the foreigners around at work etc. so feel more comfortable.

julia said...

1 say gruezi and smile of course, its just a pair of boobs, top less is really common.
2 the cigarrette thing, i cannot help you i also hate it.
3 no, you can never be too polite, specially here.
6 thats a pitty im spanish and i love german, its difficult but its also nice. Id recommend reading something good and interesting in german, maybe poetry. Todesfuge by Paul Celan is quite beautiful.
7 yes boys wear pink, mine does, but i guess they just try to be polite and avoid mistakes.
8 oh not all french swiss learn german! try to speak german in geneve! mission impossible my friend! plus, everyone loves to use their english!

Chantal said...

Dear all,
Danke, danke for your thoughts on these matters. The Frau really appreciates it! said...

Chantal - I'm giggling aloud at those also therefore legitimate concerns, however however I have yet to find the solutions too!

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Kempeth said...

I'm a bit late but I think these are cool questions and relatively few answers

1. Topless coworker
Just act normally. As long as our state of undress is aceptable in whatever place we are, we don't consider it embarrasing to be seen as such.

2. Walking behind a cigarette
I generally just try to walk faster and overtake them.

3. Too much en guete
Saying it to every guest at the meal separately would be a bit much. But if you're at a canteen where coworkers arrive at the table in waves saying it once per wave feels alright to me.

4. Hate noise in children car
No idea

5. chocolate outside Switzerland?
Swiss trees are genetically engineered to release odorless chemicals that bind to special markers on fat molecules produced by Swiss chocolate disolving them over time.

6. hate to speak German.
Are you reading Mark Twain?

7. pink
Pink is ambiguous because it could just be a washed out Swiss flag.

8. English instead of German and French
At least in the German speaking part the Romands are often perceived to be rather arrogant. For example my father is in an club/association that spans across the Röstigraben. So since they have lots of members from both sides their annual meetings alternate places. Sometimes they are deep in Romand territory, sometimes they are slighly over the border. Also because it is a bilingual group the language in which the meeting is held obviously alternates between French and French.

On the other side the Romands are a much smaller part of Switzerland and thus often feel ignored or overruled in national decisions.

So if you think that people learn the other language to talk to each other you're mistaken. We learn it to understand the enemy but would never dream of giving him the satisfaction of speaking it. ;-)

9. lunch always at 12:00
No not at all. Thinking that there is some nationwide rule stating that lunch must start at exactly 12:00 tells me you haven't fully understood Swiss culture yet. Such a thing would never fly in Switzerland. This is obviously decided on a municipal level.

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