Stereotypes on Switzerland (No.4)

🇨🇭 The original list I made was random, subjective and is maybe a bit offensive to anyone who actually knows the place. It was created as a fun game to see the ‘before and after perspective’ of a trip! You can find it here: Swiss Stereotypes List

On my list, Stereotype No.4 was that all Swiss can speak German.

This was so interesting to me, because I agreed with this thought!

A common misconception is that the whole country speaks german. Beyond wrong! There are FOUR official languages. (This is insane!)

When you think of Swiss, for some reason, you think Germans. Now, a little tip: NEVER compare the Swiss with the Germans! If you read Swiss history you’ll know why I’m saying this. You’re welcome!!!

Due to the misconception, no one expects to hear what I heard on my first solo train ride there.

The boo point here for me, was that my friend (7 year resident) had already told me on my first night there, that there were four spoken languages and so I had it in mind. But to be honest, knowing this could not have prepared me for what I witnessed the first time I focused on the people surrounding me.

To get to the main train station in Zürich from my friend’s house in Winterthur, I had to take a bus and a train.

I step into the bus. Silence!

Everyone was keeping to themselves. I thought, okay witnessing this is going to be harder than I thought.

At the Winterthur train station I couldn’t even differentiate words let alone pick apart languages. It was more like a collective human noise!

I get onto the train disappointed and boom! My jaw drops! I walk past seats and I hear a different language in almost every booth! I recognised french, german and italian. I was shocked by the variety. I mean, you hear many languages in any big european city, that’s not new to me. What excited me was the fact that these guys are so badass, they made four languages official! They were being spoken by people that were born and raised there. The locals!!!

The Swiss also speak romansh, which is a “roman” language. Meaning it derives from the language the Romans used when the empire was created. The romansh speaking Swiss are a minority, but it is nevertheless accepted and recognised by the country.

I can only assume that many of us think of Switzerland as a german speaking country due to the fact that the majority (around 60%) indeed speaks it. I cannot think of any other reason.

Citizens know and use a combination of two of the official languages. The first is the one that their canton uses and the second is the student’s choice (usually the language of a neighbouring country or canton).

Some end up never learning german.

Boat Theater

Boat Theater in lake Zurich

To make things more complicated, the Swiss will use German in writing or at work, but when speaking they will use swiss-german!

The reason this is not confusing me, is because in Cyprus we write in greek but speak cypriot!

They are unofficial languages that also have subdialects. You might text or speak in these languages, but at school, work, emails etc, you are expected to use the official languages.

Myth BUSTED!!!

So there you are! Not all Swiss can speak or understand german!

I went. I explored. Your turn! xx

Check out:
Stereotypes on Switzerland (No.1) here.
Stereotypes on Switzerland (No.2) here.
Stereotypes on Switzerland (No.3) here.

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