I live in the Geman speaking part of Switzerland. Not that they speak German here, no, Germans speak German, Swiss speak Swiss-German; quite a difference. Stick with me here, I’ll have you speaking Swiss-German in no time.

Repeat after me: do-dee do-dee DO, dee do-dee do. That’s the rhythm of the language and if you have no idea what is being said, that’s basically what it sounds like too. Swiss-German is a derivative of German like a caricature is a derivative of a portrait – a lot of squishing and stretching going on. If you know high German you can sort of figure out what is being said, maybe. And, just to make it interesting, every region has their own dialect. This isn’t a variation on the pronunciation of words (although that happens, too) this is a different word for the same object! Bored at a party? This will liven it up – ask whomever you happen to be talking to what they call what’s left after you’ve eaten an apple (that would be the core, right?). For some strange reason every region has a different name for this: gruebsc, gruebschi, guerbsi, guerbschi, goerbsi, uerbsi, gigertschi, gaeggi, gretschi, baetzgi, buetschgi. That’ll keep you in an animated conversation for an hour or so.

The Swiss love languages, it’s part of their nature. There are four national languages, German, French, Italian and Romansch. Of course, not everyone speaks all those languages but most speak at least German (the written language is high German and they try their best to speak it too if need be), French and English. The fact that most speak English but don’t have many ‘real English speaking people’ to practice on turned out to be somewhat a problem for me when I first moved here many moons ago. You could literally see the people rubbing their hands together and salivating when they realized you spoke English and they were going to get a chance to speak it. Talk about frustrating! I didn’t come over here to be in a bubble, I wanted to learn the language to be able to laugh at jokes without having to have them translated. So, to help solve this dilemma, my husband and I did what we had to do – let all of our friends know they were only to speak Swiss-German with me. Whew! After about 6 months we lifted the ban but by that time my Swiss-German was at a level that no one was really interested in speaking English with me anymore. Okay, it wasn’t quite as easy as I just made it sound but it was worth every minute. I’ve seen firsthand how hard it can be if you don’t put in the extra effort to learn the language. Like a square peg in a round hole, it just doesn’t fit. That’s what I wanted to do – just fit in.

So, Gruessech or ‘Hi you’ (the formal form, of course).

3 thoughts on “Gruessech!

  1. Barry

    Thank you, Lisa. I usually stay in Interlaken, where they say Gruessech, but often with the Wohl added – they ARE extra nice in Interlaken. In Zurich and Lucerne, Gruezi seems to be more common. Thanks again.

  2. Barry

    Gruessech. We are having trouble working out the greetings used in Central Switzerland. People often greet us with something that sounds like Grusse Val or Mal. Are you familiar with this expression?

    1. Lisa Post author

      Hi Barry, in Berne you say “Gruessech“ which translates into “Grusse Euch”. In Bernese the “Sie” form isn’t used so that “Euch” is formal. (The informal would be “Gruessdi” which is “Gruess Dich”). In Central Switzerland the “Sie” form is used so you would say “Gruezi” which translates into “Grusse Sie”. The Val or Mal that you hear after Gruezi is probably “Wohl” which means nicely, friendly or benevolent. It’s usually added when you are being extra nice.

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