One evening in 2016 I was playing messenger, chef assistant and little red riding hood.
Up the hill I went with my Brioche package, wrapped in aluminium foil. The breeze cooled down 27 degree heat and I took a short cut. I came just in time to see my swiss step grandfather rolling in with his car; I unlocked the door with my entrusted key and came in to say hi.
I told them about my great fortune with work, application for visas, and they talked about their three days near my university campus in south Switzerland.
Oh this was funny.
They spoke of convenience; their hotel was between the train station and the lake. They took the forniculore to the nearby mountains. The Swiss Italian locals on the other hand, do not care so much for sightseeing and sports. They like their walks, their food and drink.
Whereas for the Swiss Germans, the word travel is associated with holiday, and they will be pretty active while travelling.
There was an earlier time smack bang in the middle of my Master when I came down by train to fix my exam notes… or party it up, can’t remember; and I bumped into my Spanish friend on the street ten minutes walk from my university apartment. We spoke of meeting later on and I tried to claim the time of meeting like any self-respecting Swiss German;
‘at 8, maybe 7?”
He, like any other self-respecting Spaniard, shook his head and said “whoaaaa, let’s see how it goes.”
‘Oh, right. OK’ I replied.
That’s when I realized things here were not time oriented, could not be claimed by time; and if I wanted to look uncool, I would be digging my heels in and demand a time on our meeting point.
“Talk later,” I said and we parted, me running off with my wheeler bag. And the Spaniard to his gym slash coffee with a buddy slash drink.
South Switzerland is rather tropical and laidback with its approach to life. This is highly frowned down upon by the Swiss Germans, who are supposed to be extremely efficient and don’t like the look of a place that looks nice and paradise-ish.
Grey, rainy, ugly and dark is what gets the work done. Not green, flowery and renaissance looking.
It’s to the point that when I automatically said “Si” at the supermarkets, stepdad locked eyes with me and said “what’s with the Italian?”
Yep, a small country can have lots of politics too.
In dedication to a friend who feels she is hopeless with learning language, here’s a fascinating point:
There is no such thing as speaking Swiss. Because you have regions where flavours are French, Italian and German (speaking of majorities here) subsequently you might get their politics, expression, and language.
But the language is super weird: with exception of German, they will be the flattest accented languages you will ever come across. And at times, even able to follow them because they will be much slower. For example Parisian French and Lausanne French.. there is more slang for Parisians but Lausanne will be more about pride and savouring the feel of some words.
German however, is a completely different kettle of fish. In Germany you get clear German. In every canton from Basel to St Gallen to Luzern however, you will get spicy accents with plenty of Scottish “ch” which is the sound of popcorn coming out of your throat. And sh’s where there is a ‘ch’. And lots of li’s. Like, Cremli. Cream: one of my ex bosses loved those. Or Broetli. Small bread. It took me 4 years to get through the swiss german accents to understand what they were saying.
Italian… can’t get weirder. It’s cute, because it’s the only canton out of 20 ish that follows some Italian traditions: but you can follow it because it is flatter (unlike south Italian) and slower and somehow that makes it more posh. Ah Lugano… it was fun.
I miss the aperos over there and the relaxed approach to life, the mediterranean climate trapped by the alps. But I was also closer to the actual Italians that came across the border. My latina flatmate also suggested the swiss italians were super awkward because they couldn’t be authentically Italian. They miss the spot. They are too neutral. Which is the magic trick to all of Switzerland: it has its own system and pledges allegiance to no one –
But it takes parts of the neighbouring cultures.
North Side, south side: what would you like to know about the regions? I am experienced and won’t bite 😉