In Switzerland we speak Swiss German. Although it comes from High German, it is a dialect of its own. A German from Stuttgart may still understand us, but a German from Hamburg has no chance. Although High German is his or her mother tongue. How difficult must it even be for an American or an English to understand us?

Learning Swiss German is difficult, but not impossible

Speaking some Swiss German makes feeling at home a lot easier
Speaking some Swiss German makes feeling at home a lot easier

In order to settle in a new country as quickly as possible, learning the local language is a very important factor. This way you get in touch with the locals much faster and you also understand better how the country and its people tick. It is quite clear to us that Swiss German is not the easiest language to learn. There are innumerable different dialects, and what makes it even more difficult, is that it is only a spoken language. But from our own experience we know that it is absolutely possible to learn at least a little Swiss German.

learning swiss german can cause a hadacue
Learning swiss german can cause a hadache

Typical Switzerland – these expressions are as Swiss as Willhelm Tell

Maybe you already know a few very typical Swiss German sayings. No matter whether you have just arrived in Switzerland or have been living here for some time. We have put together a few important Swiss German words for you that are typical for this country. And make your everyday life easier.

ZnĂĽni

ZnĂĽni mans eating a snack at 9am
ZnĂĽni mans eating a snack at 9am

Znüni is the snack you eat at nine o’clock in the morning. A sort of second breakfast, it’s a chance to down a quick coffee, read the paper, chat with a colleague or eat a Gipfeli (as croissants are known in the German-speaking part of Switzerland).

En Guete!

Before starting to eat, it is very common to wish everyone a good meal. “En Guete” means as much as “have a good one”. Not wishing each other “En Guete” before eating is actually considered rude.

Before every meal Swiss people wish each other "än Guete"
Before every meal Swiss people wish each other “än Guete”

It is also not uncommon for complete strangers in a restaurant to wish each other “En Guete”. Or if you walk along an office hallway during lunch hour, most everyone will greet you with this iconic Swiss German expression.

BĂĽnzli

Someone who lives in a cute little house with a white picket fence, a garden gnome in the yard and always eats dinner exactly at 6pm is called a “Bünzli” in Switzerland.This word describes the type of person who fully conforms to rules and ensures that everyone else does the same.

That coworker who always splits the bill down to thelast peny? He’s a BĂĽnzli. Or the neighbor who ties up her old newspapers for recycling in a perfectly rectangular fashion (and stacks them as if they were gold bars)? She’s a BĂĽnzli, too.

 

 

Gäbig

Means handy, just like the Swiss Army knife. but also comfortable. And pleasant. And depending on the part of the country, it’s also quite friendly and sociable. All that. In one word. A gäbiges word, this gäbig.

A Swiss army knife is really "gäbig"
A Swiss army knife is really “gäbig”

Imfall

In which case? In case of a case? No, just like that, in case. A blatantly self-righteous way to emphasize an appropriate argument. Just so, in case.

Kantönligeist

Kantönligeist refers to the intense desire for independence oft he 26 cantons in Switzerland. For many people this small-mindedness sums up everything that is wrong with politics in Switzerland, as cantons often refuse to cede an inch of ground to the federal government because they believe they know best what their region needs.

A lot of political topics are being decided on the level of cantons
A lot of political topics in Switzerland are being decided on the level of cantons

Thanks to Kantönligeist, Swiss cantons have their own education systems and their own tax regimes. It also means moving from one part of the country to another can be an administrative nightmare.

Chröömle

Surely, in other countries, too, one knows the joy of indulging in something small for little money – usually sweets from a kiosk. But only the Swiss have a special verb for this: chröömle.

Verhebe

That is a tricky one. Actually there is no perfect English translation for this verb.The closest might be “to hold up”, “to be airtight” or “to withstand”. The Swiss use the word verhebe to describe something that will withstand external factors or challenges. It could also be a concept without holes in it.
Look around Switzerland and you will find lots of evidence of verhebe: the Swiss system of democracy has withstood global conflicts, houses are constructed to exist for centuries, and even park benches are solid. In short: it simply makes the Swiss feel good if their world verhebet!

BĂĽezer

Buezer ins Swiss German is a constructor worker
Buezer ins Swiss German is a constructor worker

In Switzerland a blue collar worker is called a BĂĽezer. A construction worker for example or a member of a road crew who works hard. BĂĽezer usual like their after work beer, preferably at the “Stammtisch”. Which is a round table at a restaurant or bar, where the same guys meet almost very day and enjoy their well deserved beer together.

TĂĽpflischiesser

The literal translation would be: someone who shits little dots. A Tüpflischiesser is a pedant for whom everything has to be done in the correct way. This could include the government official who makes you redo a form because you’ve filled everything out in black pen rather than in blue pen as clearly specified. Or it might include the neighbour who enjoys reminding you vacume cleaning is not allowed after 10pm.

 

 

Important sentences for everyday life

And here are a few words and sentences that you often use in your everyday life.

Speaking some Swiss Germans sentences make your life a lot easier
Speaking some Swiss Germans sentences make your life a lot easier

 

Schweizerdeutsch Englisch
GrĂĽezi Hello
Uf Widerluege
TschĂĽss
Ciao
Ade
Good bye
Guete Morge Good morning
Guete Abig Good evening
Schlaf guet Sleep well
Träum süess Sweet dreams
Merci vilmal Thanks a lot
Wie gahts dir?
Wie gahts Ihnä?
How are you?

How are you (formal)?

Entschuldigung
ExgĂĽsi
Excuse me
Froit mi Nice to meet you
Wie spat isch äs? What is the time
Ich bi nöd Schwizer (m) / Schwizeri (f) I am not Swiss
Ich red kei Schwizerdütsch I don’t speak Swiss German
D’Rächnig bitte The bill please
Ich heisse…. My name is…
Wie heissisch du?
Wie heissed Sie? (formal)
What is your name?
Wohi gasch?
Wohi gönd Sie? (formal)
Where are you going?
Wo bisch?

Wo sind Sie? (formal)

Where are you?
Mir gfallt d’Schwiz I like Switzerland
Häsch Füür?

Händ Sie Füür?

You got a lighter?

Do you want to learn even more?

20 words are not enough for you? No problem. Sign up for our online course today and learn how to speak Swiss German in only 30 days.

 

With those Swiss German words you will survive
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