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Switzerland consists of three main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, and Italian. The German speaking part is by far the biggest part of the country. And while people will certainly understand you, when you speak standard German, you'll might have some problem understanding the locals. This guide was designed to help you with this problem.


Swiss-German consists of a number of Alemannic dialects spoken mainly in Switzerland but also in some Alpine communities in Northern Italy.

Word formation:

In Switzerland people like add the final syllable -li to many common words. So the German word “Rübe” (turnip) becomes “Rübli” in Swiss-German. The German word “Hund” (dog) becomes “Hündli”.

Don't be confused by that. You'll get used to it very easily.

Common words and expressions:

The most common complimentary close in Switzerland is “grüezi”. However you should use „hoi“ when greeting people that are close to you, like your friends. When in doubt, use the more formal „grüezi“!

And since we already covered the Swiss-German word for dog, we might as well write about cats. The German word for a female cat is “Katze” but the Swiss-German word is “Busi” or “Busle”. The male cat is called „Mäudi“ or „Mauder“ in Switzerland.

“Einen trinken gehen h (go have a drink) is geis ga/go zieh“ in Swiss-German. As usual, if you had too much, you might not remember everything that happened. It that case you might want to say: „Ich mag mi nümm bsinne/erinnere“ (I can't remember). In case you don't want that to happen you should let your Swiss drinking buddies now that you don't want to drink anymore, and say: „Ich mag nümme“ (I don't want anymore/I'm buggered/I'm full).

If you wanted to express that something is fun, you'd say: „es fägt“.

While in Germany „Ich studiere“ means „I'm studying“, it also means „to reflect“ or „to consider something“ in Swiss.

If something is messy the Swiss say it's a “Mischmasch“.

Another thing that might confuse you, is that in the Swiss-German language they use the plural of “Ei” (egg), even if they're talking about one single egg! So it's “Eier” not “Ei”!

I hope this gives you an idea on what to expect when visiting Switzerland.

"gVill glöck!" (good luck)



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