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The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye Roestigraben
 
Today, a Swiss company sent me a letter that was just 5 sentences long, plus the closing. In my former home, the United States, such business letters often close with one word: "Sincerely," followed by the signature. Here in French speaking Switzerland, formal letter closings are un petit peu wordier.

Today's letter, translated from French, closed like this (take a deep breath):

"Remaining entirely at your service for any additional information you may require, we give you, dear client, madame or monsieur, our distinguished regards."

This is typical here in French speaking Swiss-Romande. Even in business letters automatically generated by nameless civil servants, the closing reads like a chevalier addressing his lady - or his lord. Here, chivalry is not only not dead, it is falling all over itself with long-winded and self-congratulatory courtesy.

By contrast, across the Röstigraben in the Swiss-German speaking part of the country, business letters tend to close crisply, with no cape-waving. A typical parting would be:

"Mit freundlichen Grüssen" ("Best Regards")

As for Italian speaking Ticino, I am currently mounting an exploratory business-letter-closing research expedition and will report back soon.

Until then, please accept my deepest, plush red-velvet theatre-curtain wishes for a very very good day and week and life, and allow me to personally and sincerely invite you, madam or sir, to contact me if I can provide any useful information whatsoever concerning matters at hand from today until our tomorrows.

Or, as they say in Hawai'i:

Laters,
Bill

About Bill Harby

An award-winning freelance writer, editor and photographer based in Neuchâtel and Volcano, Hawai‘i, Bill is frequently called upon to be "funny." His stories have garnered him a select coterie of loyal readers and legions of others who couldn't care less. For more of Bill’s work: www.billharby.com
  • Heide Henauer

    The German version has become even shorter now and is probably all about efficiency. Official business letters end with “Freundliche Grüsse”. Reduce to the max, one could say.

  • jenny mcclung

    love it! and here I was thinking it was just me noticing the rather superflous use of language around here…

  • http://dairyfreeswitzerland.wordpress.com/ Heddi

    I’ve noticed this translating letters from my son’s school! So interesting. Here’s an example (with my bad translation): “Hoping you have been usefully informed and we remain at your disposal for further information, please accept, Madam, Sir, the expression of our highest consideration.”

  • Dave Reeder

    That’s not a Swiss thing, but a French thing, though it slowly vanishing in France presumably from the influence of e-mail.

    • http://expatch-swiss.blogspot.ch/ Bill Harby

      Dave, I’d say it’s a francophone culture thing, though I have yet to research business letters from Haiti. In any case, as all the francophone world knows, the purest, most beautiful French is spoken in Suisse-Romande, particularly in canton Neuchâtel, my adopted home.

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