When spending a day in a Swiss city or while hiking in the Alps, you will realize that the Swiss have a peculiar custom of greeting one another.
In fact, it is common even for strangers to greet each other: be it on the sidewalk, in the elevator, or as they pass each other on a hiking trail.
Swiss greeting words and phrases are your way of fitting in
They are the first expressions you should memorize when traveling or settling in Switzerland. And the more you use these greetings in everyday life, the quicker they will become second nature.
One thing to be aware of is the formal and informal language in Switzerland. This applies especially to the Swiss German part which is impacted by the hierarchical culture of Germany.
In the English language, the pronoun “you” can be used universally. But in German or Swiss German, the difference between “Du” and “Sie” is more than one letter. The former is for family and friends, while the latter is for everyone else.
From Grüezi to Sali: formal and informal Swiss German greetings
Ja, it is crucial to use the correct level of politeness in Swiss German.
Whenever you meet a person who is senior to you, a boss or a teacher, you would use a polite greeting such as “Grüezi.” This also applies to people you have not met before, such as storekeepers or civil servants. Only once the older person introduces themselves with their first name you are allowed to address them informally.
“Grüezi” works any time of the day – even when picking up a phone call. It is a short form of “Gott grüez i”, which means as much as “may God greet you.”
When it comes to friends, an informal “Hoi”, “Sali” or “Ciao” plus the name is the way to go! For instance, “Sali Birgit” or “Hoi Manfred.”
Here’s how to pronounce greetings in Swiss German
As for the pronunciation of Swiss German, make sure to pronounce all the vowels in each word. So, in a word such as “Grüezi”, pronounce the “ü” and the “e” as distinct syllables.
For Swiss German cantons, here are the most common greetings in Switzerland:
|Grüessech [ˈɡ̊ryə̯sːəɣ̊]||Hello||formal||Bern, Solothurn|
|Grüezi [ˈɡ̊ryə̯t͡sɪ]||Hello||formal, singular||Central/eastern Switzerland|
|Grüezi mitenand||Hello||formal, plural||Central/eastern Switzerland|
|Guete Morge||Good morning||formal/informal|
|Guete Daag||Greetings||formal/informal||Basel, Solothurn, Fribourg, Valais|
|Guete Tag||Greetings||formal/informal||Central/eastern Switzerland|
|Guete Namitag||Good afternoon||formal/informal||Central/eastern Switzerland|
|Guete Abig||Good evening||formal/informal||Central/eastern Switzerland|
There’s a song about Swiss greetings: “Ja Grüezi wohl, Frau Stirnimaa!”
How about other greetings in Switzerland?
With Switzerland having four official languages, greetings outside of the Swiss German part of the country are different.
In the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, a commonly used greeting is “buon giorno.” And in the French-speaking part, the way of greeting is “bonjour.” Things get a bit more complex when it comes to Romansh, as there are five different dialects. The most common phrases to greet others are “allegra” and “bun di.”