Greetings in Switzerland: how to say “Hello” in Swiss German

Greetings in Switzerland - Bernese Mountain Dog

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 for 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 store keepers 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”.

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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.”

As for the pronunciation, 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:

 

Swiss GermanEnglishFormalityGeography
GrieziHelloformalBasel
Grüessech [ˈɡ̊ryə̯sːəɣ̊]HelloformalBern, Solothurn
Grüezi [ˈɡ̊ryə̯t͡sɪ]Helloformal, singularCentral/eastern Switzerland
Grüezi mitenandHelloformal, pluralCentral/eastern Switzerland
HoiHiinformal
SalüHiinformalBern
SaliHiinformalAargau, Zürich
TschauHiinformalAargau, Zürich
TschouHiinformalBern, Solothurn
HalloHiformal/informal
Guete MorgeGood morningformal/informal
Guete DaagGreetingsformal/informalBasel, Solothurn, Fribourg, Valais
Guete TagGreetingsformal/informalCentral/eastern Switzerland
Tag wohlGreetingsformal/informalValais
Guete NamitagGood afternoonformal/informalCentral/eastern Switzerland
Guete AbigGood eveningformal/informalCentral/eastern Switzerland

 

There’s a song about Swiss greetings: “Ja Grüezi wohl, Frau Stirnimaa!”

 

 

Bonus reading about greetings in Switzerland

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”.

Now, go on reading about Swiss etiquette where you will learn how many times to kiss…

And here are 10 Swiss German words to understand how the Swiss tick!

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Dimitri Burkhard

Founder, Editor-in-Chief at Newly Swissed GmbH
As the founder, editor and community manager of Newly Swissed, Dimitri owns the strategic vision. He is passionate about storytelling and is a member of the Swiss Travelwriters Club.

Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.
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