If any of you have ever studied German, or if Deutsch is your mother tongue, I bet you have suffered a minor shock the first time you came to Switzerland and found yourself surrounded by "hoi", "grüezi","drü", "foif"and "Guete Abig"...
These would all be strange words which you have never ever heard before, because they represent what the locals speak on the street: Schwiizerdütsch, or Swiss German. On my way to finding a good Deutsch-Schwiizerdütsch dictionary, I also came across several guides and resources about the oddities and curiosities of a country that does not stop surprising me!
So below are my reviews of current books about Switzerland which I find most amusing and useful. But either way, a good starting point for Swiss German basics is the Wikitravel website, where you can find a decent phrase book. It actually appears clear and easy enough for anyone to get started with Swiss lingo and survive the first few days.
Books about Switzerland
Beyond Chocolate - Understanding Swiss Culture
Beyond Chocolate is not simply a language translator, but what I would call a "living-abroad translator" to immerse yourself in the cultural attitudes of Switzerland's fascinating, multi-faceted society.
To be able to cover every little detail, the author carried out interviews with not only Swiss citizens, but also with foreigners who have mastered the ups and downs of life in Switzerland.
Chuchichäschtli Swiss German Booklet
Despite a very compact size, this small red book contains the most useful and curious words in English, German and Swiss German: "Chuchichäschtli - Kitchen Cupboard.
This gem contains translations as charming as "outside/hinaus/usä" and as un-pronounceable as "a little bit/ein ganz klein wenig/äs biräbiräbitzali".
Living and Working in Switzerland: A Survival Handbook
David Hampshire could be considered one of the gurus in terms of helping people find their way when living abroad. Among his titles we can find "Living and Working in Spain", "Living and Working in Britain" and, of course, "Living and Working in Switzerland".
These survival handbooks turn out to be essential for those who move abroad, since they feature basic chapters on finding jobs, getting permits and visas, local working conditions and accommodations.
This reference on life in Switzerland should not be missed, as it analyzes Swiss culture in a very fitting way with a healthy dose of British humor! Swiss Watching: Inside the Land of Milk and Money is one of our favorites as it covers a wealth of information about the Swiss while avoiding clichés like cheese and chocolate.
Hoi! Your Swiss German Survival Guide
If you are aiming to use Swiss German in your everyday life and are actually intending to elaborate in more complicated sentences, all you will need is Hoi, Your Swiss German Surviving Guide.
You can find lots of handy phrases, more than 2000 words and even a dictionary. Quoting the book itself, it is "chock-full of encouragement for you to get a grip on the expressions you'll need if you're to enjoy your time in Switzerland and feel at home here."
Please give us your feedback below or let us know if we have missed another indispensable Switzerland resource!
The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Swiss – by Paul Bilton
Swiss Watching is my fave, but Beyond Chocolate is excellent too.
I would rather recommend Culture Shock over Swiss Watching, it’s packed with more information from an knowledgeable insider, Diccon is obsessed with statistics so if you’re very curious about numbers Diccon’s Swiss Watching has it all, but both reading should be interesting.
I would also recommend https://www.amazon.com/Place-Concorde-Suisse-John-McPhee/dp/0374519323 – a bit outdated, but still useful information about importance of the army in Swiss society.
Definitely Culture Shock! Switzerland (https://www.amazon.com/CultureShock-Switzerland-Max-Oettli-ebook/dp/B00AIHOLAK/) – especially if you’re moving here with a family. It helped me more than any other book and I read them all!
Thanks for the advice, Susannah! We hope you’re way past the culture shock at this point ;-)
Well, yes and no…I’m past the book stage but there’s always more to learn :)
I bought three of these (Swiss Watching, Living and Working in Zurich and Hoi) when we moved to Zurich and they were invaluable. The best, quickest and funniest to read was Xenophobes Guide to Switzerland.