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8 definite survival phrases for Bern, Switzerland

Survival Phrases for Bern, Switzerland

Switzerland is a small country. "What do you mean by small," you may ask. Let me explain what I mean.

I am from India. If that does not answer it, let me be creative here: If the earth were a meal plate, India would be the steak with the sauce and the veggies, and Switzerland would be a piece of a French fry. So why am I talking about size? Read on to find out why.

I have lived in the canton of Bern for six years now and have learned to understand the Bernese dialect well enough by correlating the High German vocabulary to the version of the Bernese vocabulary. And slowly but steadily, I have myself started to use these words in my daily life.

What are the most useful Bern survival phrases?

If you are one of the travel enthusiasts wanting to go beyond cheese, chocolate and the clean mountain air to mingle and jingle with the locals, I hope these survival phrases will help you achieve just that!

But I would caution you to use them in Bern and strictly in Bern only, as my "acclaimed expertise" starts and ends with Bern... (For those going beyond the Bernese border, use the phrases at your own risk.) Now, let's begin.


We all know what the word "really" in the English language can do. It is used to express surprise or doubt, or it can emphasize a point. Really, it is a pretty versatile word - no pun intended. The Bernese variant of really is the word "Äuä" (pronounced as ou-ae).

"Äuä" is a classic Bernese word and it can be used to express any of the following: "No way!", "Really?", "I never knew!", or "Come on now, you must be kidding!"

Many have tried to steal, confiscate, alter and even destroy this gem of a word, but to no avail. "Äuä" continues to live on and thrive in the lives of the Bernese, so much so that there are even accessories such as bags manufactured to display a true blood Bernese to the world. "Äuä de schoo - really!"

"Es Bitzeli"

"Es Bitzeli" is a cutesy expression for "just a little." It comes in very handy for those of you are cheese and chocolate lovers. Why? If you know exactly the amount of cheese or chocolate you wish to buy and the seller behind the counter looks at you for your approval of their measurement, you just have to say: "Es Bitzeli weniger," meaning a little bit less.

Or with cheese and chocolate, you are likely to utter "Es Bitzeli meh," meaning "a little bit more!" Get the point? Switzerland is all about precision.


In this part of Switzerland, the salutation "Grüezi" ("hello" in Zürich) is pronounced as "Grüessech": gruess-e-ck. It is a formal way of greeting pedestrians, shopkeepers or someone on the phone. So, memorize this one for immediate street creds!

On the other hand, a more casual way of greeting someone is "Tschou!"


"Merci viu mau."

This is probably one of the most helpful phrases you can use. Bought something from a shop? Want to thank a friend for introducing you to the pleasure of dipping a Fondue gäbeli into a pot of hot melting cheese? Then this is it.

"Merci viu mau" quite literally translates to "Thank you many times." If you want to stress your gratitude more than just many times, multiply the viu as many times as you like and say, "Merci viu viu mau!" Don't forget to elongate the mau to add some extra local flair.

"Henne geil!" or "Henne guet!"

Need to let a Bernese know that you loved an experience up in the mountains, or that the view from the Jungfraujoch was absolutely stunning? Ladies and gentlemen, here is an alternative to "gut" and "super!"

Just use the expressiona "Henne geil!" (very casual) or "Henne guet!" and watch the Bernese commend you for your mastery of their dialect. (Note: it's not a silent "h" in "henne".)

"Bin am luege, merci."

It is very likely that while shopping in Bern, you would suddenly be startled by a friendly sales person inquiring whether you need assistance. Running away is definitely an option, albeit not a very appealing one. So, wear your best Bernese bragging suit, and let the person know that you are "Am luege, merci."

This literally means "I'm in the process of looking, thank you." And do not forget to smile with this one.

"E Stange go trinke"

The best way to strike up a conversation with a Bernese (or really any Swiss German speaker) is by talking about the weather forecast. But if you muster enough courage to ask your Bernese friend out for a beer, simply ask "Söued mer e Stange go trinke?"

"Stange" stands for a glass of beer, and the sentence translates to "Would you like to go out for a beer?" If they reply with "gärn," it's a "yes!" If you get a cold stare, well, do I need to explain?


To continue building up on your expertise from the last phrase, after the refreshing "Stange" at the local brewery, it is now time to "löie." The word means "to relax," and you may impress your new-found friends by saying: "Ich muss löie!". Rest assured, you will soon be invited for a brunch or a dinner at their residence...

And the list of Bern survival phrases goes on...

If you wish to thank me for helping you improve your knowledge of the Bernese dialect, please do so by adding as many "viu's" to your "Merci viu mau!" in the comments. Here is one from me to you all: "Merci viu viu mau, dear readers!"

Bern Switzerland Arcade Shopping


An Indian citizen married to a Swiss, Indira is a published journalist based in Bern. She is very enthusiastic about Switzerland's culture and traditions.

1 comment

  • Merci viu viu mau! ;) I am looking to learn the Swiss German language, Bern dialect. Do you have any other good sources please?

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