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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:


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:

Bill Harby

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