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swiss saturdays: mission impossible

May 8, 2010

Switzerland is not my first “expat” experience.  Prior to moving here I lived in both Spain and Italy for a year each.  Granted  I was an eager-to-earn student in both of those cases, but it’s not like I’m a complete stranger to living abroad. What’s I’ve never been is “that guy”.  I.E. that guy who lives in a country and doesn’t bother to learn the language.

My friends and I complained about “those guys” all the time in Italy.  The infamous story among us was the exchange between two students, one of whom refused to learn Italian, we’ll call her girl #2 for the purposes of this story. Girl #1 learned Italian…or at least tried.

girl #2: I am so sick and tired of Gracie.

girl #1: Who’s Gracie?

girl #2: That’s the name of the of the secretary.

girl #1: Weird, I thought her name was Ana.

girl #2: Maybe it’s her nickname.  Anyway, it’s how she signs all of her notes.  “Don’t smoke in the lounge.  -Gracie.”  “Don’t leave your books in the hall.  -Gracie”

girl #1: Um, she’s not signing the notes.  She’s writing “grazie”.  Thank you.

girl #2: Whatever.  She’s annoying.

Okay,  I’m not quite as bad girl #2, but sometimes I feel like I’m not far off.  I tried taking German lessons, but all courses are taught in high German.  Then you realize you live in Switzerland where they speak swiss German, which most of the time seems nothing like what you just learned in your class.  I slowly stopped going to those classes realizing that I knew enough to get by in stores, at the market, and in restaurants.  Am I happy about this?  No!  Of course not.  Especially when I travel to places like Italy and realize how much I really love being able to communicate freely with people.  I then find a renewed energy to learn German.  And then I come home.  To signs like this.

If that’s not mission impossible, I don’t know what is.  Oy vey.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 17, 2010 4:16 pm

    I’ve been living in Switzerland for almost a year now and I have the exact same problem! My first barrier is the fact that I don’t particularly like the sound of German but the second and most important is that around me I hear Swiss German which is completely different…so I am that girl who cannot learn the language, though I’m sure I’m much more respectful that the girl you spoke about in your example 🙂

    • July 17, 2010 4:52 pm

      Mr. KC and I always fall back on the fact that we really do try and we can see that people appreciate that, but it really is tough. One of the biggest mistakes that I make all the time is that every week at the market I ask for “hund gramen” instead of “hunderd gramen”. I’m pretty sure that I’m known as the girl who asks for dog grams.


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