Jessica Cartwright explains the complicated world of Swiss German greetings, with pronunciations and Swiss German to English explanations to tie your tongue around them.
I am amazed it has taken me this long to write about greetings in Swiss German, but to be honest, it has taken me this whole time to master them myself. Then again, who am I kidding? I am still a long way from mastering Swiss German greetings. It is tricky when you go from a country where ‘hello, how are you?’ is fine for any time of day to one with multiple greetings to master.
Nonetheless, here are a few Swiss German greetings to start with to help you get on with the Swiss (note: because of all the different Swiss German dialects and phrases, I can only comment on greetings around Zurich). As you will see, The Swiss seem to have a greeting for every opportunity.
Swiss German greetings
Gruetzi or sometimes Gruetzi Wohl
- Pronunciation: [Grew-tzee], [Grew-zee-vohll].
- Meaning: Greetings! Hello!
- Best time to use: Anytime. Use this to greet people in person, over the phone, personally or impersonally – meaning you can use it with those you know well as well as those you don’t.
- Answer (if someone says this to you… you should answer…): “Gruetzi!” (Or as below if there is more than one person!)
- Pronuncation: [Grew-tzee Mit-ein-an-der].
- Meaning: Greetings to you both! Hello you two!
- Best time to use: The only difference between this and ‘Gruetzi‘ above is that you use ‘Miteinander‘ when you greet a group of two or more people – because obviously you would not want them to think that you are leaving anyone out!
- Answer: Gruetzi or Gruetzi Miteinand
Guten Abig or Guten Abig Zusammen/Miteinander
- Pronunciation: [Goo-ten Ah-big] or [Goo-ten Ah-big Ztoo-tsah-men].
- Meaning: Good evening! or with ‘Zaeme‘ or ‘Miteinander‘, it is good evening to you both.
- Best time to use: At night, of course, or in the evening.
- Answer: Guten Abig or simply Abig, or add ‘Zaeme‘ or ‘Miteinand‘ if there is more than one person… getting the hang of that yet?
An Guete or just Guete
- Pronunciation: [An-goit-eh] (to remember this I think of the word ‘goiter’; it is said like that but without the ‘r’ sound).
- Meaning: Bon Appetite! or the Swiss form of Guten Appetit!
- Best time to use: The Swiss use this a lot and it always throws me for a loop because I am not usually expecting it. If it is lunch time, people will greet each other with this, and they also say this when you sit down to eat. It is not nearly as prolific as ‘Malzeit‘ in Austria or Bavaria, but you will definitely hear it in the cantine.
- Answer: An Guete! or simply Guete.
Adieu. Schönes Wochenende
- Pronunciation: [Ad-deh. Sshueh-ness Wo-cken-end-eh].
- Meaning: Bye! Have a nice weekend!
- Best time to use: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or anytime you are leaving someone before seeing them again for a week.
- Answer: Merci Gleichwals. This means ‘Thank you! Likewise!’ and I use it all the time at the grocery store. It is pronounced [Mer-ci Gleechk-walls].
- Pronunciation: [Aouf Vee-der-hor-en or Oof Weidehöra].
- Meaning: Till we hear from each other again. Till next time.
- Best time to use: When you are about to hang up the phone. You can say ‘Auf Widersehen‘ if you see them at that moment, but if you cannot see them (say, they are on the phone), you use this. Genius.
- Answer: Auf Wiederhoren. Adieu.
If I have missed any, please let me know. Good luck getting around with these Swiss greetings in and around Zurich, Switzerland!