Switzerland

The Heartbreak of Thank You

Zurich is confusing.

That is probably the first time anyone has ever said that about Zurich because, really, everything about the town is orderly and neat and precise. The trams and trains and buses run like clockwork. The streets and air are clean. The people seem robustly healthy.

And yet I couldn’t quite figure out which language to speak. Switzerland recognizes four different languages: German, French, Italian, and Raetoromansch (sort of Swiss-German). Plus English is used for academics and business. I’m told that German is the main language (although elementary school kids also learn English and French), but I’d been advised to thank people by saying merci instead of danke. But I heard people using both. I ended up muttering both at times during my trip, simply because I had no idea what to actually use. 

I mostly spoke English, just because it was easiest, and everyone seems to speak it . . . but I’m always so determined to be polite in the local language. It bothered me not to know for sure what was right. All that said, restaurant menus seemed to be primarily in German.

See? Confusing.

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