Gruetzi, Gruetzi Wohl, Gruetzi Mitenand, Guten morge, Guten abig, Hallo, Hoi, Hoi Zäme, Sali … these are just a few of the greetings that I’ve had to learn the last couple of weeks and every time I think I’ve mastered the greetings, I’ll walk past someone and be greeted with something completely new.
This language thing is quite complicated. The spoken language amongst the locals in Zürich is a dialect, Swiss German, and whilst similar to German it is quite different in that the Swiss understand German however the German’s don’t understand Swiss German. Swiss German is taught to children at home and in Kindergarten however from first grade, the kids are taught in German and all written communication is in German – Swiss German is not a written language.
To my knowledge, there are no classes for adults to teach the dialect so I will need to learn German however I’ve been told that the locals prefer not to speak German which means that I will also need to learn the dialect. (Edited to add that this has not been my experience at all. Everyone that I have encountered has changed to either German or English to help us along). I am however eager to learn both especially the dialect so that I can truly integrate myself within the community. I can however confidently tell you that my Afrikaans has improved tremendously! Every time I open my mouth to say something in Swiss German, die taal comes out.
Julia’s German is improving every week and she is loving the challenge of learning a new language. I love listening to her recount stories from her day where she’s tried to explain to new students the rules of a game using limited German, hand signals and body language. She has been and I’m sure will continue to be, my biggest teacher in this process.
Today she started her commute to and from school on her own. A 50 minute journey, walking, crossing busy roads, catching a bus and catching a tram. Whilst I know that to the average Swiss person, this is not a big deal, our South African friends will appreciate that this is huge! Julz tells me that she’s ready and whilst I do believe her, there are signs which speak to her anxiety and her little nails have been chewed down to the skin. My own anxiety is also off the charts and has taken my helicopter parenting skills to the next level … iPhone ‘Find my friends’ tracking app is a wonderful thing!
Julz is now officially back on court, which I’m hoping will provide her with an outlet for some of her anxiety. We managed to find a wonderful coach with fantastic credentials – I actually have to pinch myself when I see her playing with him because in SA she would never have had this opportunity. He is from Serbia and has a number of national and European titles to his name and has played amongst some of today’s greatest tennis players including Marin Cilic and Novak Djokovic. Julz will also get the opportunity to play on different surfaces here which will bring a new dimension to her game – she plays mainly indoors on carpeted courts but will start playing outdoors on clay courts in the Summer.
Benito has gone for his first driving lesson to do a ‘controlled fahrt’. Myself and Julz still can’t listen to him talking to the driving instructor without breaking into a fit of giggles. (I’ve always wondered where she got her toilet humour from and now I know … She got it from her Mama). Basically, a ‘controlled fahrt’ is a driving test that we have to do to convert our drivers licences to the Swiss version. It is a practical test to prove that we in fact know how to drive. Driving lessons have been recommended though due to the vast differences from South Africa – driving on the right hand side, different road signs and traffic light signals, the increased number of bicycles (who have right of way on a number of roads) and of course the buses and trams. We need to pass the test first time round or risk having to do our complete driving tests all over again including a written test (in German), first aid courses, practical tests, etc. I’m putting this off until I can (a) find an English speaking teacher, (b) get enough confidence to climb in a car and drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and (c) not break into a fit of giggles when talking about doing a ‘controlled fahrt’.
As for me, I am nesting. We move into our home in just over a weeks time and my days have been filled with planning and shopping. This is not as much fun as it sounds when you have to convert your precious Rands into Francs however the one good thing about selling up everything and moving across the world is that you realise what’s important and what’s not and that you actually need very little in life in order to be happy. I’ve also spent an enormous amount of time getting re-aquainted with my Canon and whilst I may not have a lot of ‘things’ in my life, I will be surrounded by my photos and the beautiful memories I captured.
Life as art: An exhibit of our last few weeks
The Gerold Chucci Umbrellas
Graffiti walls in Zürich
The beautiful rose gardens and views in Rapperswil
Katy Perry live in Zürich
I will now end off with a simply ‘goodbye’ as goodbyes in Swiss German are equally as complicated as the hellos.