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SWISS GERMAN

Ten English words Swiss Germans get delightfully wrong

From 'shitstorms' to 'wellness' weekends, here are seven ways Swiss German speakers make English their own.

A man gets up close and personal with a speaker
This is us, trying to work out where the hell the box is. Photo by Obie Fernandez on Unsplash

Shitstorm

Anyone new to the Swiss media landscape might be surprised to find the word ‘shitstorm’ appearing on front pages and in headlines all over the place.

While the term is common in colloquial English, it is not exactly fit for polite society. But in the Swiss media – and German-language media more generally – shitstorm is a perfectly acceptable term for any huge controversy, whether in tabloid papers like Blick or in the broadsheet NZZ.

A Blick headline reading: ‘Shitstorm’ over Christian YouTubers

The word was even dubbed the “best English gift to the German language” in 2012 as the Anglicism of the Year by a group of language experts.

Partnerlook

Sometimes the English words made up by foreigners are actually better than anything native speakers could come up with it themselves.

The classic German-language neologism ‘Partnerlook’ refers to the habit some couples have of wearing the same clothes. We defy you to think up a better expression for this.

Streetworker

Commonly used to refer to a social worker, the composite word ‘Streetworker’ means something completely different in English. 

Although the term is not commonly used, it might remind people of the words ‘street walker’ or ‘sex worker’, both of which refer to prostitutes. 

While prostitution is largely legal in Switzerland, there is obviously a big difference between social and sex workers, so be sure to get it right when describing your job in English. 

READ MORE: Swiss brothels outline list of coronavirus-safe sex positions in a bid to end lockdown

Basecap

The favourite attire of wannabe hip-hoppers and incognito celebrities everywhere, somewhere along the line the caps worn by baseball players in the US became known as Basecaps or even Cappies in German-speaking Europe. 

The word basecap is used about as frequently in German hip-hop as Handy (more on that later), but if you’re in an English-speaking country and you try to order a Basecap, you might be met with a puzzled expression. 

A baseball cap, not a basecap. Photo by Mediamodifier on Unsplash

Wellness

Is there anything more Swiss than a ‘wellness’ (pronounced ‘vellness’) weekend? The expression refers to the experience of combining extreme relaxation and indulgence with spuriously healthy activities such as massages and saunas.

Wellness is big business in Switzerland with many believing a day at the spa is something close to a birthright.

Oldtimer

In Swiss German, this term refers to a vintage or classic car rather than an old person.

To spot an ‘Oldtimer’, all you have to do is hit the roads on any sunny day between about March and October. These gleaming machines are lovingly cared for by their owners (who are also usually actual old timers) and the finest examples even come with their own matching vintage number plates.

Rowdy

In English, this adjective means something along the lines of noisy or disruptive. In German, however, it refers to a troublemaker. A football hooligan, for example, is known as a “Fussball-Rowdy.”

And the plural? Rowdies of course.

File photo: AFP

Smoking

Don’t be fooled. This word does not have anything to do with puffing on a cigarette.

It actually refers to what English speakers call a dinner jacket – a garment that has its deep origins in smoking jackets which were designed for puffing at pipes and cigars.

Box

If you’re helping a friend set up for a party and she tells you to go and get the box, you might be a little confused. 

That’s because while box can mean anything in a cube or prism shape in English, ‘box’ in Swiss German refers to a speaker, loudspeaker or boombox. 

Handy

An old classic this: ‘Handy’ is one of the words Swiss German speakers use for mobile phone. The other variant is Natel, a former trademark name for mobile phones in Switzerland and Lichtenstein.

Editor’s correction: This article originally incorrectly stated ‘smoking’ referred to smoking jackets, not dinner jackets.

Read also: Eight Swiss German words you can’t translate into English

For members

PROPERTY

Where to find property in Switzerland for under CHF 500k

Switzerland is not known for being a cheap country and property prices are higher than in other European countries, but it's still possible to find property bargains, some for even under CHF 100k.

Where to find property in Switzerland for under CHF 500k

Property prices are rising in much of Europe and Switzerland is no exception. As the average salary is high in Switzerland, finding homes for under CHF 1 million in some parts of the country becomes almost impossible.

Even when you do find cheap properties, they are sometimes quite literally too good to be true. For example, Switzerland’s famous one-franc home scheme had to be scrapped after nobody signed up. The cheap homes were, actually, too expensive when considering the costs for renovation or even how remote they were.

READ ALSO: Six no-gimmick websites that help you save money in Switzerland

Some of the properties in the scheme weren’t connected to the electricity grid, sewer system or even roads.

So, where can we find cheap(er) homes in Switzerland – that are still liveable or could be excellent investments for those who enjoy fixer-uppers (or huge DIY projects)?

Not an easy search

To find these gems, we used a property website that allowed us to search for real estate in the whole of Switzerland (instead of just a few main cities) and showed us homes with at least three rooms.

The price limit was set at CHF 500,000 (while our colleagues in Germany had theirs set at €100k, but, hey, this is Switzerland).

As of August 2022, we found 203 houses and 80 apartments following these criteria on sale.

Most of these definitely need some fixing up, but you can still snatch a home for under CHF 500,000 with lovely views of lakes and mountains or big terraces and gardens.

Going through the addresses with some of the properties, some things stand out:

Head for the border – most of the most affordable places are in Italian-speaking Switzerland. However, you can also find some of them in the French regions. In both cases, they are located very near the border with France or Italy.

Forget about cities – All the properties we found are quite far from the major cities of Zürich, Bern, and Geneva, which makes sense as the cost of living tends to rise in those regions. If you’re looking for a cheap home, you’re highly unlikely to find one in city centres.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why is Switzerland so expensive?

Consider property type – It is also worth mentioning that there seemed to be a distinction between the homes in the west and those in the south. In the French region, there are more apartments and newer properties, with some outstanding options.

While in the Italian south, most of the properties are houses – and you need to inspect well because some will need a lot of work.

Research services – You should definitely check carefully the property’s location – some are not connected to basic services or even roads.

Renovation costs – Almost all of the properties we found were ‘renovation projects’. Some can turn out to be very good investments, but it takes time and work to renovate. Before buying, get an estimate of the likely works so you can see whether the property really will save you money in the long term, and be honest about your level of DIY/building skills and how much work you are willing or able to do.

Extra costs – Besides renovating costs, you must be mindful of property taxes and other living costs and how much they are in the region where you are buying property. Prices can vary quite widely depending on the canton, so research well.

You can check all our Property in Switzerland stories here.

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