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Five German words you’ll need to know this summer

The onset of sunny weather in Switzerland means it is time to brush up on your summer-related vocabulary.

Five German words you'll need to know this summer
'Kapellbrücke – Also know as the Chapel Bridge – is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, as well as the world's oldest surviving truss bridge. It serves as the city's symbol and as one of Switz

1. Affenhitze – scorching heat 

A long-tailed macaque monkey enjoys frozen fruit, which helps it to stay cool in warm temperatures at the Zoo in Saarbrücken, Saarland. Photo: DPA 

When translated directly, Affenhitze means monkey heat, but in this instance it is actually used to describe exceptionally hot weather or scorching heat. 

So if you want to comment on what a scorcher of a day it is, you should say “Heute ist eine Affenhitze”. 

2. Sauregurkenzeit or Sommerloch – the quiet when everyone is on holiday

The mid-summer weeks in July and August were typically when schools and offices were empty. There wasn't much going on in the city since the inhabitants went on holiday during this period, and consequently businessmen found it tricky to make money.

Hence Sommerloch became synonymous with the quiet when everyone goes on holiday.

The word – which translates literally to 'summer hole' – is typically used by the media when they have difficulties filling their newspapers for lack of events when politicians flee the city. 

3. Sommerfrische – summer retreat

And where do all of the city folk rush off to during the Sommerloch? To their Sommerfrischen of course. 

Sommerfrische, a slightly outdated term for summer holiday retreat, can be in the mountains, by the sea, or tucked away in the countryside.

Such retreats are popular with those who can afford to escape their busy city lives and enjoy the pleasant summer temperatures in a relaxed atmosphere. 

4. Hitzefrei – when schools have to shut due to hot weather

Teachers and pupils sometimes end up working in warm temperatures if school runs into summer, though the Swiss do draw the line if thermometers register between 25C and 30C in the shade.

At this point, staff and students are sent home, and the day is deemed Hitzefrei, or heat-free. 

5. Kaltstellen – to chill something in the fridge

A man takes chilled beers from the fridge in the July heat in Hanover, Lower Saxony. Photo: DPA

In theory you can use this word at any time of year, but you'll probably find yourself employing it more in summer when the baking hot weather leaves you in want of a cold beer, a chilled glass of wine or refreshing summery cocktail.

Kaltstellen means to keep something cool in the fridge, and can also be used colloquially to mean to sideline someone or throw someone out.

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Five signs you’ve settled into life in Switzerland

Getting adjusted to Swiss ways is not always easy for foreign nationals, but with a lot of perseverance it can be done. This is how you know you’ve assimilated.

Five signs you've settled into life in Switzerland
No lint: Following laundry room rules is a sign of integration in Switzerland. Photo by Sara Chai from Pexels

Much has been said about Switzerland’s quirkiness, but when you think about it, this country’s idiosyncrasies are not more or less weird than any other nation’s — except for the fact that they are expressed in at least three languages which, admittedly, can complicate matters a bit.

However, once you master the intricacies and nuances of Swiss life, you will feel like you belong here.

This is when you know you’ve “made it”.

You speak one of the national languages, even if badly

It irritates the Swiss to no end when a foreigner, and particularly an English-speaking foreigner, doesn’t make an effort to learn the language of a region in which he or she lives, insisting instead that everyone communicates to them in their language.

So speaking the local language will go a long way to being accepted and making you feel settled in your new home.

You get a Swiss watch and live by it

Punctuality is a virtue here, while tardiness is a definite no-no.

If you want to ingratiate yourself to the Swiss, be on time. Being even a minute late  may cause you to miss your bus, but also fail in the cultural integration.

‘The pleasure of punctuality’: Why are the Swiss so obsessed with being on time?

Using an excuse like “my train was late” may be valid in other countries, but not in Switzerland.

The only exception to this rule is if a herd of cows or goats blocks your path, causing you to be late.

A close-up of a Rolex watch in Switzerland.

Owning a Rolex is a sure sign you’re rich enough to live in Switzerland. Photo by Adam Bignell on Unsplash

You sort and recycle your trash

The Swiss are meticulous when it comes to waste disposal and, not surprisingly, they have strict regulations on how to throw away trash in an environmentally correct manner.

Throwing away all your waste in a trash bag without separating it first — for instance, mixing PET bottles with tin cans or paper — is an offence in Switzerland which can result in heavy fines, the amount of which is determined by each individual commune.

In fact, the more assiduous residents separate every possible waste item — not just paper, cardboard, batteries and bottles (sorted by colour), but also coffee capsules, yogurt containers, scrap iron and steel, organic waste, carpets, and electronics.

In fact, with their well-organised communal dumpsters or recycling bins in neighbourhoods, the Swiss have taken the mundane act of throwing out one’s garbage to a whole new level of efficiency.

So one of the best ways to fit in is to be as trash-oriented as the Swiss.

READ MORE: Eight ways you might be annoying your neighbours (and not realising it) in Switzerland

You trim your hedges with a ruler

How your garden looks says a lot about you.

If it’s unkempt and overgrown with weeds, you are clearly a foreigner (though likely not German or Austrian).

But if your grass is cut neatly and your hedges trimmed with military-like precision (except on Sundays), and some of your bushes and shrubs are shaped like poodles,  you will definitely fit in.

You follow the laundry room rules

If you live in an apartment building, chances are there is a communal laundry room in the basement that is shared by all the residents.

As everything else in Switzerland, these facilities are regulated by a …laundry list of “dos” and “don’ts” that you’d well to commit to memory and adhere to meticulously.

These rules relate to everything from adhering to the assigned time slot to removing lint from the dryer.

Following each rule to the letter, and not trying to wash your laundry in someone else’s time slot, is a sign of successful integration.

Voilà, the five signs you are “at home” in Switzerland.

READ MORE: French-speaking Switzerland: Seven life hacks that will make you feel like a local

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