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The lingo you need in Switzerland to talk about long holiday weekends

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
The lingo you need in Switzerland to talk about long holiday weekends
The Landwasserviadukt in Filisur, Switzerland. Are you doing the bridge? Photo: Pascal Debrunner on Unsplash

The Swiss enjoy the practice of taking a day off to make the most out of public holidays that fall close to a weekend. Here are some words you need to know for this 'bridge day'.


What is a bridge day?

People in Europe take their holidays seriously and the language reflects that. If a holiday falls around a weekend, residents in Switzerland, for instance, might take a day – or a couple of days – off work to bridge the gap between the holiday and the next weekend.

If a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, they might take the corresponding Monday or Friday off work in order to get a four-day weekend by using up just one day of vacation time. Many people in Switzerland will be taking Friday May 19th off after the nationwide Ascension Day public holiday on May 18th.

READ ALSO: How do the Swiss celebrate Ascension Day?

In German-speaking countries it's also common to book time off in the four days before Good Friday, or the four days off after Easter Monday, in order to get almost 10-days off by only using up four vacation days.


Whether it’s Brückentag - or “bridge day” - Fenstertag, “window day” - or even Zwickeltag (more on that below), the fact that there are multiple special German words for this practice should tell you how seriously people in German-speaking countries take this tradition (including the German-speaking parts of Switzerland).

Meanwhile, in French and Italian Swiss regions, people usually say they are "doing the bridge" to express this practice of getting an even longer weekend. In French the phrase is: faire le pont and in Italian it's fare il ponte.

Bridge or window?

Brückentag is best used in both Germany and in German-speaking Switzerland, but not typically in Austria.

Some German speakers in these countries will use it a bit more restrictively – and keep its meaning purely as a “bridge” day between the weekend and a public holiday that falls in the middle of the week rather than on a Friday or Monday. Because Easter falls on both Friday and Monday, certain German speakers won’t describe extra days off around Easter as “bridge days.”

The Landwasserviadukt in Filisur, Switzerland.

The Landwasserviadukt in Filisur, Switzerland. Photo by Pascal Debrunner on Unsplash

The next such opportunity to use such a bridge day is on May 18th for Ascension Day – a public holiday in Switzerland that falls on a Thursday. Taking the Friday off the next day would count as a Brückentag.

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Der Brückentag

No one knows precisely why, but Brückentag hasn’t taken off in Austria, with German speakers in the Alpine country using Fenstertag. The “window day,” however, means essentially the same thing – and might refer to “open windows” in the middle of the week. While many Austrian German speakers are likely to understand what you mean if you use Brückentag there, using Fenstertag is at least likely to demonstrate that you’re familiar with some Austrian lingo.

Keep in mind that there can be regional differences as Switzerland has an array of distinct dialects. But here's how you use it in standard German.

Are you taking the bridge days off at Easter?

Nimmst du sich die Brückentage um Ostern frei? 

What exactly is Zwickeltag?

While Fenstertag works in much of Austria – and certainly in Vienna – one Austrian region has yet another word of its own. As a Zwickel describes a wedge-shaped piece that holds together things coming together at a focal point — for example, fabric at the crotch of a pair of jeans — Zwickeltag is used in Upper Austria.

The region, with its capital in Linz and sharing a border with the German state of Bavaria, uses its own word for the beloved holiday tradition, although people there are still likely to understand either Brückentag or Fenstertag. Zwickeltag is quite specific to Upper Austria though, with perhaps even native Austrians from other parts of the country not always aware of it — to say nothing of either Germans or Swiss Germans.


Doing the bridge 

In French faire le pont literally means ‘to do the bridge’ but it refers to taking the day off between a public holiday and the weekend to enjoy an extra long break.

The expression appeared during the French Second Empire (1852 -1870) and had the same meaning at the time.

It comes from the French word pont (bridge) to symbolise linking two days off. 

Here's how you use it:

Tu fais le pont ce week-end ?

Are you taking a long-weekend this weekend?


As we mentioned above, the expression in similar in Italian: fare il ponte.

Here's how you can use it:

Grazie al ponte, avremo quattro giorni di vacanza.

Thanks to the long weekend, we'll have four days off.


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