The Swiss TV shows that will help you understand Switzerland

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
The Swiss TV shows that will help you understand Switzerland
Tune into some TV shows to help gain a better understanding of Swiss society. Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

So, you've got a good grasp of an official Swiss language but still feel like there are some cultural references you don't quite get? Don't worry! We've compiled a list of TV programmes to get you up to speed with Swiss society.


Fascht e Familie

Granted, as Switzerland’s housing shortage rages on you may struggle to see the funny side of real estate, but perhaps there has never been a better excuse to dive into Swiss German cult classic Fascht e Familie (almost a family) – a comedy series with a property crisis at its core.

The series follows real estate agent Rolf Aebersold who is set on selling his aunt Martha’s house without her knowing, but the ad mistakenly ends up in the newspaper section ‘Furnished rooms for rent’. Rather than calling her nephew out on his plan and resigning herself to a future in a retirement home, however, the tough old lady opens her home to several tenants who quickly become just like family, united in their fight against the nasty real estate agent who repeatedly threatens their home with his shenanigans.

The main setting of the show is the shared kitchen, and every episode presents new problems and mayhem – ideal for those eager to practice their language skills. The series ran for five seasons from 1994 to 1999 and won the Prix Walo, also knows as the Swiss Oscar. You can still catch the series on SRF Play and there's good news for those not quite fluent in Swiss German, cough, cough - you can also watch the series on DVD in standard German.

READ ALSO: How Switzerland's urban housing shortage is spreading to the countryside



If you’re in the mood for something shorter and less demanding of your language skills, then Gotthard is a great pick. The two-parter, available on Amazon Prime, is one of the costliest and most historically complex movies to ever be produced in Switzerland and just for that (expense) alone, well worth a watch.

The production is set in Göschenen in the founding canton of Uri and does a terrific job in showcasing the inhumane labour conditions workers faced during the construction of the Gotthard Tunnel in the late 19th century. Gotthard follows the fates of three young people as they navigate love, friendship and suffering during the "Gründerzeit" (founding period). The movie can be watched in Swiss German, standard German, French, and Italian with subtitles unavailable.

SRF's 'With the people'

TV shows and movies aside, if you really want to find out how the Swiss live it’s high time you tuned into the Swiss broadcaster's SRF bi de Lüt (SRF with the people). The entertainment show, a Swiss favourite, brings viewers closer to contemporary Switzerland – one region at a time. Every episode focuses on a unique theme, be it tradition and customs, music, food, culture, guest, or a live event, and is accompanied by handy standard German subtitles so you don’t have to decipher every local dialect (phew!).

In one episode, you can learn about trained florist and yodelling conductor Lydia Barmettler who runs two businesses – a leasehold company and a mountain business - in two different cantons alongside her husband Lukas, while another episode dives into the work-intensive life of hut wardens and their families living in the alps over spring to autumn.

It is also worth checking out SRF bi de Lüt 'Heimweh' (homesick) which sees Swiss people return to Switzerland and restart their ‘Swiss’ lives from scratch after years living abroad.



Pingu and his entourage have accompanied Swiss youngsters through their childhood since 1990. The series focuses on a family of anthropomorphic emperor penguins who reside in the South Pole and use Penguinese - a made-up penguin language - to communicate. Pingu himself is a young, playful, and curious penguin who goes through various adventures with his seal friend Robby in the short 5-minute episodes.

Created in Switzerland, the now cult stop motion series quickly garnered international success, both due to its creative storytelling and the lack of a real spoken language - most dialogue consists of babbling and muttering -, and was later revived for CBeebies from 2003 to 2006 before debuting on YouTube where kids from all over the world can still keep up with the rebel penguin today.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also