A Day in Geneva and Learning Swiss French

My sister and her husband came to visit last week, and we spent a day in Geneva, Switzerland. I had been there numerous times before, but usually it was only to go to the airport to fly somewhere else. This was the first time I was actually a tourist wandering around the old town and so of course I finally took pictures.

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Lac Léman and the jet d’eau

Switzerland, and particularly Geneva, is known for being an expensive place. Even the bathrooms at Cornavin train station cost 2 CHF or 1.55€ – and since the Swiss Franc and US dollar are nearly the same nowadays, everything seemed astronomically expensive to my sister and brother-in-law. Needless to say, the only thing they bought was chocolate.

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Looks similar to Savoie – sometimes I forgot I was in a different country

Switzerland is not in the European Union, but it is a part of the Schengen space so there are no more passport checks when traveling. A lot of French people work in the Geneva area because Swiss salaries are 3-4 times higher than French salaries. This also means that the border areas in Ain and Haute-Savoie in France have drastically increased their prices, so more and more people have to live further from Geneva and commute even longer to go to work.

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Flags of Switzerland and canton of Geneva

Swiss French is similar to Belgian French in that they use déjeuner, dîner and souper as the three meals instead of petit déjeuner, déjeuner and dîner. Septante and nonante are used in place of the cumbersome soixante-dix and quatre-vingt-dix, while a few cantons (Vaud, Valais and Fribourg) use huitante instead of quatre-vingts. No one really uses octante anymore, but you will still find it in literature. A hairdryer is not un sèche-cheveux, but un föhn (borrowed from German, though originally a brand name) and a cell phone is un natel rather than un portable.  A mop is une panosse, not une serpillière, and fromage blanc in France becomes the much shorter séré in Switzerland. One of the most noticeable differences is the use of excepté on traffic signs. France uses sauf, though excepté is also common on Belgian traffic signs.

Learn Swiss French:

You can view all of my Geneva photos on Flickr.

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  • http://howlearnspanish.com/ Andrew

    That’s very interesting, have you had a chance to compare Swiss German with standard German? Do you speak any German (if you don’t I imagine it would be rather difficult for you to compare the two)?

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  • http://www.ielanguages.com Jennie Wagner

    I haven’t done a lot of reading on the Swiss dialect (Schwyzerdütsch) yet, but it is very different from standard German – much more so than Switzerland French vs. France French. I love Switzerland and plan to learn it; I’m just focusing on Italian first.

  • http://www.correresmidestino.com Zhu

    The pictures are lovely! What is it with the jet d’eau? It’s huge!

    I heard it was an expensive country but I had no idea a little wee was worth that much :lol:

  • http://www.correresmidestino.com Zhu

    The pictures are lovely! What is it with the jet d’eau? It’s huge!

    I heard it was an expensive country but I had no idea a little wee was worth that much :lol:

  • http://www.ielanguages.com Jennie Wagner

    Haha I know! The price of ice cream seemed the same as in France, but man those toilets were expensive!

Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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