wikiHow to Say Hello in Switzerland

Five Methods:Choosing the Right LanguageHello in GermanHello in FrenchHello in ItalianHello in Rumantsch

There are four official languages in Switzerland, which means you have at least four possible ways of saying hello in this country. The four languages are German, French, Italian and Rumantsch. Try to figure out which language(s) a person speaks before you greet him or her. Bear in mind that especially in the big cities, most Swiss citizens can speak English quite well.

Method 1
Choosing the Right Language

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    Know which languages are commonly spoken in each region. 65-75% of Swiss citizens speak Swiss-German, particularly throughout northern and central Switzerland. 20% speak French, and 4-7% are fluent in Italian.[1] French and Italian are respectively most common along the borders with France (to the west) and Italy (to the south). Romansh is an ancient language, native to some southern regions, that is spoken by less than 1% of Swiss citizens.
    • Bear in mind that many Swiss are multilingual. German is a good bet anywhere in the country, but you may be able to get by with French, Italian, or English regardless of the region.
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    Try speaking English. Just say "Hello!" Most Swiss citizens speak at least some English, especially in the big cities. The locals may be impressed if you make the effort to approach them using their native language, but you should be able to make your way around with English in most metropolitan areas. Bonus: the English "Hello" shares its roots with the German "Hallo," so you might be briefly mistaken for German if you use the right tone.[2]
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    Take your cues from the locals and think before you speak. Listen to the people around you. Before you speak to someone, listen carefully to hear him or her talk. If you are greeting a group, try to eavesdrop on their conversation before you jump in. You may even be able to pin down the pronunciation of certain words by listening to how the people around you say them.
    • Look at signs, notices, and advertisements. If most of the public notices are written in German, then you should probably try speaking German. If most of the notices are written in French, then you should try speaking French.
    • If you are preparing to meet someone for the first time, consider his or her name. If his name is Pierre, there's a good chance that he hails from a French-speaking region. If his name is Klaus, then it might be safe to assume that he speaks German.
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    Use the proper physical etiquette. If you’re meeting someone for the first time, stretch out your hand and say hello. If you are a woman greeting a female friend or a man greeting a woman, kiss them three times: offer first your right cheek, then your left, then your right again. These are not actual kisses, just air kisses. If you are a man greeting a male friend, stick with a handshake or man-hug. This format applies over much of the country, but certain regions (particularly those that border other countries) may have their own specific etiquette.[3]

Method 2
Hello in German

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    Use Swiss-German, not German. Swiss-German is similar to classic German, but there are many local dialectic twists that will make your greetings easier to understand. All the vowels in these words should be pronounced. If you see ue, üe or ie, for instance, you should pronounce the "u", the "e", and the "i" as distinct syllables. If you are writing, take note that all nouns in German are capitalized.[4]
  2. Image titled Say Hello in Switzerland Step 6
    Say "hello" informally when speaking to friends and family. Say "Grüetzi" to one person, or "Gruetzi mittenand" to two or more people. In most German-speaking areas, the word "Grüetzi" is equivalent to the English "Hi." Phonetically, this sounds like "Gryətsi" or "Groo-et-see". You can also try "Guten Tag", in the standard German, which is easier to pronounce and remember. Consider these other informal greetings:
    • Hoi/Salü/Sali: "Hi", more informal than Grüetzi. "Hoy", "Saloo", "Salee".
    • Hoi zäme: "Hi" to more than one person. "Hoy zah-may".
    • Ciao (the same as the Italian "Ciao", pronounced "chow")
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    Say "hello" formally. You will want to use more formal phrases when you are greeting business associates and people you do not know well. Most of these greetings relate to the time of day.
    • "Gueten Morgen!": "Good morning!" Pronounced "Goo-eh-ten more-gen" ("gen" pronounced with a hard "G"). In some areas, German-speakers use "guetä Morgä," with the shortcut "Morgä" or "Morge" (differs from canton to canton).
      • This is usually used until about noon. In some areas of Germany, it is only said until 10 a.m.
    • "Guetä Tag!": "Good day!" Pronounced "Goo-eh-ta togg".
      • This phrase is usually said between the hours of noon and 6 p.m.
    • "Gueten Abig.": "Good evening." Pronounced "Goo-eh-ten ah-beeg".
      • This greeting is usually used after 6 p.m.

Method 3
Hello in French

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    Use French. Particularly in the western regions of Switzerland, people should be able to understand you if you speak French to them. Swiss French varies much less dramatically from standard French than does Swiss-German from standard German.[5]
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    Say "Bonjour." This term is the standard, textbook translation of “hello," and you can use it in both formal and casual settings. Bonjour is a combination of the term "bon," meaning "good," and "jour," meaning day. The literal translation is "good day." The word is pronounced "bon-zhoor".[6]
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    Say "Salut" for an informal greeting. The "t" is silent, so pronounce the word "Sah-loo". This translates to a casual “hi” or “hullo” rather than a formal “hello.”
    • Even though salut is an interjection used to greet people, it is related to the French verb "saluer," meaning "to greet" or "to salute."
    • Another informal greeting using this term would be “Salut tout le monde!” Roughly translated, it means “Hello, everybody!” The term "tout" means "all" and "le monde" means "the world." This greeting would only be used amongst a group of close friends.
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    Switch to "Bonsoir" in the evening. Pronounce it "bon-swar". The literal translation of this word is “good evening,” and it should be used to say “hello” in the evening or at night.[7] The term can be used in formal and casual settings, but it is more likely to be heard in formal settings.
    • "Bon" means "good", and "soir" means "evening".
    • One way to greet a crowd of people in the evening is to state, "Bonsoir mesdames et messieurs," meaning, "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen." Pronounce it, "bon-swar meh-dahms et meh-sures."

Method 4
Hello in Italian

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    Use Italian. Roughly 4-7% of Swiss citizens speak Italian, particularly in the southern cantons (provinces) that border Italy. Swiss Italians are proportionately much more likely to speak Swiss-German than Swiss-Germans are to speak Italian. If you are traveling in the southern part of Switzerland, listen to the people around you and read the signs. If everyone seems to be speaking Italian, then it's probably a good choice.[8]
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    Say "ciao" in casual situations. Pronounce "ciao" as "chow." This is one of the two most common ways to say “hello” or “hi” in Italian. While it is a common greeting, ciao is considered fairly informal and is usually used in casual situations or among friends and family.[9]
    • Note that “ciao” can also mean “good-bye,” depending on the context. Make it clear that you are greeting the person and not saying farewell.
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    Greet people with "salve" in neutral situations. Pronounce salve as "sahl-veh." Although it is not quite as common as “ciao,” the term “salve” is more appropriate to use among people with whom you are not on familiar terms. The most formal way to greet someone is with a time-specific greeting, but salve is still appropriate to use with most people. To put it in the perspective of a native English speaker, “ciao” is like “hi” while “salve” is closer to “hello.”[10]
    • Like ciao, salve can also be used to say "good-bye" depending on the context.
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    Use time-specific greetings. Buongiorno and other time-based greetings are considered the most formal way of greeting someone. That said, you can still use these phrases among friends and family. As with many other Italian greetings, time-specific hellos can also mean "good-bye" depending on the context.
    • Say "buongiorno" in the morning. This phrase translates into “good morning” or “good day.” Pronounce buongiorno as "bwohn jor-noh."
    • Say "buon pomeriggio" in the afternoon. That's "bwohn poh-meh-ree-joh." This phrase can be used to say “good afternoon” as a greeting or farewell after noon. Note that you may still hear buongiorno in the afternoon, but buon pomeriggio is slightly more common and more accurate. "Buon pomeriggio" is a lot more formal than "buongiorno"
    • Use "buonasera" in the evening. After roughly 4 PM, the polite way to greet or bid farewell to someone is with buonasera. Pronounce buonasera as "bwoh-nah seh-rah."

Method 5
Hello in Rumantsch

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    Use Rumantsch. Rumantsch is an ancient language that is spoken by less than 1% of Swiss citizens. About 48,000 of these speakers live in the southeastern district of Canton Graubünden. Most people who speak Rumantsch also speak Swiss-German and other languages, but locals may be impressed if you reach out to them in their native tongue.
    • Romansh is also spelled as Romansh, Romantsch, Rhaeto-Romance, or Rheto-Romanic.
    • About half of all native Rumantsch speakers have emigrated towards the industrialized cities of German speaking northern Switzerland. In this sense, Zurich has become the town with the most Rumantsch speakers. However, most Rumantsch-speaking city dwellers habitually speak German out of convenience.[11]
    • The language comes from what "vulgar Latin" or "people's Latin," with influences from Etruscan, Celtic, and other languages spoken by early settlers in the mountain valleys of what are now the Grisons and Italy's South Tirol. Romansh was included as a Swiss national language in 1938. Thus, base your pronunciations on Latin pronunciations.
  2. Image titled Say Hello in Switzerland Step 17
    Use "allegra", "ciao," or "tgau" for an informal greeting.[12]
    • Pronounce allegra as "ah-leg-ruh".
    • Pronounce "ciao" as "chow".
    • Pronounce "tgau" as "gow".
  3. Image titled Say Hello in Switzerland Step 18
    Use time-specific greetings. As with Switzerland's other national languages, time-specific Rumantsch greetings tend to be the most formal greetings. Use time-specific greetings in formal settings and when greeting people that you have never met.
    • "Bun di" means "good morning." Pronounce it "boon dee".
    • "Buna saira" means "good afternoon or "good evening". Pronounce it "boon-a serra".


  • Most Swiss-German speakers are happy to hear someone attempt Swiss German and answer with a hearty "Danke vielmal", but continue in English if appropriate.
  • Try to work out which language your conversation partner speaks to avoid addressing them in the wrong language!
  • Remember that almost every Swiss can speak English quite well, especially in the big cities.

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