Switzerland – the ski destination for smokers!

I’m not sure how far it can be considered a selling point, but for smokers Switzerland is probably the best place to come to and be able to ski or snowboard big, and smoke in peaceful contentment.

A referendum held this month to restrict smoking in enclosed public spaces was roundly rejected across the whole of Switzerland – of the cantons only Geneva voted in favour. Some cantons have introduced these restrictions themselves already, but the Alpine cantons are conservative and resistant to new Federal restrictions.

And of course the cigarette companies are very powerful lobbyists, with many tobacco companies having European HQs in the country. As a result the advertising for tobacco products in Switzerland often portrays smoking very positively and streetside cigarette machines are widely available.

A Maybe never reached the top
Yes or No – shall I jump?

Additionally to being a good place to smoke, Switzerland also has relatively cheap cigarettes. Also booze and petrol are cheaper than neighbouring countries and, people smoke dope pretty openly with current proposals being introduced to make it a misdemeanour rather a serious criminal offence – even Switzerland for all it’s liberal values seems to have a legislature which has a psychotropic response to Cannabis, according to one Green MP. Gambling casinos are common, the sex trade is as honest and safe as the country as a whole. Perhaps it’s time for the Swiss Tourist Board to market itself for it’s liberal views on personal vices!

Well perhaps not, but as an occasional smoker could I ask smokers who come to Switzerland to avoid smoking in places where people (particularly children) could be exposed to secondary smoke and please, please, please don’t litter the slopes with butt ends. It is a sobering sight when the snows melt to see the snow-capped mountains be replaced by mountains of cigarette ends around the chair lift stations.

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Speaking to the Swiss

It always helps to know a little of the local language when you go skiing or snowboarding. For those planning a trip this winter, now is a good time to brush up on those neglected language skills. In Switzerland four languages are spoken – German (in most of the central and Eastern ski resorts), French (in resorts to the West, in what is called Romandie), Italian (in Ticino and parts of Graübunden) and Romansch (in remote parts of Graubünden). However English is widely spoken and where it is not you can always find someone who speaks French or German.

At www.swisswintersports.co.uk I’ve listed the local language in each resort. The form of French and Italian spoken in Switzerland are fairly standard, but there are subtle variations – for instance in Romandie septante, huitante (in the Alpine cantons) and neunante (in Vaud, nonante in Neuchâtel) are used for 70, 80 and 90. In the Italian-speaking resorts a lot of French and German words creep into the local Italian dialect.

The use of German is altogether a little more complicated.

In the so-called German-speaking part of Switzerland, the local language is actually a highly regional dialect with thousands of variations from High German (Hochdeutsch). The differences are so marked that most Germans cannot understand a Swiss speaking in what is called Schweizerdeutsch (itself with many variant spellings), and in fact the differences in dialect across Switzerland are so strong that many Schweizerdeutsch speakers cannot understand people speaking a different dialect from another part of the country.

Fortunately for visitors to Switzerland, a form of standard German is taught in the schools. As a result, throughout the German-speaking and Romansch-speaking regions of Switzerland, you can make yourself understood if you speak standard German. However the standard form of German used in Switzerland still differs from that used in Germany or Austria, in terms of grammar, stress, case and vocabulary. If you are a German speaker the main variations, or Helvetisms, you might come across are as follows:

Grüezi – Guten Tag (hello)
Merci – Danke (thank you)
Sorry – Entschuldigen (sorry)
Poulet – Huhn (chicken)
Gipfel – Hörnchen (croissant)
Morgenessen – Frühstück (breakfast)
Nachtessen – Abendessen (evening meal)
Billett – Fahrkarte (ticket)
Identitätskarte – Personalausweis (ID Card)
Coiffeur – Friseur (hairdresser)
Velo – Fahrrad (bicycle)
Trottoir – Bürgersteig (Pavement/Sidewalk)
Knabe – Junge (boy)
Spital – Krankenhaus (hospital)
Apero – Umtrunk (appetisers and wine)
Rahm – Sahne (cream)
Gleis – Bahnsteig (platform)
Billette/billet – Fahrkarten (ticket)
Tram – Straßenbahn (tram)
Korridor/Gang – Flur (corridor)
Jupe – Rock (skirt)
Rock – Kleid (dress)
Sackmesser – Taschenmesser (pocket knife)
Aktion – Rabatt (sale/reduction)

Oh, and one other thing, the Swiss don’t use the “ß” (Eszett), preferring instead to use “ss”.

For some useful German words relevant to winter sports visit this site.

For some useful French words relevant to winter sports visit this site

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