The reactions you get when you say you’re Swiss are… interesting.

Over the course of the last three months I’ve accumulated quite a lot of small talk time (SO MUCH), especially at volunteering where I meet a lot of people. Once I reveal my Swiss nationality during a conversation, I get quite interesting reactions so I thought I’d share them with you today.

The sports-related reaction

  • ‘Ah, Roger Federer. I like him (thinking pause), he’s a decent guy. And the other guy, what’s his name (long thinking pause)…Stan, right. I like him, too. But I like Roger more’ (generally speaking, Roger does a pretty good job at representing us I have to say because he has been mentioned A LOT) 
  • ‘You must be a great skier then?’

The generally excited (very excited) reaction

  • ‘Wow, that’s SO awesome!!! Really cool’ (to be read VERY VERY excitedly. Also, this is the standard reaction I would say. Everyone thinks this is really really really AWESOME for some reason. Then, sometimes, not always, a second reaction follows)
  • Amazing!’ (I get that one quite often too, also to be read in a very excited tone of voice, I mean you can’t say that in a non-excited way, right?)

The personal reaction

  • ‘I was an aupair in Geneva for a French-Dutch family twenty-five years ago. I used to get so homesick that I would go to the local McDonalds, order a burger and fries and cry a little on my own. It somehow made me feel less homesick’ (that’s what I love about Americans, you know them for literally three minutes and they tell you stuff like this. The woman who told me this story was really sweet btw)
  • ‘I’ve lived in Wetzikon for three months and did an internship over the summer. I loved getting on a boat in Rapperswil’ (say whattt???!!! That’s what I thought. The world really is a small place)
  • ‘You’ve been born with chocolate that is exciting’ (that was the friendly, a little crazy hippy lady I met on that blizzard day in Whole Foods. She was really excited about chocolate in general. Read more about it here, if you haven’t already)
Wetzikon Downtown

The I-know-stuff-about-it-and-want-to-show-it-to-this-European-reaction / The I-have-been-there-reaction

  • ‘Which part are you from?’ (this is one I rarely get but if I do I’ll always reply with ‘well that is quite an expert question’ because it’s really rare that people know we have different language regions and you want to be extra nice because they seem proud to know that) 
  • (Often a follow-up to the question above) ‘So you must speak a ton of languages?’ (they really get impressed when you say that you learn German, English, French and Italian at school. Like they DO NOT believe you)
  • ‘My father used to be in the military and was positioned in Bavaria. We visited Switzerland a few times, I loved Bern, so cute’ (suprisingly I’ve met a lot of kids of military families that had been moving around Europe and Japan a lot, which I found really interesting)

The I-don’t-care-that-much-but-I-want-to-keep-the-small-talk-alive-reaction (because small talk is important, you know the drill by now)

  • ‘Is it snowy there?’
  • ‘What brings you to Boston?’
  • ‘Do you like it here?’
  • ‘There are lots of mountains there, right?’
  • ‘I’m visiting Europe this summer for about a week and will be passing through Switzerland, what should I see?’

In conclusion: From what I’ve heard so far, Switzerland doesn’t have to worry too much about its image. As long as we have Roger Federer everything will be fine.  

If you’d like to read something a little more well-founded about the image of Switzerland abroad, have a look at the Nation Brands Index 2015 here.


  1. peter zottl February 17, 2017 at 4:34 am

    LIKE this one..but, Sandra, all the small talk must be so tough & challenging for you ;-)))

  2. Pingback: The Expat Tag – Going American

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