Ahhhh, don’tcha just love Sundays? The kettle’s on and I’ve just returned from a gentle stroll around the highways and by-ways of ManlyTown. (That’s Männedorf to everyone else).
With legs freshly stretched and chest de-cobwebbed by means of lung-fulls of fresh air, I feel like I’ve earned an equally healthy cuppa.
Funny old country tho’; no matter what time of day you go walking you always pass a (metric) tonne of like-minded individuals. And everyone you pass, of course, warrants some form of greeting. (It’d be bad manners not to…right)?
As my brain was also taking a well-deserved breather, it got me thinking of greeting-etiquette all over again.
I like to think there’s 4 common ways to greet people in Switzerland. (If you’re aiming for politeness that is ;o)
You’ve got your formal singular, with: “Grüetzi” (greetings basically) or the plural version: “Grüetzi mitenand” (which greets everyone at once, instead of doing it individually). With older individuals I tend to fall back on the extra polite “Grüezi wohl” (to show I really mean it. But maybe that’s just me; so we won’t count that one). Of course formal is reserved for people you don’t know or where you want to show respect (if that’s your bag baby).
When it comes to friends, neighbours, colleagues or individuals younger than you (which is becoming more common for me, these days); there’s also a singular and a plural form of greeting. These being: “Hoi” (hey y’all) and “Hoi zäme” (hey y’all y’all).
You’d think that’s all pretty clear and straight forward really. But not for my brain. A conversation with a Swiss friend recently informed me that Swiss kids could always tell when they’ve greeted a foreigner, as their (polite) “Grüezi” is echo’d straight back at them; instead of the “Hoi” a child would normally warrant.
Of course, this has occupied my melon a few times since I heard it and none more so, than today when I’ve just returned from a stroll that had me passing and greeting a multitude of the locals. (Gaggle of locals? Flock of locals)? I mean being formal with a kid may undoubtedly sound odd, but then again I remember the teenage angst of being treated like a child, when in fact I considered myself a man.
Don’t wanna seem uneducated and overly polite to the point of seeming odd. But I also don’t wanna thoughtlessly bruise some poor teenager’s ego. Also, on the borders of colleague to friend and polite neighbour to friendly-neighbour; I’d prefer not to seem too stand-offish or too familiar. Right?
It suddenly struck me that sounding (and being) odd is actually what I’m more familiar and at home with. I’ve long since stopped worrying about things like fashion, appearance, what’s considered the norm etc…and have instead become comfortable with who I am (and am not). So I’ve decided to embrace my foreign-ness (is that a word?) and initiate a new form of greeting which blurs the lines a little; bridges the gap between formality and informality; whilst giving me the get-out-of-jail-free excuse of perhaps just being confused.
From now on, I’m going to greet a group of passers-by with my new found: “Hoi-tzi miten-zäme” instead. (If I happen to pass a sweet old lady on her todd, I’ll of course say: “Hoi-tzi wohl”…’cos I’m a gentleman…and that’s just how I roll ;o)
If I start getting more frowns than smiles, I guess I could always take a leaf out of Sheldon and Leonard’s book. When they dissolved their room-mate agreement, they fell back to a bare minimum acknowledgement when passing each other in the corridor: a nod of the head and a perfunctory “s’up”? ;o)