I've spent a fair bit of time in Switzerland...
... over the past couple of years. Partly it's because I go there for work, but part of my work last year was teaching a semester-long class in Social Computing at the University of Zürich.
But as with any place where you're the new guy, there are certain mysteries that crop. Here are a few that came up for me. I figured them out, but can you figure out as these little trans-cultural mysteries as well? (Of course, if you're Swiss, you'll have a huge advantage here..)
1. When in Switzerland, one naturally eats a lot of chocolate. (I certainly did.) But as I was munching on a bar of Lindt milk chocolate, I realized that the image on the bar of chocolate made no sense to me. WHAT is going on with this cup? Why is the handle so strange? (Did Dali do this illustration for them, or what?)
2. One day I walked into a bakery in central Zürich and spying this delectable pastry, I ordered a croissant. I was very surprised when the clerk said, "I'm sorry, we don't have any croissants." But this is what I saw in the display case:
Obviously, I successfully ordered this item. What SHOULD I have called this thing that looks-like-a-croissant? When in Switzerland, what are these called?
3. I understand more German than I speak, but every so often I would hear someone say something odd. One construct I heard that seemed odd always involved people's names. For instance, "Wo ist der Hans?" Can you figure out why that sounds odd to me (a native English speaker), and why the word "der" is in that sentence?
4. Speaking of understanding German... One Saturday evening I was attending a concert at one of the local churches, which are often venue for chamber groups. The director stood up at the beginning of the concert and started speaking in German. "No problem," I thought, "I can understand this!" I listened happily for a couple of minutes until suddenly, everything changed: He was still speaking, and it sounded like German, but I couldn't understand anything! Can you explain what happened in my few minutes of non-understanding?
I suspect that Regular SRS readers will make short work of these questions. But knowing how to search for these small cultural questions as they arise was a great source of comfort to me as I was navigating throughout central Europe. Search skills don't make cultural differences vanish, but they definitely make the world more intelligible!
Let us know how you found the answers!