Switzerland: Greetings from the “Greeks” of the French Cantons

Switzerland is often held up as an example of successful coexistence, as this curious multilingual, multicultural country manages to maintain a national identity which unites its citizens and normally makes them proud. Despite this, it is not unusual for German-speaking Swiss (germanophones) and French-speaking Swiss (francophones) to poke fun at each other.

The differences which characterise inhabitants on each side of the French-German language border, jokingly called the Röstigraben, are often felt in politics and particularly during voting. It also happens that from time to time dubious jokes are made at the neighbours’ expense.

The latest provocation comes from an article published on March 1, 2012 by the Swiss German newspaper Weltwoche [fr]. In it the author pokes fun at the French-speaking Swiss, considered the “Greeks of Switzerland”, layabouts, and lovers of alcohol and good food. In the accompanying photo an unshaven office worker poses with his feet on his desk, a glass of wine in his hand and a discarded piece of lingerie peeking out between files.

The photo from "Weltwoche" which has cut French-speaking Swiss to the quick – from Facebook group Welschwoching

French-speaking Swiss have not been slow to respond, with Genevese politician Antonio Hodgers setting the tone. As reported in 20min.ch [fr], he has been photographed in the same pose and contradicts these allegations, saying [fr]:

A l’adresse des Weltwocho-udécistes, nous précisons que l’évolution du PIB romand est supérieure à la moyenne suisse depuis des années, que l’Arc lémanique est l’une des régions économiques les plus dynamiques et que des cantons comme Genève et Vaud sont des contributeurs nets à la péréquation inter-cantonale. Tout cela en glandant… pas mal, non ? »

For the benefit of the Weltwoche-Swiss People's Party fanatics, let me state that growth of the Swiss French GDP is greater than the Swiss average has been for years, that the Lake Geneva area is one of the most dynamic economic regions and that cantons such as Geneva and Vaud are clear contributors to the intercantonal equalization of funds. All that while loafing around….not bad, eh?

This was all that was needed to create a bandwagon effect. On Facebook, the group Welschwoching [fr] published photos of Swiss French internet users taking up the pose, feet on desk, with bottles scattered around, to pay tribute to the lifestyle of which Weltwoche accuses them. Many pictures and comments can also be seen on Twitter. The Twitter account @welschwoching, created for this new cause, brought a serious matter to people's attention with this tweet concerning aperitifs at exactly 5pm :

Screen printers Graphein [fr] have already prepared a special T-shirt bearing the slogan Tuschur rigol, shamè travaï (“Toujours rigole, jamais travaille”, French for “Always having fun, never working”, as pronounced with a German accent).

But, several days later, the administrators of the Weschwoching Facebook group complained of numerous attacks against them, and of people sending particulars to Facebook for “copyright infringements”, which seemed to result in some photos being taken down [fr]. However, national unity has perhaps not been completely jeopardised as these Swiss Germans show solidarity with their French-speaking neighbours in the following video [fr]:



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