Switzerland v. France: The Amicable Rivalry

July 20, 2022

If you’ve chatted with certain Swiss about France, I’m sure you’ve heard that the French don’t work enough, that France is such a mess, that French fondue is not really fondue… but I, a French woman who has adopted Switzerland as home, has found merit on both sides. I’ve also found that it’s always fun to dissect an age-old rivalry. Here are some of the hot topics where the Swiss and French agree to disagree.

As a French person who decided to live in Switzerland, I have a perfect understanding of this perpetual rivalry between France and Switzerland.
When I told my friends that I was leaving Paris for Switzerland, I couldn’t help but notice the raised eyebrows – the close proximity, ‘same’ language, ‘similar’ culture –everything is just similar enough but also different enough to cause friction across several topics, from economical to cultural ones. So, shall we dive in?

Who is the most 'productive'?

people being productive

Well, the answer seems pretty simple: Switzerland. I guess, you have heard the Swiss people saying that the French don’t work enough, only 35 hours a week, a lot of bank holidays, 5 weeks of annual leave and RTT. All of this is true but, in the end, the difference in terms of productivity leads to a debate, 1 hour of work in Switzerland is $69,26, against $62,79 in France. In the end, the economical favor leans toward Switzerland, but as for the work-life balance, it’s arguable.

One thing that cannot be debated: strikes.  French and strikes, it’s a love story. 

Who speaks ‘real’ French?

French will say that the Swiss have their own way with the French language. They have words that are not even known by native French speakers such as galeta (grenier), natel (portable), feune (sèche cheveux)…  the list goes on. It’s all new vocabulary and in my humble opinion, you should say « soixante dix » and not « septante ». 
And while we’re on the topic, let’s talk about the accent. The Swiss accent will automatically be spotted by the French, and you may hear them snigger or see them smile – in their mind, they think the Swiss speak slowly with a very noticeable inflection.

Watch this hilarious French comedian dissect the Swiss accent.

Who is the best at sports?

If we talk about tennis, both French and Swiss can’t argue the fact that Roger Federer is one of the best players in the world — there is no discussion here. But if you go into the topic of football, here is where things get heated. Every football match is a reason for the French and Swiss to argue. If you have been in Lausanne during the last Euro, you might have had a party after the victory of Switzerland against France. One match was won against the World champions and the whole country was restless for days. This rivalry will be ready for a rematch with the new World Cup in November-December.

Who invented fondue?

Let’s render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. Even if the Savoyard say they invented the fondue, we owe this cheesy meal to the Swiss and precisely from the canton of Fribourg. In the 18th century, the peasants in the canton of Fribourg used the remains of cheese and stale bread and here is where fondue was born. Even the French Larousse’s dictionary testifies to it.

Officially, Brillat-Savarin introduced in 1794 his recipe based on egg and butter from Gruyère. Maybe, this is where the confusion and rivalry started.

In the end, nobody wins this rivalry because every country has its perks and as we say « qui aime bien châtie bien ». French and Swiss will continue to agree to disagree, and who can blame a country for its national pride?

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