Thank god it’s Freitag

It’s Friday, not my normal day for posting here but a good excuse for sharing a few things about my new life in German-speaking Switzerland.

There is something about being here that feels right. Not that I fit in exactly but somehow I feel at ease. I suppose because no one here seems to mind about me. And because I’ve gotten used to feeling foreign.

But that’s the thing: I don’t feel foreign. So what if I can’t speak German? Most people will adapt. English is spoken most everywhere, at least a little. A few words of French here and there. And I’m getting to the point where I can pop out the odd German word. A number or the name of something. Brot. Kaffee. Freitag.

I’ve now learned all the days of the week and can do numbers up to a hundred. My vocabulary is growing daily. It’s putting the words all together in sentences that’s the problem. Especially understanding others when they stream them into sentences, even snippets. I nod a lot, that time-worn strategy, and when the going gets tough, I say ‘Kein Deutsch’ and throw up my hands. If it’s a good day I’ll throw in ‘Entschuldigung‘.

Freitag is an easy one as it’s so close to the English. ‘Frei’ actually means free, which makes sense to me. Friday, with the weekend just ahead, feels free and sort of fun. It’s usually the day when I schedule appointments and errands other than work. Today I’m going to the dentist: der Zahnarzt. Not so fun but I’m happy to have found an English-speaking dentist.

I’m also learning a few social norms. There is a thing on Swiss trains where people don’t sit in an empty seat next to you without asking, “Frei?”  And people in shops will wait for you to be finished in a particular part of the aisle before moving in to make their selection. In parking lots they’ll wait for you to move out of your spot. Which is quite strange. I mean, quelle idée! This would never have happened in France.

Still, it makes me feel oddly pressured. In a good way, I suppose. I’d rather feel I have to hurry up to be thoughtful of my neighbours than pressured by people’s anger. But the thing is, you build up a persona for yourself in public places. And for years, I had the French ‘carapace’. A kind of tough shell that you build up in defense. It seems that here the approach is more subtle. It takes some getting used to.

The other news is that I’ve quit my German language course. For a bunch of reasons but mainly because of the teacher. He was a short, macho type with a big belly and little patience for those who didn’t understand immediately. At first I thought it was me. So I tried harder. But I felt discouraged and ultimately that I was wasting my time in class. That on top of the fact that we were stuck inside a small, poorly ventilated room for two hours amidst a spike in Covid cases. And although we were all wearing masks, it felt risky.

To be fair I’ve always had trouble with teachers. I’m just one of those difficult students who can only cooperate if I understand not just what but why we’re doing something. Well, let’s just say this teacher was not a very good communicator. In fact, he was a pretty poor teacher all round. I suspect he was disorganized and made up the plan as he went along. Whatever. It didn’t work for me. Of the six of us students, I was the second to drop out.

So now I’m pursuing German on my own. And I will get there, eventually, at least to some level of fluency.

In the meantime, it’s Freitag. And that brings me to the bags of the same name. I have always loved these Swiss German messenger bags made from recycled truck tarps. They’re sort of a cult thing around here.

Ridiculously expensive. But super practical and made to last, like forever. I got my first one this year.

The feature photo was taken just outside the Freitag shop in Interlaken where we were on holiday last summer. That’s another thing I like about Switzerland. I mean, an old-fashioned gumball machine? How Freitag!

What’s your favourite thing about Friday?


  1. Ally Bean · November 20, 2020

    I bet you’ll learn German faster on your own, in your own way, than in a classroom with an arrogant teacher. Common sense tells me that. As for what I love about Friday, oddly enough even though we are living and working from home we do make a point to have a drink together on Friday after work. It’s a small concession to the normality we crave. Also no designated driver, so win-win.

    • MELewis · November 21, 2020

      Thanks for your words of support! How lovely that you keep up the drink after work tradition! But only on Friday? 🤣 Not sure if you meant with your partner or with work colleagues, ha ha. As for German learning, I think you are right. If not faster, better because I retain what I understand rather than just parroting.

  2. Luanne · November 20, 2020

    Good luck with the German! I took reading and writing German for grad school a million years ago. Very difficult and annoying. But I am better at that than learning any language to hear and speak. For some reason that is awful for me. I suspect you are much much better than I am at that.
    And thank you so much for the Margaret Atwood poem you wrote on my blog. I appreciate it. You were the only person who responded by giving me the poem! I closed comments over there without realize that I also would not be able to respond to comments (because I wasn’t feeling well), so I am thanking you over here.

    • MELewis · November 21, 2020

      You are welcome for the poem. I only regretted that WordPress did not respect the formatting when I copied it in — the stanza and line breaks are so essential in poetry. But happy to share. It was so evocative, her use of language is inspirational. I love Margaret Atwood (everything but her most recent works — not a fan of the Handmaid’s Tale and sequel but have read most everything else.) As for learning German, I also prefer books to spoken words which are much more painful to learn for me. But I will get there however long and painful the process!

  3. kairosia · November 20, 2020

    Freitag: Oddly enough, the thing I notice most about Fridays during covid is the weeks go fast! Why is that?

    I have lots more to say about language learning. Formally my studies have included beaucoup de français, varios años de español, und nur drei Jahre deutsch. I usually love all language teachers, except for a university prof I had in French conversation and culture. My issue with him was that he was disorganized, would never follow through on what he said we’d accomplish, and was not at all demanding. He’d fail to correct us, wouldn’t assign much work, and was lax in grading and returning whatever we did produce.

    Now that I think of it, I found my 3rd and 4th year high school French teacher useless. Up until then I’d had dynamic women teachers, but this later one was a native Frenchman whose methodology comprised assigning each of us a French name and storytelling-—in English—about his life in France, crossing the Atlantic in his move to the US, and raising kids. Once in a while the principal would pause momentarily outside our classroom, staring suspiciously at Monsieur Marzo, who would leap up and begin frantically writing French words on the board.

    It took extended periods in France to imprint my brain and loosen my tongue. I firmly believe, too, that periods away from a language allow the hippocampus to consolidate pieces of one’s language learning, so that going back one speaks it more proficiently.

    • MELewis · November 21, 2020

      Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts on language learning! Your experience is most encouraging. Agree with your point that time plays a role in whatever goes in the brain. I find now even a few weeks on I’m much more able to integrate certain sounds and concepts. Nothing worse than a lazy teacher. I’m ashamed to say that was probably my case when I first arrived in France and taught English at Berlitz. Hated it, but it was a job. So perhaps it only serves me right…🤓

  4. Becky Ross Michael · November 21, 2020

    The best thing about Friday coming around is to know that I made it another week since the last Friday:)

    • MELewis · November 21, 2020

      You said it! Even working from home, we feel this. Keeping a sense of the working week vs. weekend is one way to stay sane in these crazy times.

  5. midihideaways · November 21, 2020

    Such a shame that TGIF doesn’t really translate into German as a snappy phrase – at least the phrase “Gott sei Dank, es ist Freitag” does not sound very snappy to me. I can understand why you gave up your German classes – a teacher who is unable to communicate and/or inspire is just not going to help you learn. I gave up learning Spanish because of the teacher, but that was a long long time ago… 🙂 I’m sure you’ll get to grips with the language, and perhaps you’ll find another teacher?

    • MELewis · November 23, 2020

      Thanks for the translation — I can see your point! 😂 I will look for a new teacher but will wait until I’ve got a better handle on a few basics, and hopefully by then Covid will be less prevalent and I’ll feel happier in the classroom again. In the meantime the school has offered me 2.5 hours of private lessons in lieu of the missed classes, which seems quite fair. If I like the woman they’ve suggested, I may book another course with her. So all is not lost!

      • midihideaways · November 27, 2020

        I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you – you’ll get to grips with it before too long!! 🙂

  6. Dale · November 21, 2020

    There is nothing worse than a bad teacher. I was taking hotel management classes and all the teachers were people in the business. Problem is, none, save two were pedagogies. They might have known their stuff but they sure didn’t know how to share it. The rules changed after my time there and all teachers had to have a teaching degree. That said, I am convinced you will be speaking German in no time.
    Fridays are special even when you work weekends. Which I no longer do (thank God for that!)

    • MELewis · November 23, 2020

      I see exactly what you mean, Dale. Often in higher education they pick those who know the business well but sadly those individuals can have zero sense of communication. Happy to hear this is changing. And that your weekends are now frei! 😅 And thanks for the vote of confidence on the German learning.

      • Dale · November 23, 2020

        Ich habe Vertrauen 😉

  7. Colin Bisset · November 22, 2020

    Bravo for dropping out. Saying no to one thing is saying yes to another – you’ll be fluent in no time!

    • MELewis · November 23, 2020

      Thanks Colin. I do agree — although I hate to give up on something, I’m pretty selective about how I invest my time. The flow of positive energy I’ve felt since abandoning the classes is worth it.

  8. Yeah, Another Blogger · November 25, 2020

    Hello there. German is spoken rather than Swiss?

    • MELewis · November 27, 2020

      In this part of Switzerland, only German (Swiss German) is spoken. A few people know French, mostly the older generation, but most of the younger ones speak some English.

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