Tuesday, February 5, 2013


I hear smatterings of English just about everyday in Zurich.  I'm used to it, but the language still jumps out, somehow, louder than the Swiss German around me and my ears prick up.  Today, there was a man sitting a few seats from me on the tram who asked his seat mate if she spoke English.  She said that she did and he proceeded to ask her if she knew how many stops until Limmatplatz.  She answered fairly quickly, telling him it was about 8 stops from where we were.   Silently, I applauded her quick response, given that she was a non-native English speaker.  Then I wondered if I had heard his query correctly.  We weren't actually on a tram going anywhere near Limmatplatz, so, while her answer was well-executed, it wasn't actually correct.  Our tram ended at the main train station.  The man going to Limmatplatz would need to walk a short distance from the end station in order to catch a tram to his destination.  I had hoped that the woman would make this fact clear to the traveler, but she off-boarded shortly thereafter, not saying another word.  As our tram approached the end station, I could see a perplexed look growing on the man's face.  He was looking out the window with crinkled brow, as I stood up near him and asked where he was going.  'Limmatplatz', he said.

Pizzaiolo in Zermatt
I told him I'd take him to the tram he needed and said that we were fairly close to his final destination.  As we made our way to the correct tram, I made a bit of small talk.  'Where are you from?' I asked.  He told me that he didn't speak much English and spoke NO German.  He said he was on holiday here from Italy and that he might be looking for work.  'Swiss is good.  Italy, sorry, is shit.'  I would imagine that he was talking about the economy back home.  I asked him a rather pertinent question: how will you find work if you don't speak German?  'I'm Pizzaiolo', he said.  I'm in kitchen and don't need to speak.'  He smiled when he said this.  I smiled, too.  Good for him, I thought.  We arrived at his platform with only a minute to spare.  He purchased a tram ticket, we shook hands, and I wished him good luck. 


  1. Oh wow, that's a pretty neat story. Makes you wonder what happened in his life next... That or maybe I'm just a wee bit bored at work.

    1. -could be a bit of both! I, too, wonder if the young man will find employment. -hope so.


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