Switzerland loves Germany, at last!

May 30, 2010, 2 Comments

Maybe it was because there are now so many German immigrants in Switzerland (over 233,000 at the last count). Maybe it was because the song has been played endlessly on Swiss radio and in shops. Or maybe for once the Swiss didn’t want to be left out in the cold. Whatever the reason, in last night’s Eurovision Song Contest Switzerland gave its German neighbours the maximum douze points. As did eight other countries, helping propel Germany to its first win since Nicole strummed her guitar and warbled about Ein bisschen Frieden back in 1982. Lena Meyer-Landrut’s song Satellite was a bit hipper than that, not least as it was sung in English, albeit English with an odd accent. Not quite German, not quite anything.

After shocking themselves by giving the Germany maximum points, the Swiss (or at least the people living in Switzerland) reverted to type and voted for Serbia and Albania as usual. But it was the 12 for Germany that was the surprise, given Switzerland’s love-hate relationship with its big neighbour to the north, which is often more hate than love. Germany is often referred to, half-jokingly, as the ‘big canton’ and that recent influx of thousands of Germans into Switzerland has often raised the tension rather than helped relations. Switzerland is part of the Schengen area, where there are no border controls, and has signed up to the free movement of people, meaning that EU citizens can live and work in Switzerland, and vice versa. This hasn’t prompted a flood of Polish plumbers, as feared, but a wave of German doctors, nurses, teachers, and thousands of others. The Swiss repelled one German invasion in the Forties but have succumbed to another in the Noughties. And it isn’t all plain sailing.

The Germans seem to be the only ones who can make the Swiss feel inferior, and that’s not an easy feat. It’s partly about language. High German, as spoken by the newcomers, is much more direct and less fluffy that the Swiss German dialects, so its speakers seem arrogant and rude, at least to Swiss sensibilities. German-speakers sometimes face snide comments, or even outright hostility, and that includes Englishmen who have learned High German. But given that High German, rather than dialect, is the official national language, most Swiss are willing (albeit reluctantly in some cases) to switch. However, it’s more than being divided by a comman language. Throw in the long-running spat over bank secrecy, and the even longer-running friction of the Second World War, and you can see why these two nations don’t always see things the same way.

Back to the real world, or at least Eurovision. The UK managed to trail in last, scoring just ten points, which was no surprise given how bad the song was. True, there were worse songs but Britain isn’t part of any voting bloc so has to have an abnormally good song to get any votes. As for Switzerland, the semi-final was its high point but it’s now clear just how awful Michael von der Heide was: he came last with a measly two points.

But in the end, it doesn’t really matter. It’s only a music competition. It’s not like it’s football, which is strangely far more important for most people. Now I wonder if Germany can make it a Eurovision-World Cup double? Has anyone ever achieved that?

If you missed last night’s extravaganza, here are some great tweets about it, compiled by the BBC:

  • For anyone who needs to explain eurovision to their American followers, I suggest: ‘Think Glee, minus the plot.’ @FannyPeculiar
  • Greece’s entry are helping cut the deficit by promising not to shave. Anywhere. @peregr1n
  • So basically Beyonce’s choreographer went to Robert Dyas and bought a desk fan. @Popjustice on Azerbaijan’s entry.
  • Good that we’re keeping up the fine British tradition of writing a tune that even an idiot could hold and then not holding it. @mrchrisaddison
  • If Dick van Dyke had played Hitler, he would have sounded like this. @caitlinmoran on German singer Lena’s unconventional English accent.

2 Comments on "Switzerland loves Germany, at last!"

  1. Kipkoech Tuesday June 1st, 2010 at 01:52 PM · Reply

    Oh, dont wonder about Michael von der Heide: to the usual hetero-sexual person its a bit hard to love gay men, specially if they wear strange outfits and forget to shave. Regarding the song-contest those
    who elected Michael as our representant in Oslo should be publicly whipped out and smeared with tar and feathers ….. Its not Michaels fault, he is as he is ……..

  2. fonduebeagleboys Wednesday June 2nd, 2010 at 06:20 PM · Reply

    Ruth Schweikert, German born Swiss Writer explained in an interview what “high” in “High German” means:

    … The language of the Swiss, the dialect is not a written language. Hence this evokes an enormous sensation of deficiency. I remember Dürrenmatt, when he was in Berlin and had a reading and was asked to speak High German. And he said: “Well, I can not higher!”. There is the notion that High German is up. And we then down.

    … The knowledge of the fact that the “high” in “High German” is the geographical component of “New High German” and refers to the south of the German language area, and therefore to the speakers who live in the highlands is not sufficiently widespread. “Down” are the people in the lowlands, such as “Lower Saxony” and Hanover. There at the bottom, where it does not go deeper any more, Germans speak Low German [if they are capable at all].

    It is very funny, when Germans who live north of the Weisswurst-Equator, which overlaps with the Benrath-Line, purport speaking the best “High German”, which was in fact standardized by Habsburg civil servants. Luther was as much the inventor of High German as Bill Gates is the originator of informatics.

Leave a Comment