April 1 in Switzerland

April 1, 2011, 4 Comments

SpaghettiThe Swiss spaghetti harvest. A classic clip from the BBC Panorama programme that was broadcast in April 1957 – back when people still believed what they saw on television. The hoax worked for so many reasons: it was on the BBC (beyond reproach in those days), the narrator was Richard Dimbelby (who had commentated on the Queen’s Coronation a few years before), and spaghetti was still an unknown dish for most Britons – something odd that usually came in a can with tomato sauce.

But perhaps what gives it that extra believability is that it takes place in Switzerland. Using Ticino rather than Italy for the spaghetti harvest was a master-stroke. Those trustworthy Swiss would never be party to such a blatant lie, would they? Italians, well, you couldn’t trust them; they were the enemy 12 years ago, after all. And the Swiss are famous for not having a sense of humour, so it must be true.

As if to prove that last point wrong, the Swiss themselves came up with a great April Fool (or Aprilscherz in German, poisson d’avril in French) in 2009. Again it uses the Swiss reputation for honesty and attention to detail to make it believable, playing on Swiss clichés of obsessive cleanliness and love of mountains to add extra credibility.

The video was made by the Swiss Tourist Board, giving it a stamp of officialdom, and some people actually asked about applying to the Association of Swiss Mountain Cleaners. The irony is that such a club is really not so far from the truth. It could easily exist somewhere in Switzerland, which is essentially a country made up of clubs of every sort. But at least the Swiss recognise that, and can sometimes even laugh at their own stereotypes. Even if only once a year.

4 Comments on "April 1 in Switzerland"

  1. expatraveler Friday April 1st, 2011 at 07:42 PM · Reply

    I do love the pranks from the Swiss on April Fools day. I guess I must head on over to see what is in store for the day!

  2. Janie Saturday April 2nd, 2011 at 05:54 AM · Reply

    Thanks for the laugh.

  3. Gydle (aka Mary Parlange) Tuesday April 1st, 2014 at 04:32 PM · Reply

    Thanks for the laugh! I have to agree, the Swiss really like their April Fool’s. It seems they appreciate humor when it’s orderly and they know to expect it (and thus recognize it?) — i.e. once a year. In the French-speaking part, it often involves fish jokes, because it’s known as “poisson d’avril” there. This week I translated an amusing “press release” from EPFL about the Matterhorn: “Vast hollow chamber in iconic Swiss mountain worries geologists”

Trackbacks for this post

  1. April Fool’s Day | Glamping in Switzerland

Leave a Comment