Romandy

After the year 2021 without visiting my sister Florence in Zug in Switzerland, I finally returned to the Confoederatio Helvetica in March 2022. I stayed over a week. More than a family visit, I organised an excursion to French-speaking Switzerland, also known as Romandy, to visit Maxime and the vineyards of Lavaux in the canton of Vaud, near Lausanne. I also booked a journey on the world-famous Glacier Express from Sankt Moritz to Brig. Furthermore, I looked for a nice way in and out. The ÖBB Nightjet night train from Amsterdam to Zurich and the voyage home via Lyon in France.

Le Jet d’Eau, Geneva.

A week in Switzerland for my sister offered opportunities for excursions further away. As I hadn’t really explored Romandy yet beyond the GoldenPass Line and my youth skiing in Anzère in the canton of Valais (Wallis). And Maxime works from Lausanne, I decided to go there. Also, it’s near the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lavaux.

But what is Romandy?

Romandy, in French Romandie or Suisse romande is the French-speaking part of western Switzerland. In 2018, about 2.1 million people, or 25.1% of the Swiss population, lived in Romandy.

The majority of the romand population lives in the western part of the country, especially the Arc lémanique region along Lake Geneva, connecting Geneva, Vaud and the Lower Valais.

French is the sole official language in four Swiss cantons: Geneva, Vaud, Neuchâtel, and Jura. Additionally, French and German have co-official status in three cantons: Fribourg / Freiburg, Valais / Wallis, and Berne / Bern

Romandy is not an official territorial division of Switzerland any more than there is a clear linguistic boundary. For instance, substantial parts of the canton of Fribourg and the western canton of Bern are traditionally bilingual, most prominently in Seeland around the lakes of Morat, Neuchâtel and Biel / Bienne.

Gruyère cheese in Gruyères.

Röstigraben

The linguistic boundary between French and German is known as Röstigraben. Literally the Rösti Ditch, named after the fried potato dish. The term is humorous in origin and refers both to the geographic division and to perceived cultural differences between the Romandy and the German-speaking Swiss majority. The term can be traced to the World War I period, but it entered mainstream usage in the 1970s in the context of the Jurassic separatism virulent at the time. The Canton of Jura seceded from Bern in 1979.

Differences are largely cliché and stereotypes, yet so prominent these stereotypes become somewhat true. The Romands are given Latin stereotypes of being lazy, counting more on the government for life issues and more festive. The Deutschschweizer are given stereotypical German and Northern European characteristics such being strict, working too hard and being maniacally clean.

In French-speaking Europe, the ‘Leçon de géographie suisse‘ by Marie-Thérèse Porchet, a.k.a. Joseph Gorgoni, is very famous for making fun of the Bourbines, a pejorative term for the German-Swiss. 

This piece of Swissinfo delves into the Röstigraben.

Previous adventures in Romandy

Switzerland 2022

  1. Zandvoort, home of the Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix.
  2. REVIEW | ÖBB Nightjet Amsterdam – Zurich night train.
  3. SWITZERLAND 2022 | Thun and Thun Castle.
  4. SWITZERLAND 2022 | The Lausanne Métro.
  5. REVIEW | Hotel du Raisin in Lausanne.
  6. SWITZERLAND 2022 | The Vineyard Terraces of Lavaux in Vaud.
  7. SWITZERLAND 2022 | Two days in Lausanne.

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