Study Abroad Column: North and South

I booked a trip to Geneva and Switzerland, setting aside a weekend alone next to Mont Blanc, planning to bring along a notebook and some novels. Explored some pretty gardens and drank a lot of tea. Also ate some chocolate. Excitement started to settle in immediately after I booked the three-hour train ticket.

But planning a trip to Switzerland brought about a conversation that I didn’t exactly expect to happen. I walked into the kitchen one day with my host mother, who asked if I wanted to come along to a family brunch the Sunday I was to be in Geneva.

“That sounds lovely, but I’ll actually be in Geneva that weekend.’ (Of course, I said this with a huge smile on my face.)

“Why?”, my host mother immediately asked, laughing. Confused, I stared at her. She immediately explained how she had just never really thought about going to Geneva for vacation.

My host dad, overhearing the conversation, walked into the kitchen to participate, joining in on the teasing and poking fun at the fact that I was going to Geneva (saying things like “Is there anything pretty over there?”)

And over the course of the next hour, I found out the reason they were laughing at me—to the French, the Swiss are considered too German (“We are more Latin,” my host mother explained), and that they have a funny accent and talk too slowly.

Of course, this launched into a lengthy discussion about the difference between French accents, and, after various demonstrations of the Marseille accent and long-winded rants about the difference in lifestyle between the Southerners and the Northerners, I was starting to compare the conversation with one I would have with someone who came to Atlanta and asked me to demonstrate a Northern accent. Or talk about America’s relationship with Canada.

And, at the end of the day, I may have been raised across the ocean in a country that speaks another language, but some things really aren’t very different.