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UNDERSTANDING THE SWISS

‘Gypsy-style rice’: Swiss army renames ‘racist’ dish

A popular Swiss rice dish has been renamed in military kitchens.

Zigeunersauce, which translates to gypsy sauce, has become an increasingly fraught point, with many arguing that the term should be discontinued on racism grounds. Von Flo Beck - Eigenes Werk, CC0,
Zigeunersauce, which translates to gypsy sauce, has become an increasingly fraught point, with many arguing that the term should be discontinued on racism grounds. Von Flo Beck - Eigenes Werk, CC0,

One of the dishes the military routinely served its recruits was called “Reispfanne Zigeuner Art”, which means “rice gypsy style”.

The ready-made dish was served to Swiss troops, but is also popular in Swiss restaurants, as a home recipe and throughout much of German speaking Europe. 

In recent years however, the description has come under fire for being racist – and has been removed from menus or renamed as a result. 

In order to clarify the issue, the army contacted Switzerland’s Federal Commission against Racism (CFR) to ask whether the dish’s name was racist and if it should continue to be served. 

In its response, the CFR deemed the description racist, saying another name had to be found for the dish.

Army spokesperson Daniel Reist said the new name was chosen to reflect its ingredients. 

The meal is still served but it is now called “Reispfanne mit Rindfleisch und Paprika”, or rice with beef and peppers.

The army said that no other dish on its menu had to be renamed because of an offensive or unacceptable name.

The names of several dishes have come under increasing fire for their purported connection to racism in German-speaking countries in recent years. 

The deserts Negerkuss and Mohrenkopf have been replaced or renamed on menus throughout much of German-speaking Europe due to these concerns. 

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UNDERSTANDING THE SWISS

Reader question: What is Switzerland’s ‘Bünzli’ and how do I spot one?

In Switzerland, you might hear the term 'Bünzli' to describe someone. What does it mean?

A person wearing socks with sandals
Socks with sandals are a part of the Bünzli uniform. Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

One of many cultural curiosities, a Bünzli is someone who is simultaneously very Swiss – but whom the Swiss make significant fun of. 

The term has no direct English translation, which can make it a little confusing at first to understand. 

At least in part because it is relatively difficult to translate into English, the word Bünzli itself is often used among English speakers who live in Switzerland. 

Here’s what you need to know about Bünzli, a truly Swiss phenomenon. 

What is a Bünzli? 

The term Bünzli is a Swiss German insult to describe a particular type of person who is set in their ways, has narrow mind and view of things and tries desperately hard to hang onto tradition. It is almost always used as a criticism or in a negative context. 

While the internet gives up the translation ‘philistine’ in English, there are other elements which make a Bünzli a Bünzli. 

This insult – based on a real Swiss surname – applies to those boring people who follow all the rules and make sure everyone else does too.

Other English words like fussy, fastidious, stodgy and exact also describe a Bünzli. 

A Bünzli is the sort of person who would never cross the street when the light is red, who never stays out too late and never gets too drunk.

A Bünzli will have a perfectly manicured garden and will never want to split a bill evenly, instead demanding to pay exactly what he or she had – and nothing more. 

He is also the person most likely to complain to the building president when you dare to do your washing on Sunday, or to ring the police when he sees someone parked in front of a fire hydrant.

Some say Bünzli are particularly Swiss, like a distilled, concentrated form of pure Swiss-ness, although the fact that Bünzli are usually the target of ridicule from Swiss people indicates that foreigners are not the only ones who find the behaviour weird or out of line. 

The best English translation is probably a ‘goody two-shoes’, although in this case the more likely attire is socks paired with Adiletten. Yep, you get the idea.


Wearing Adiletten with socks doesn’t make you a Buenzli…but it helps. Photo: Christian H. Flickr

Still not sure what a Bünzli is? 

If you still don’t know what a Bünzli is, it might be helpful to see a few further examples. 

The following YouTube video goes through some specifics of the Bünzli is in Swiss German (although if you already speak Swiss German, you’ll likely know what a Bünzli is). 

Switzerland’s English forum often holds debates where expats look to discover the exact meaning of the term

Swiss news site Watson lists several reader examples of their Bünzli experiences, from having the police called for a noise complaint at 10:01pm, to telling tourists who asked for directions while holding a train door open to let go of the door so the train can leave. 

How do I spot one? 

For those who still don’t exactly know what a Bünzli is, don’t fret.

It’ll often happen the other way around, i.e. the Bünzli will discover you, when you haven’t done your recycling or when your doormat is the wrong way around in front of your apartment or when you cycle across the pedestrian crossing with no cars around. 

Keep the above in mind and trust us, you’ll know one when you see one. 

Have you had any Bünzli experiences? Please let us know in the comments below. 

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