For members


How to talk email, websites, social media and phone numbers in Swiss French

It's a very common experience to have to give out your phone number or email address in Switzerland, or take down the address of a website, so here's how to do this if you're in the French-speaking part of the country.

How to talk email, websites, social media and phone numbers in Swiss French
Punctuation takes on crucial importance for internet activity. Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP

The correct names for punctuation marks used to be fairly low down on any French-learner’s list, but these days they are vital whenever you need to explain an email address, website or social media account.

Likewise if you want to talk about websites, or social media posts, there are some things that you need to know. 


Obviously punctuation points have their own names, and making sure you get the periods, dashes and underscores correct is vital to giving out account details. 

Full stop/period . point. Pronounced pwan, this is most commonly heard for Swiss websites or email addresses which end in. ch (pronounced pwan ce ash).

If you have a site that ends in .com you say ‘com’ as a word just as you would in English – pwan com.

At symbol @ Arobase – so for example the email address [email protected] would be jean pwan dupont arobas bluewin pwan ce ash.

Ampersand/and symbol & esperluette

Dash – tiret

Underscore _ tiret bas 

Forward slash / barre oblique

Upper case/capital lettersMajuscule (or lettre majuscule)

Lower caseminiscule

The following punctuation points are less common in email or web addresses, but worth knowing anyway:

Comma , virgule. In French a decimal point is indicated with a comma so two and a half would be 2,5 (deux virgule cinq)

Exclamation mark ! point d’exclamation – when you are writing in French you always leave a space between the final letter of the word and the exclamation mark – comme ça !

Question mark ? point d’interrogation – likewise, leave a space between the final character and a question mark 

Brackets/parentheses ( ) parenthèse

Quotation marks « » guillemets 


If you need to give your phone number out, the key thing to know is that Swiss-French people pair the numbers in a phone number when speaking.

So say your number is 079 345 6780, in French you would say zero septante-neuf, trois-cents quarante-cinq, soixante-sept, huitante (zero seventy-nine, three hundred forty-five, sixty-seven, eighty ).

Mobile numbers in Switzerland  begin with 079 or 078 (zero septante-neuf or zero septante-huit).

Social media

If you want to give out your Twitter or Instagram handle, the chances are you might need to know some punctuation terms as described above.

Otherwise the good news is that a lot of English-language social media terms are used in Switzerland too.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have the same names in Switzerland and have entered the language in other ways too, for example you might describe your dinner as très instagrammable – ie it’s photogenic and would look good on Instagram.

On Twitter you can suivre (follow), aimer (like) or retweet (take a wild guess). You’ll often hear the English words for these terms too, though pronounced with a French accent.

There is a French translation for hashtag – it’s dièse mot, but in reality hashtag is also very widely used.

Tech is one of those areas where new concepts come along so quickly that the English terms often get embedded into everyday use before the French-speakers can think up an alternative.

READ MORE: French-speaking Switzerland: Seven life hacks that will make you feel like a local

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For members


Why are garbage bags so expensive in Switzerland?

Like nearly everything else, garbage bags too are expensive in Switzerland, with the cost depending on the community where you live.

Why are garbage bags so expensive in Switzerland?

Even if you have become (more or less) accustomed to the cost of living in Switzerland, the price of trash bags may still come as a shock.

You are not alone.

A German social media influencer, who lives in the Zurich area, recently posted a rant on TikTok about the price of garbage bags in her region: 17 francs for a package of ten 35-litre bags.

“It’s such a disgrace that they’re so expensive,” she said. “In Germany, you pay 35 cents or one euro for 60.”

Her post unleashed many comments, but more about them in a minute.

Meanwhile, let take a look at how much these bags cost in various Swiss regions — and why you have to pay so much just to toss your rubbish away.

‘Polluter pays’ principle

Most communities in Switzerland have introduced either official trash bags (that is, the only ones allowed to be used for garbage disposal), priced according to their size (17, 35, 60, or 100 litres), or a special municipal sticker to be affixed to a bag. 

Taxes collected from the sale of these bags (or stickers) are used for municipal waste management.

The thinking behind the special bags, and their pricing, is based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle — the more expensive the bag is, the higher the incentive to care about the amount of trash you are creating.

This is especially true, as you are not supposed to throw just anything into those bags: they are not intended for recyclables, such as PET bottles, glass, carton, paper, aluminium cans, batteries, and compost, which should be disposed of separately.

And if you think you can get away with stuffing your bag to the rim with items that should be recycled (as those mentioned above), do so at your own risk and peril.

Municipal ‘trash inspectors’ (yes, there is such a job in Switzerland) occasionally examine the contents of garbage bags in their communities.

A number of ‘garbage criminals’ have been nabbed in Switzerland in recent years; fines imposed on them vary from one community to another.

READ ALSO :Why the Swiss government rummages through your garbage

How much do these bags cost?

The price depends on where you live and the size of the bag (as explained above).

For instance, a pack of ten 35-litre bags costs 19.50 francs in Vaud, 19.95 in Bern, 23 in Basel-City, and 23.50 in Schaffhausen.

You can see prices for various communities, according to the bag size, here.

You may have noticed that Geneva is not included on that list.

That’s because it is the only canton that does not charge for garbage bags; the only rule is that “household waste must be placed in sturdy, watertight and closed bags meeting the OKS standard and then deposited in a container”.

OKS garbage bags are tested and certified for quality and resistance in accordance with the guidelines of the Swiss Association of Municipal Infrastructure.

READ ALSO: What Geneva residents should know about new compulsory waste sorting

Has Switzerland’s approach been successful?

Various data indicates that the amount of household garbage has decreased, while the overall recycling rate went up considerably.

Now, let’s back to the German Tik Toker

Though many Swiss routinely complain about the cost of trash bags, they don’t like it if foreigners do so.

For instance, among the many comments trashing the woman’s rant, and especially her comparisons to price of bags in Germany, one user remarked, “it’s normal that prices are lower in third-world countries.”