Episode 14: Helvetiaphilia feat. Spencer Greenhalgh

alex 2022-10-04 2 min read

Another exciting guest episode! In this episode I welcome my friend from grad school Spencer Greenhalgh, who is now a professor at the University of Kentucky. He also spent a substantial amount of time earlier in his life in Switzerland, and so we got a chance to discuss our mutual Helvetiaphilia.

We discussed the astounding properties of Swiss trains, that they are amazingly punctual, and that they can even make up time delays!

We talked about the interesting linguistic peculiarities in Switzerland, the difference between Schweizerdeutsch and Hochdeutsch, the subtle differences that even express themselves in different train chimes in the different linguistic areas of the country.

We discussed how Switzerland seems to be the one country that has truly pulled off a truly multicultural or multilinguistic society where the different groups seem to get along pretty well.

We talked about my recent experiences in Bern and swimming in the Aare river and I show Spencer the improbable video that Amy took while floating down the river.

We talked about french speaking Switzerland where Spencer spent a lot of time. We talked about Geneva and Lausanne, comparative beauty and names of the different swiss lakes, watching the 2010 world cup in big screens on the lake, driving across the border to save money on meat, the differences between swiss french and french french (very minor as it turns out, but the swiss language makes some sensible simplications to the system of numerals), and the difference between canadian french and french french (very substantial as it turns out, it’s very hard for a fluent french speaker to understand canadian french).

We then finished with a discussion of e-bikes and the Not Just Bikes youtube channel, and ended up half planning a bike tour across the Alsace, which would be just incredible.

Overall it was a great conversation, and it was great to have a chance to share my experiences in Switzerland with someone who would understand, as well as to learn about the experiences that he had and how they were different in the french speaking part of the country. I’d be thrilled to talk to him again on the podcast, so I hope I get a chance to soon!