En G??etta

What is this phrase? It’s the Swiss phrase one says before everyone eats, equivalent to bon appetite in French or buon appetito in Italian. I’m not sure precisely how this translates, I always think something like “enjoy” but that is just me, no actual Swiss people were consulted in the writing of this post.

One of the things I notice in Switzerland is people wait until everyone is served, people say en güeta* and then everyone eats. It’s nice if a little slow sometimes; being American there is just a built-in “hey, let’s dig in, consume the calories, and move on”. It’s very social. It’s also the case that things like “cheers”, “prossit”, “sante” and other equivalents are more sincere on the Continent than in the States.

Which led me to a question: what is the English equivalent of en güeta or bon appetite? I have pondered a bit. I know I have heard “bon appetite” but it usually has a slightly ironic flavor, for example being used only when the group is about to eat something sort of nasty, like a McDonald’s slurp-fest. If you read this and know the answer, please use the comments to help me out. It’s starting to feel like a real cultural difference, you know, the kind I was looking for when we moved to Europe. Basically in America we don’t really have anything to start the meal off (assuming you skip saying grace).

  • en güeta is sort of pronounced “en gwetta” or perhaps “en goo ett a” depending on who is saying it. I busted out a line the other day about Swiss German: the regions for each dialect are so small that sometimes family members cannot understand one another. I thought it was a pretty good line and one of those witty things I would use for years to come. Then my colleague (hi Roger) informed me that it’s actually true. Well hell, it’s not as funny if it’s actually true. Another line busted.