I am rather reserved. I do not rush or push forward. I have learned that nature always has the final say. I lived off Goms’ land. I protected this earth. Initially, my language might seem harsh. However, once you get to know me a little, I will be all warmth and friendliness. Be welcome, I am the citizen of Goms.
For thousands of years, Goms passes have served as a connection between North and South. Since the Stone Age, man has lived here. Celts, Romans and, most prominently, the Almanni have left their traces in our culture and language.
THE GOMS PEOPLE
Since 1850, the population size has not much changed in Goms. Back then, around 5000 people live in this remote mountain valley. Today, the population of Goms is about 4500. They live off small trade and tourism. This lack of demographic development holds disadvantages as well as advantages. On the one hand, especially young people feel an economic pressure to leave the area. On the other hand, the natural and cultural landscapes have remained intact and the mountain villages in Goms have been unaffected by the building boom other areas have experienced.
The people from Valais and especially Goms have always felt a strong connection to their environment. This has helped sustain the political structure of the small villages over centuries. Only the past few years have seen the merging of villages to larger political entities. Yet, no village has given up its pride and character.
TRADITIONS AND CUSTOMS IN GOMS
Two main areas determine the tradition of Goms: Farming culture and religion. Well into modern times, conservative Catholicism has coined Goms’ culture. In many places, processions and pilgrimages are still seen as protecting ceremonies against natural disasters or fire. Catholic holidays are a sacred thing to this day. The grand sacred works of art, churches and chapels in the area were built by generations of local artists who were inspired by their religiousness.
The rural customs of “Alpaufzug” (annual alpine procession to the mountain pastures), “Alpfest”, cheese production, cow fights and other traditions go back to the self-supporting rural origins of the people of Goms.
The rich tradition legend-telling goes back to the times when evening hours were long in the mountain cottages, people got together at night-time for the “Abesitz” and told each other stories of ghosts and other undead creatures.
There are also pagan traditions such as “Nikolausläuten” or “Fasnacht”. On December 5 and 6, children would go around the village donned with bishop’s hats and carrying cow bells knocking on doors to collect treats. Before Lent (“Fastnacht”), the dressed-up “Maschgini” haunt the villages to defy the authorities without risking repercussions.
DIALECTS OF GOMS
The language spoken in Goms is, similar to the dialects in the rest of Valais, a dialect of Highest Alemannic German. Because Valais is such a remote region, the dialect has not changed considerably over the past centuries and has preserved its idiosyncrasy. This especially applies to the tributary valleys. However, many French and Italian loan words have become part of the language. The people from Goms are proud of their language and can get quite irritated about remarks on its incomprehensibility.
What sounds harsh but quite likeable at first, is even hard to understand if you listen closely. If you practice for a little bit, though, and ask people to speak more slowly, you will have no problems communicating. If this does not help, you can always rely on the “Fendant”, the infamous white wine from Valais. Until 20 years ago, it was possible to attribute almost every villager of Upper Valais to his or her village of origin because of their dialect. Today, regional dialects converge among younger people and German loan words are seamlessly integrated into the dialect. To encourage international as well as national understanding, we provide you with a list of the most important words:
- Tagwoll: Good morning! / Good day! (greeting used until noon)
- Nabend: Good evening! (greeting used until starting in the late afternoon)
- Ciao / Salut: Greeting among acquaintances
- Bajini: People from Lower Valais
- Bäjini: People from Bern
- Grüezini: People from Zurich, Aargau and Eastern Switzerland
- Üsserschwizer: All Swiss German people except people from Valais
- Wältsche: People from Western Switzerland
- embrüff und embrii: up and down (direction away from the speaker)
- emüächa und emab: up and down (direction toward the speaker)
- ämi(cha) und ämüs(a): in and out
- Booze: ghost, common figure in Valais legends
- Botsch, Botschji: young boy, lad
- Butti: female breast, plural: Buttini
- Buttitschifra: bra
- Frontag: Thursday
- Gutträ: bottle
- Hopschel: frog
- Lattüechji: lizard
- Maanet: month, moon
- Meija: flower
- Mojini: grimaces
- Ponte: bung/bottle stopper (from French “bondon”)
- Port: door (from French “porte”)
- Pusset: pram/baby carriage (from French “poussette”)
- Schriibi: pen
- en Schutz: a while
- Schwinggi: pig
- sienta: sometimes
- summi: some/several
- triibe: throw
- Tschifra: basket with straps carried on the back
- Üstag: spring
- Bisch-mus?: Can you manage?