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How to Count With Your Hands in Switzerland

A few weeks ago, my husband bought a simple puzzle for our son here in Peru. It's a fairly easy 20 piece wooden puzzle that features the numbers 1 to 10, drawings of animals, fruit or other things to illustrate the amount the number represents, the actual word representing the number (e.g. NINE) and a pair of hands showing the number with fingers.

the puzzle
Looking at the hands and fingers, I was reminded of how I always thought it strange to observe how my American friends used their fingers to count. The way they counted simply didn't come natural to me. After all, they didn't use their thumb to signal TWO and neither for THREE!

How the Americans and Swiss Count with Their Hands

Being once again confronted with finger counting, I took the opportunity to compare the English/American way of using the fingers to my own (Swiss) way. We start with the thumb and then simply add one finger after the other until we reach the pinkie with a full five fingers. The English/American way starts with the index finger and continues to the pinkie for 'four' and only in the end adds the thumb to reach the full five finger 'five'.

Maybe I'm a unique and strange case in the way I count and for sure it isn't the most comfortable way! Number FOUR is especially uncomfortable! The English way actually makes way more sense to me but the Swiss way simply comes naturally.

Does this mean that all foreigners in Switzerland should learn to count with their fingers the Swiss way in addition to learning a local language? Probably not. I like to think that we Swiss are quite flexible when it comes to language issues even when we are quite set in our ways in other aspects.

Are there more Swiss people out there counting the numbers like me? How do you use your fingers for counting? Let me know!



  1. I'm pretty sure that your way is the typical Swiss and German way. Maybe even throughout more of Europe.

    1. Would be interesting to find out, no? There is certainly a cultural aspect to this!


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