There is no better way to learn the twenty-six Swiss cantons than the license plate game.
Anyone who visits or moves to Switzerland will quickly realize that every Swiss license plate begins with two letters that denote the canton in which the car is registered. GE is Genève, VD is Vaud and VS is Valais. The challenge living in Geneva is that we are at the far west-end of the country. We get more French cars visiting than Swiss.
Every now and then ZH (Zurich) or ZG (Zug) plates will slip into our canton. They are probably here to settle some banking business. We should see more NE (Neuchâtel) and JU (Jura) since us Swiss Romande should stick together, but these folks have their own beautiful lakes so why come here?
Everyone has seen AI. In fact you have probably driven one since every rental car has that plate. But unbeknownst to many, there really is a canton called Appenzell Innerrhoden. With just under 16,000 people living there, the chances of seeing a real Appenzeller driving in Geneva are slim.
What are the license plates you have probably never seen in Geneva? I bet UR (Uri). “They” don’t come here and “we” don’t go there. In fact my family recently did go there and wondered if the good people of Andermatt knew what our GE plate stood for. Between traffic jams in Vaud, municipal roads in Haute-Valais and winding mountain roads in Uri, the villages are far, far, away.
Actually there is one canton further away with the license plate GR. Upon reaching this area I asked my husband if GR stood for Graubünden or Grisons. The answer is both. That is the crazy thing in this country. We have to learn the German and French names. Sixty-four percent of the country is German speaking but if I refer to a canton by its German name, such as Argau (AG) my Genevois friends have no idea what I am talking about. I have to say Argovie (the French name). The only canton the German and French speakers seem to agree upon is Tessin, our token Italian canton Ticino (TI).
This is probably enough Swiss cantons for a day. But there is one last canton that stands out for us English speakers: Schwyz (SZ). It is so close to that English word Swiss or Switzerland yet how many license plates have you seen?
By the way, here are a few other pictures of interesting license plates I found on wikipedia:
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