Diccon Bewes: 6 unanswered questions about Switzerland
Why can only the Swiss run their trains on time? Who would willingly eat Fleischkäse? Why do Swiss men wear a single earring? Diccon Bewes remains stumped about certain Swiss trends.
Eight years ago I arrived in Switzerland with a lot of questions about my new home. Would I have to learn all four national languages? Was it obligatory to read Heidi before arriving? Could I admit in public to not liking Roger Federer? Would I be able to smuggle Marmite into the country? So far I have managed to find out answers to all those questions, and many more.
But after eight great years of living in this wonderful country, I still have some questions about Switzerland that I have yet to find a satisfactory answer for. These are the six unanswered ‘whys' of my Swiss life so far. Maybe you can answer them.
1. Why would anyone willingly eat Fleischkäse?
It literally means ‘meat cheese' which sounds as appetising as it looks: a pink slimy mass that is '50 percent pork' according to the label; what the other half is, is anyone's guess. In Romandie it's called Fromage d'Italie, or ‘cheese of Italy', but it's neither cheese nor Italian!
2. Why do so many Swiss men wear a single earring?
Apparently there used to be a common saying of ‘links cool, rechts schwul', or ‘left side cool, right side gay' but either that is no longer the case or the gay male population in Switzerland is huge. Either way there are an awful lot of men wearing one earring.
3. Why can the Swiss run their trains on time and no-one else can?
It shouldn't be so hard in the computer age to work out the timetables but only the Swiss seem to have mastered it. There must be some magic ingredient that the others don't know about.
4. Why can't I develop a taste for Rivella?
In theory it should be simple. I like sugar, I like water, I like milk, I like bubbles. But put them together and it's revolting. Eight years of trying and still no use. A sure sign that I will never be truly Swiss, I fear.
5. Why are painkillers so expensive?
In Britain you can buy a pack of ibuprofen for a few pence. Here they cost a few francs (ie pounds) if you're lucky. And most of them are made in Switzerland. Clearly the Swiss don't get headaches or don't mind the pain of buying the pills.
6. Why has no-one else noticed the resemblance between Alain Berset and The Hood?
The Swiss Minister for Home Affairs looks scarily like the baddy from Thunderbirds but maybe no-one here watched that as a child. Who needs International Rescue when you are Swiss!
Diccon grew up in Britain but now lives in Bern. He has spent the last seven years grappling with German grammar, overcoming his innate desire to form an orderly queue and exploring parts of Switzerland he never knew existed. And eating lots of chocolate. He is the author of the bestselling book Swiss Watching.
Comment here on the article, or if you have a suggestion to improve this article, please click here.