Swiss happiness

Diccon Bewes: Switzerland is happy!

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The colourful variety of Swiss dance videos to Pharrel Williams' song 'Happy' reveal Switzerland's 'happiness' around the cantons.

When Pharrel Williams' song 'Happy' became the no.1 song in Switzerland, it started spreading happiness across the whole country.

The first Swiss Happy remake video was in Lausanne at the end of January and had clocked up over 400,000 views on YouTube by March.


It is possibly the one that sticks closest to the Pharrell Williams’ original with enough different people, locations and times of day. So how has the rest of Switzerland responded?

Switzerland's happiness

Zurich is still catching up in terms of numbers of views, maybe because there are two rival versions.

One is all pretty young things who don’t go out after dark, which is very odd considering the idea of the original is that it covers a whole 24 hours. The other has Edward Scissorhands in the street and dancing on Jelmoli’s porch.

Geneva also has two versions. This one (the more popular) features a man in a box, dancing on the tramlines and a lovely lady in a wheelchair; the other cleverly has happy people dancing in front of the dour faces carved into the Reformation Wall. Both manage to include the crucial night-time scenes.

Bern, of course, has to be totally different from all the others. One film-maker made an extended 16 minute version featuring practically the whole city. The other guy rather strangely split his films into four short ones rather than making one montage, which is kind of missing the point of the original video.

Some of the other videos, such as the one from Lugano, involve passers-by not there for the filming, from construction workers to people crossing the road. Then there are the Happy videos from Basel, Fribourg, Gstaad, St Gallen, Neuchatel, Bulle and even a dance studio in Langenthal.

One of my favourites is from the Hotel Les Trois Rois in Basel. It’s the oldest and poshest hotels in town but the staff know how to have fun. Waiters, receptionists, chambermaids, chefs and painters all showing how happy they are. If only every hotel in Switzerland had staff who smiled as much. Well done to the Three Kings!

What all the Swiss videos show is how diverse Switzerland is. Lots of happy immigrants (or children of immigrants) on show in every film alongside lots of happy Swiss people. After the vote on 9 February, that’s an important thing to remember – we are all happy to live here.

PS: If have no idea what this all about, you can watch all 24 hours of the original video online, featuring Mr Williams and hundreds of folks dancing around Los Angeles. It has some amazing scenes, but you don’t have to watch it all to get those: the Top 50 Moments are captured here. I loved the three old ladies at 11:36am and the two Fred Astaires at 2:20pm.


Reprinted with permission of Diccon Bewes.

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.

Thumbnail credit: Matti Hillig via Wikimedia Commons.

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