Xenophobe's® Guides: A life of Swiss regulation

Xenophobe's® Guides: A life of Swiss regulation

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Swiss laws and regulations can make living in Switzerland seem restrictive, but it has become an ingrained part of the Swiss way of life.

Xenophobe's® Guides: A book series that highlights the unique character and behaviour of different nations with insight and humour.

Switzerland is often referred to as a police state, particularly by fans of microlite aircraft, snowmobiles and jet skis, all of which are banned within its borders.

One explanation for this is the misuse of the word translated into English as ‘police’. There are the ‘dead pets police’ for disposing of dead pets, or ‘foreign police’ to oversee the eligibility of foreigners to work and reside in the country. Checking on the correct disposal of household rubbish are the ‘rubbish police’. One of the most horrendous crimes that one can commit is to put out one’s rubbish in a non-approved bag. The rubbish police will sift through the contents of offending bags for clues to the culprit and fines can be quite steep.

Switzerland is thick with laws and even thicker with their enforcement, and crime is low compared to international standards. This very occasionally falls flat on its face, like when it was found that there was no law to prevent a Zurich businessman from painting his own parking space outside his office.

There are times when the dogged appliance of rules seems to rule out common sense. Taking a bath before 7am or after 10pm is forbidden in most apartment dwellers’ book of rules. But since it is unthinkable that any Swiss would arrive at their office desk at dawn (as most do) without washing, showers are exempt from such rules.

Once a Swiss starts obeying the myriad laws, he is inclined to think all his fellow countrymen should also obey them. Unlike in the UK where ‘cheating the system’ is applauded, the Swiss see the point of minor legislation and so help enforce it. Thus seemingly unenforceable statutes such as not washing cars on a Sunday or having a garden bonfire on any day of the week but Saturday, are easily policed by the ‘net curtain brigade’ who have no hesitation in reporting offenders. More tax evaders are brought to book by tip-offs from the public than from the tax authorities’ own investigations.

For more, read The Xenophobe's Guide to the Swiss.

Reproduced from Xenophobe's Guide to the Swiss by kind permission of Xenophobe's® Guides.

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