Blogger Kathy of TwoFools in Zurich lists her favorite things about Switzerland.
To be an expat is to be ambivalent. Some days it seems there could be no better place than your adopted home and other days it feels as though the best thing would be to pack it in and get out. There is, however, an awful lot to love about Switzerland. But for everything I love here, its opposite exists and sometimes drives me mad. Hence, the ambivalence.
I’m going for the positive this time. Here are my top five things to love about Switzerland.
1. The grace and civility of daily life
I absolutely love the custom of saying hello and goodbye in the shops. A lilting Grüezi when you enter, a light Schönes Wochenende or Uf Wiederluege when you depart: the custom wraps each minor transaction in a little confection of good manners. I still get a kick out of saying Grüezi mittenand to fellow hikers. I love the custom of offering your fellow diners an En Guete when the meal arrives.
I’m always impressed as well with the thoughtfulness displayed when a stranger holds the door open for someone running those last few meters to catch the tram, or when others help lift a baby carriage on and off the tram.
Switzerland in general affords individuals a very high level of trust. Most newcomers find the custom of billing after mail-order goods are received delightfully old-fashioned. In Switzerland it’s assumed that the customer will pay in a timely fashion, just as a matter of course. Because that is the right thing, because that is what people do.
To trust that others will do the right thing is to accord them a level of dignity that we could all wish for when moving through the metal detector at a high school in the US or when passing though security at any airport.
I love Swiss trains, and I think I fell in love with Switzerland traveling by train. Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Luzern, Lugano, Interlaken, Mürren, Zermatt, Sion, Sierre, Chur, Davos. The Swiss countryside rolls by and I can’t help but fall in love. I know the pitfalls of the pastoral: the locals that we pass have all the problems everyone else does––mundane to dreadful––but I still can’t resist the magic.
The trains are comfortable, clean, quiet, efficient. They go almost everywhere and they get there on time. We’ve never even used our car share here. We just take the train.
Of course you knew the trains would make the top five. Everyone loves Swiss trains. There’s even a show on the Travel Channel (in the UK and US) called Swiss Railway Journeys.
4. Kantonligeist and Direct Democracy
I love Kantonligeist (allegiance to one’s own small region) and the way that it reinforces the Swiss practice of direct democracy. It’s infuriating, impractical, and shouldn’t even be possible to sustain. Why in the hell can’t the whole country just have the same rules for smoking in public or recycling or taxes? Why can’t Swiss Germans just speak one language? Because they don’t and that’s how the Swiss like it. I like it too, because it’s the exact opposite of our ever more standardised world.
5. Natural Beauty
Switzerland is just absurdly beautiful. The Alps. The lakes. The forests. The improbably neat fields and farms. The Alps. The more sporty and outdoors-y you are, the more you’ll love this aspect of living here. For us, just walking through this landscape is a thrill and a privilege.
Those are my top five. What are your favorite things about Switzerland?