Yes, the Swiss make excellent chocolates, excellent cheese, and beautiful and reliable watches. Yes, Switzerland is beautiful, and every day spent here feels like living in a post card (as you can see in the photos I took from my cell phone).
But, I bet you never knew these facts about Switzerland and the Swiss people (scroll below):
- The Swiss believe passionately in recycling. They recycle everything. Plastic bottles, tin cans, glass jars, batteries, water filters, old clothes, old sports equipment, broken or old crockery, broken furniture, old wood…
- The Swiss don’t like to waste. Garbage bags cost $1-2 per bag depending on the size, and you can only use these official bags to throw away the garbage. The high price is meant to encourage recycling, and reduce wastage. Most apartments also come equipped, in addition to a trash can, with a organic waste collector, which is later used to make compost. For normal groceries, buying in bulk does not usually save any money, unlike in the US. This again encourages people to buy only what they need for now, rather than buy in bulk only to waste it later.
- The Swiss are very punctual. Maybe this is why they have such excellent watches. A Swiss is always on time for personal or business meetings, give or take 5 minutes. Swiss trains, trams, buses and boats, always leave 30 seconds to 1 minute before time. They are only late in cases of accidents or severe weather.
- The Swiss do have a tendency to be a little rigid. Once the Swiss have done something, they will not go back on it. No matter how hard you try to convince them. This means that if an income tax officer goes over your file, or a financial aid officer evaluates your scholarship application, once they make a decision on your file, they will never change it. They feel they did it right the first time, and therefore there is no need to repeat the effort.
- The Swiss don’t like to complain or ask for anything ‘extra’. The world of ‘tall non-fat latte with 3 sugars and a shot of vanilla syrup’ is not for them. They do not like to request extra sugar or ice in their drinks, if it is not served that way. They accept the food as it is served to them. In fact, the Swiss don’t like to test their boundaries in any parts of normal life, the way Americans, or even Asians, have got in the habit of doing. That is why, they look at anyone voicing a complaint, no matter how justified sometimes, as someone who likes to create trouble.
- The Swiss are very athletic. I guess it has something to do with living in the middle of the mountains, so that skiing is the hobby of the whole population, rather than just the luxury of the rich. In general, you will not see many overweight Swiss.
- They also like to eat healthy food, which apart from consisting of cheese and potatoes, is also heavily influenced by the countries bordering this tiny nation, i.e. Italy, France, Germany and Austria. In fact, in Switzerland, you will find excellent Italian food, including pizza and pasta. Like Europe in general, their food, even the processed kind in grocery stores, does not contain additives.
- The desserts in Switzerland are fantastic. The baked goodies, like chocolate croissants (known as schoeggigipfel), danish pastries, hazelnut rolls, black forest cakes, etc. etc. are unbeatable. Even the biscuits and cookies sold in your neighbourhood grocery store are addictive. You can never get similar quality in the US. And the best part is that since these contain no additives, indulging in them does not result in the disproportionate weight gain experienced in the US.
- The Swiss, somehow, are not capable of making nice-looking modern buildings. The facilities inside these buildings are always excellent, as well as the detailing. But from outside, these buildings are an eye-sore. Especially when compared with the beautiful traditional buildings that you find here. Seriously speaking, who paints a building a dirty orange, and then adds purple windows to it?? I sometimes feel that the Swiss do not have much aesthetic sense.
- However, their buildings are usually very energy efficient. They feature double insulated windows to reduce heat loss to the outside, as well as motion-sensors everywhere for lighting, to reduce electricity wastage when there is no one in the room. In addition, business buildings often feature intelligent shutters that go up and down in order to help keep the temperature inside comfortable, and reduce the need of artificial heating or cooling. The Swiss also depend on a mixture of hydro power and nuclear energy for their electricity needs.
- Unlike neighbouring France and Germany, you will not find much skin-colour variation in Switzerland, except maybe in Geneva, which is home to many International agencies. Although 1.5 million of the 7 million population of Switzerland is non-Swiss, and although these feature christians, muslims, jews, etc., they also tend to be predominantly white. Even the Muslim population consists mainly of those from the Balkan regions or Turkey. This tends to make the average Swiss a little racist when they see Africans or darker South Asians. It is only in recent years that Switzerland has started to see some influx of South Asians, mainly for jobs in the IT and Finance sector.
- Switzerland has a large pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. It is the headquarters of the pharmaceutical giant, Novartis. Switzerland exports a large quantity of medical equipment. In addition to the finance industry, which is the backbone of Swiss economy, you will be surprised to know that it is also the headquarters in Europe for the gas turbine industry (the machines that produce electricity using gas and petrol), namely ABB, Alstom and MAN.
- Although the Swiss are famous for their neutrality, they also have a large weapons industry, and export tanks, ground-to-air defence systems, missiles, and many other heavy and light artillery to the world. They, however, remain neutral in who they export these weapons too. I did mean to be sarcastic in the last sentence.