Switzerland. I have strong feelings towards it and I mostly love it but sometimes hate it. Now before I go into why I love and hate Switzerland I wanted to say that I have been in the country for 3 weeks in 2008 and then another couple of times when I studied abroad in 2010. In total I’ve spent nearly a month in Switzerland and explored areas around Geneva, Bern, Luzern, Zürich, Sargans, and Chur. Fortunately I’ve interacted with the Swiss people and understand Swiss culture more. I can say it’s definitely unique and sometimes interesting how different the mentality is compared to the US. Overall I really love Switzerland and have even thought about living there one day but there are some things that are strange to me.
For starters, Switzerland is a really rich country and there is a lot of reasons why Switzerland is so rich. If you go back in history, Switzerland used to be poor and at one point was one of the poorest in Europe. Why and when did it change? After World War 2, Switzerland was in prime position to up its manufacturing industry, including watches, textiles, engineering and its financial sector. The financial part is what really boomed Switzerland into a wealthy nation and the residents benefited greatly from it. Today Switzerland is an expensive country to visit but the streets are extremely pristine and every Swiss person seems like they are doing pretty well (it’s better than the average American).
So maybe all the recent success has something to do with how they behave today. The Swiss, when I went in 2008, were cordial on the surface but they made it very hard to get to know them. In fact, if you haven’t known a set of Swiss people for years they will rarely give you the time of day for a in-depth conversation. I had a German friend living in Switzerland at one time and she had ‘friends’ but even then it was still hard for them to open up to outsiders.
Conservative, guarded and like one of my friends said “they have a tendency to be somewhat prejudiced about people who are not Swiss.” I feel this is true and feel that the Swiss may not understand or want to understand anybody else who is not Swiss. Of course they are all polite and cultured on the surface, but they can often be close minded underneath and love to live by the established rules. They will even tell you if there is something you should and shouldn’t do in your life, if they get the chance. That’s kind of what I hate about Switzerland. It’s hard to relate or much less get to know them and most Swiss don’t really make an effort. There is very little small talk or getting to know a visitor on a deeper level. Being from the US and more importantly from Texas, where I would give hugs to even people I just met, it’s weird to be in such a ‘cold’ environment.
However I was told there are reasons that they are choosy with their friends, follow the established rule and give out advice when you don’t ask for it. The mentality in Switzerland is that you really don’t need more friends apart from your select group and only want to invest in people who will be there for life. That’s a good mentality (I guess) but leaves outsiders in the dust.
Also by sticking to a core group they are less likely to open their mind about others, even their own country men. Swiss people all have a hometown to be proud of but it’s rare for them to journey into another part of Switzerland. It’s not rare to see Swiss people travel outside of their own country but not often inside Switzerland. Switzerland is more like 26 different types of regions loosely joined in one country and for whatever reason they don’t feel the need to visit one another. Kind of strange but works for them I guess.
They love to follow the established rules and will tell you how to live your life because I do feel they think they are right in most issues. Look how great their country is doing!? So perhaps being so successful has led more Swiss to feel that the way they do things is correct and most should follow the example.
So would I live in Switzerland? Well I know I’m complaining about the people but it’s a big part to dislike because if I can’t relate to the people it’s hard to enjoy the country. However there are parts about Switzerland that I do love.
These would be the most obvious to anybody. I think they live very well and have extremely high standards. How they got to these standards is not in my area of debate but I do love that almost nobody is poor in Switzerland and they make an effort to invest in their people and the environment. This makes for a pleasant, yet expensive, visit but I still love it.
You can go to any part of Switzerland and feel absolutely comfortable. But you should prepare to pay insane amounts for food, hotels and even trains. The first time I went to Switzerland I was lucky to live with my friend for 3 weeks, saving me a ton of money. And the second time I was living in France in 2010, close to the Swiss border, so I never had to pay a hotel except one night on a decent (still overpriced) hostel. But if you’re looking for safety and a place where you never really have to worry about crime than Switzerland is perfect.
Plus Switzerland is divided into different types of cultures and every canton is just a bit different. Like I said earlier, the people are not overly friendly, even to their own countrymen. Culturally you will experience a different Switzerland in Geneva than you would in Zürich. It’s an interesting culture and each region has its own story and own distinct customs.
Also the food is delicious especially if you love dairy. However most likely you will go out for every meal and that adds up quickly in Switzerland! It wasn’t uncommon for a group of 6 to pay over 200 Swiss Francs which is like 220 dollars for a night out. That’s insane to me but that is the standard in Switzerland.
Don’t get me wrong, I mostly love Switzerland and it would be a perfect country if it weren’t just for the people’s mentality. However I still think it’s an essential country to visit and will sure be back. Perhaps, one day, I would consider even living there (if they would ever let me in) because the standard of living, the beauty, the culture, history, and safety are better than any other country in the world. It’s hard not to love Switzerland but sometimes traveling there for an extended amount of time can be frustrating!
*Flyers tip! If you are connecting through Europe try Zürich or Geneva International. Zürich is one of the nicest and most punctual airports I’ve ever flown out of. Punctuality, another word Switzerland is famous for.
(Any Swiss person reading this feel free to refute any of my comments or say what you need below. Anybody else who has been to Switzerland, feel free to state your opinion as well. I feel people are polite and nice on the surface. I love the country and will be back)
images by: shawnvoyage