On the surface, there are many similarities between Switzerland and Canada. There’s the snow capped mountains, many ski resorts, beautiful lakes, the French language and a shared love for ice hockey. But, live in Switzerland for a little while, and you’ll realise that the differences are in the details and there are many.
Here are just a few (well, five) of the ways I’m learning to be more Swiss (& “less Canadian” in the process). Some may find my observations offensive, for this, I am not sorry:
1. Low carb, low schmarb! Low fat, schmow fat!
The Swiss people love their cheese. They also like their freshly baked bread. They have a national dish that consists of only these two high fat and high carb foods: FONDUE. There is nothing more quintessentially Swiss to me than the smell of melted Gruyère and Emmental. It’s such a pungent and unique smell, that whenever I smell it, I’m instantly taken back to a Swiss ski resort.
Before I moved to London and then Switzerland, I lived in Vancouver for five years, probably the most health conscious city in Western Canada. Vancouver is made up of yoga fanatics, sushi eaters, seawall runners, rock climbing junkies and beach volleyball bums (when the sun comes out two weeks in the summer). There is an unspoken pressure to be fit, beautiful and active (and wear overpriced Lululemon products while you’re doing this). I do realise that I am generalising massively here and possibly being a bit catty, but anyone who has ever lived in Vancouver knows what I’m talking about, at least a little bit. So eating a massive pot of melted cheese with bread for dinner, isn’t really part of Canadian culture. Of course, there is poutine, but that’s mainly eaten on the other side of the country…the French side
(and they don’t really count).
2. What is this “tipping” you speak of?
You guys, don’t get me started on tipping in North America. No, really, I have such strong, cynical and downright bitter views on this topic that if I started talking about it, most of you probably wouldn’t like me anymore (that’s if you actually like me now anyway). For the record, though, when I am in NA, I tip well (like 20% +). I just don’t like doing it, okay.
In Switzerland, tipping isn’t expected or required. Service industry workers get paid a decent wage and, since the 1970’s, Swiss Federal Law stipulates that service charges must be included in the price of the services or products advertised. I do still leave a small tip (no more than 10% though), as it’s hard to break a 30 year habit.
3. One word: Trust.
The first time I visited Switzerland, I was like “ummmm…soooo…these bikes here. They have been left on the side of the street, without being chained to a pole and look there are some groceries in that bike basket…THIS IS MADNESS! Aren’t they afraid of theft?”
The short answer to this is no. Nope. Apparently not.
This, right here, blows my mind even now. People trust each other here and from what I can tell…it works. If you did this in Canada or the UK or … ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD your bike would be gone in 5 minutes…30 minutes tops. If you live in a country where bike theft also does not happen on a regular basis, please let me know because I’m convinced this only happens in Switzerland.
I also witnessed a flower shop which had closed up for the evening with many of its items for sale left outside…not chained up or anything. Again, MIND BLOWN!
I don’t have a bike here, but to be honest, I think I would find it difficult to not chain it up at night. I’m a non-trusting Canadian at heart still.
4. Leave your car at home
Switzerland’s train system is world renowned. It’s fast, efficient and ON TIME. There’s really no need to own a car here if you live in a city. There’s a reason why Jeremy Clarkson calls it “car hating Switzerland”; getting caught speeding will cost you a lot depending on where you were caught and how far over the limit you were driving (in serious cases, you will be automatically entered into the register for criminal convictions). So it’s best to just leave your car at home.
5. Opening Times
Most stores, including grocery and retail stores, are closed on Sundays in Switzerland. And during the week, they close at 7:00pm. In Canada and the UK, many stores are open seven days a week with far longer opening times.
Being more Swiss means planning out meals in advance and making sure you have enough food to last you on Sundays. It means not being able to do a late night ice cream (or wine) run when you get a craving. You have to make sure you have that ice cream (or wine) already in stock. Basically, you need to be a boy scout to live here, which is funny because the Boy Scouts was founded by a Brit.
That’s it for now, but I do have more. I hope this list was interesting, maybe a little educational (?) and not too offensive. What do you think? Am I right or totally off the mark?