THE INSIDER’S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING SWISS
by Alana Dunsmore
Whether you are new to Switzerland or have been here for a while, there always seems to be new questions regarding life in Switzerland, or at least that’s how I feel after living here for 6 years. Am I the only one that still seems to embarrass myself by making Swiss blunders?
Moving to a new country is difficult. New customs, cultures and politics mean there is a lot to learn if you really want to feel at home.
One of the go-to books for newcomers to Switzerland is Swiss Watching: Inside the land of Milk and Money by Diccon Bewes. This is a great resource for understanding everything Swiss – beyond skiing, chocolate or watchmaking.
DON’T FORGET YOUR SWORD: Politics in Switzerland
The book is a great resource for understanding the political system, whether you’re a politico or just trying to stay informed.
Throughout the book the author does an excellent job of discussing important elements such as referendums, but also including interesting tidbits – for example: the symbol of the voting sword. Until 1991, in Appenzell canton, the sword represented someone’s right to vote. Yes, you’d bring your sword to vote and actually would raise the sword to place your vote. Nowadays it’s a card, how boring!
The book is a great source of knowledge for something that many of us will never participate in, but that’s doesn’t mean we shouldn’t understand the system!
You don’t have to live in Switzerland very long before you discover Heidi. The fictional figure is on everything from milk jugs to promotional print.
The book investigates this little girl and the writer behind the character. Bewes takes a deep look at the history of Heidi, from a graveyard to Heidiland after which he discovers Heidi may not even be Swiss, turns out she is German!
TIPS TO AVOID EMBARRASSMENT
Throughout the book Bewes also shares very handy Swiss watching tips. These are cultural elements that involve dos and don’ts, so you don’t offend or embarrass yourself. For example, what you should or shouldn’t do at an apéro. Did you know there are rules at those so-popular apéro events? Neither did I! First duty as a guest at an apéro event, before getting that glass of wine, is to go around and say hello to everyone present. One reason to arrive first! The same goes for when you leave. If you don’t have a good memory, like me, you better not drink too much because as you go to say goodbye to everyone it’s proper to include everyone’s first name when saying goodbye!
I JUST WANT SOME POCKET MONEY
Anyone else remember their first time going to a Swiss ATM? I do! I didn’t know whether I should be shocked or laugh and now I just laugh. I went to withdraw some pocket money. You know for candy at the convenience shop or a coffee in a café. While at the ATM I select 100 for the amount. Next I selected the mixed note, thinking I would get 20s but to my shock two 50s pop out. I said to myself that no small shop was going to change this, but I tested it and sure enough the small shop owner didn’t even blink before handing me the change! In his discussion of the Swiss franc the author explains this phenomenon.
STREET CRED FOR SWITZERLAND: Swiss creations
Here Bewes shares the 10 things you would never guess are created by the Swiss. Yes, there is more than chocolate and cheese, but don’t worry he discusses the history of these two including the proper etiquette of eating fondue. For example, it is a no-no to drink anything fizzy, especially sparkling water when enjoying your fondue.
He shares some surprising Swiss creations, such as cellophane and its original use, which was for the eye goggle part of gas masks during the first world war. The Swiss creation of the electric toothbrush was originally required to be plugged into the wall with a cord while brushing. In spite this, it was a huge success! There’s more to the Swiss ingenuity than just the watch industry.
This is a definite MUST READ for newcomers or veteran expats in Switzerland! It is a great resource for understanding Switzerland. Bewes discusses all elements of Switzerland from political and historical to Swiss inventions and it is full of fun tidbits! Be prepared to say “Wow, that’s so interesting!” quite a lot. This makes you feel like you are getting a behind the scenes look, making you feel more confident in your new world.
WHERE TO BUY
The book is available for purchase on bookdepository.com. If you decide to buy from bookdepository it would be nice if you bought it through the link here in the article. It would not cost you any more but because we have set up an affiliate programme with them it will give us a small commission. We are a small business therefore every little bit helps us to continue providing helpful content to our audience.