Simpson Swiss Blog




Living in Switzerland – Introduction

In this series, I want to tell you about living in Switzerland, or more specifically the eastern German speaking part. There is also the French and Italian parts with which I have less experience.

My perspective of Switzerland comes from living in the eastern part as an Auslander or outsider, since I was not born here but moved here just over 10 years ago.

While Switzerland enjoys a high standard of living among breath taking scenery this comes at a price that’s not just financial, but political and social.

As an outsider I have experienced Switzerland in a way that many Swiss do not experience, or if they do, they don’t notice, or accept that’s the way things are, or how they want it to remain.

I want to tell you about the many good things to be found in Switzerland as well as tell you about the many customs and ways the Swiss have of doing things that to an outsider seem strange, even bizarre and at times make no sense at all (at least not to me).

Some of my experiences of living here have been very funny, some very irritating, some frustrating, but many enjoyable. Living in any country which you were not born to or grew up in is a challenge and living in Switzerland is no exception.

The Swiss are extremely patriotic and you see Swiss Flags proudly flying not only from government or local authority building but many private homes as well.

They are proud to be Swiss and go to great lengths to maintain the status quo. This means they tend to be extremely conservative in their outlook and resistant to any change they perceive as undermining their autonomy.

They also don’t take kindly to outside criticism even when it’s constructive and it seems at times as if the rest of the world has nothing to teach them.

The very structure of Switzerland made up as it is of 26 cantons (counties or mini-states) means that the power base of Switzerland is very decentralized. In fact the real power bases are in the cantons and not central government for many key aspects of government.

Switzerland to me (the outsider) is very much like 26 countries trying to be one country. Within each one of those countries, or cantons there are the smaller local authorities each trying to maintain their own power base.

As an outsider I see things in a way that the Swiss don’t and that has been made frequently clear to me when talking to many Swiss people about why things are the way they are. They either don’t know, or tell you it’s always been that way, or they just never thought about it.

Seeing any country through the eyes of a tourist is very different to seeing the country through the eyes of someone who lives there. In the articles that follow I want to give you a glimpse of living in Switzerland not just visiting it.

1. Mind Your Language - Jun 2011

Tony Simpson - June 28, 2011.