Being Swiss

Nov 11, 2017 | ThinkTanks

One of the most famous Swiss jokes is about being Swiss. When Roger Federer, a tennis world champion, was asked by a journalist what he thought the best thing about Switzerland was, he replied that the flag was a big plus. SUISSEPIC decided to ask locals to answer the same question.

I performed this so-called interview through several social groups on Facebook. I received more than a hundred different answers from the Swiss, the Schweizers, the Suisse, the Svizzeri and expats.

Economy and politics

So behind the most beautiful mountains, the best fondue and chocolate there was an appreciation for the political system and economic stability, almost equality. For example “The members of the council use public transportation”, which is one of the best in the world.

“On time” matters

The other thing is punctuality. The Swiss are serious about doing things on time. It is very rare for a train or a bus not to arrive on schedule. Yes, they are precise and some of them really do have a lot of passion for watches, which are of course a subject of national pride. I remember once talking with the owner of a local bar in Geneva. After a while he told me about a small collection of mechanical watches that he had at home. Now I am no longer surprised by the words “they have a moon” or “tourbillion”.

Photo: Maria Talanova / suissepic

Geneva

Personal habits, like laws and taxes, may vary from one canton to another. It is really funny how the Swiss or expats living in a German part of Switzerland say that Geneva is not Swiss. In fact, being an important place of global governance, Geneva is really very international: 41% of citizens living here are foreigners speaking more than two languages at home. On the other hand, the Genevans often refer to people from the Vaud canton as “farmers”. Even eating their morning muesli they often complain about the cross-border workers, as well as about people from Vaud and Valais, who often say that people from Geneva are in fact French.

Well-eduacted

Yes, they are very well-educated. Almost everybody in Switzerland speaks at least three languages fluently. Once in Geneva we were invited to a small burger party at the home of a Swiss-Lebanese family. Besides the fact that the quality of the Lebanese burgers was perfect because of the meat, the lady of the house spoke 5 languages: Lebanese with her husband, English with the kids, French with Genevan people and German with friends from the German part of the country, and some Italian just for fun. That conversation was like a song. And she confirmed that most Swiss who work for governmental institutions speak 4-5 languages on average.

Switzerland vs. Sweden

They also confirm that famous joke about being called “Swedish”. It happens very often so they are used to it. And yes, because of the local prices and the quality of life the Swiss could be easily compared to Scandinavian countries. I remember once being interviewed for a survey in Copenhagen – I mentioned the issue of Scandinavian prices, which could be compared to the Swiss ones. The Danish interviewer winked at me, saying “No, even the Swiss, coming to Denmark, want to come back ASAP. When it comes to expenses and prices, we are one step ahead”. We both were laughing loud at that moment.

Respect

The matter of prices, however, is mitigated by high salaries and very good conditions for entrepreneurship. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Switzerland shows a clear orientation towards innovation and international markets, and for this reason the country is classified as an “innovation-driven economy”. According to the GEM, the typical Swiss entrepreneur is a man of 34 to 44 years old, but they are highly concerned about involving women in this process. Respect and concern are the main words in Switzerland. Measure twice (better three, four or five times), and cut once.