Switzerland From The Inside
By Réza Ganjavi
[THIS BOOK IS IN PROGRESS -- CONTENT IS ADDED AS I FIND TIME]
[DRAFT - IN PROGRESS / (Nannnnneedsformatting)] DISCLAIMER / STEREOTYPES / GENERALIZATIONS
Stereotypes and generalizations are inherently inaccurate. Therefore everything I say here you should add the phrase "with exception".
In my first trip to Switzerland, I flew inland, over the Alps and the green mountains. I was overtaken by the beauty and so much greenery.
After I moved to Switzerland, I was taken on a tour. First arrival at center of Baden, I was at awe at the size and beauty of the clock tower. In the US I had seen such things but only fake ones, in Disneyland for example -- here it was the real thing!
EYE CONTACT, LACK OF FEAR
I noticed people were much less nervous about "strangers" than in the USA. The reason I think is because of the size and structure of society, e.g., widespread use of public transport by all classes of society. When you are close to people, you see, hear, smell, sense them, you know they're humans like you. I think in the USA in many places because of the huge size of the society and the four-wheel culture, people don't have a chance to meet strangers randomly so many are afraid of strangers. Not to mention the level of gun carrying in the USA, which is not the case in Switzerland.
I sensed Swiss people -- perhaps many Europeans in similar societies as Switzerland, have good eye contact -- which I believe is due to that lack of fear. I loved that. Eye contact is important. You can see right through a person's inner depth.
ONE FACED vs. BRITISH CULTURE
I find most Swiss people to be one-faced vs. in the UK for example where you never know what you're getting. In Switz. often what you see is what you get, which is how I am. In the UK, being "polite" is so important, at any cost, including backstabbing the guy you were just nice to, after he leaves the room. I can't tolerate that kind of attitude and view that as a weak part of the British culture. Of course there are exceptions.
Swiss people are some of the most music loving people in the world. They really appreciate music. When I first moved to Switzerland, people would see the guitar with me in the train and asked me to play, or I played quietly on the lovely train rides through most picturesque landscape. The response I got was incredible, and I will gradually add notes to this file as time allows. I have enough material on Switzerland for ten books!
Most Swiss people's love for music led me to record a CD which became a best-seller, and a second CD, and it pushed me to become a professional musician -- but I also maintained my IT profession which brought in better money than music. Most professional musicians in Switzerland also teach. I never had the time to teach music, aside from one-off students.
Most Swiss people are so responsive to music - it always surprises me. For example I may be in a supermarket and humming some melody quietly. Someone is bound to say "Schöne"! (Nice).
Swiss people are stereotyped for being introvert. When it comes to expressing love for music, they're absolutely uninhibited. It's magical. Music's power is magical, and it seems to melt any sense of inhibition (I'm not endorsing the stereotype -- that's addressed in another section).
I was so happy when I moved to Switzerland that I didn't have to have a car. You can get by completely without a car, and you don't have to worry about parking ticket, insurance, mechanic work, flat tire, etc. -- of course a car is helpful but it's not necessary. Even to the smallest villages there are buses, as part of an amazing network that covers the entire country -- with train and bus times synchronized.
The trains are comfortable, comfortably warm in the winter (that's not the case in every country). Not to say that they have become unbearable for me as someone who doesn't want to expose oneself to genotoxic pulsed microwave radiation. Most trains these days are zapped with some 6 Volt/meter of RF-EMF from people's cell phones, cell towers / masts outside, routers inside. I hardly ever travel by train any more and when I do I wear EMF shielding under my clothes...
As mentioned above, Swiss people's love for music pushed me into making CDs and becoming a professional musician. When I moved to Switzerland, my level of playing was as a mid-level hobby player but it significantly improved through much training, and great teachers like Angelo Gilardino and Luigi Biscaldi who transformed my playing.
I I have had so much fun on Swiss trains and met so many of my friends and fans there. An article was written in a newspaper about the train musician. I never ask for money or go around -- but play for myself and people love it. I start quietly to feel the place and before you know it everybody is into it and I'm playing at normal volume.
Once a conductor said don't play, and other people protested and told him, no, we want him to play.
I have so many great train stories.
Swiss people inherently feel they can make a difference in the running of their country, by forming small groups and acting. This has been most refreshing to see. In many other countries it's only done through politicians, representative government.
Swiss people feel empowered to bring change. This is done through ref randoms and initiatives. It takes time but it works.
Even in the winter when some countries are unbearable due to air pollution, Swiss air is generally clean. A couple of youngsters told me
"Oh Zurich air is so dirty"
Where are you from?
You have no idea what dirty air is. Try going to Tehran or Beijing where after a day the nose starts working (you lose sense of smell).
Einstein said he feels at peace every time he returns to Switzerland. I do too. It may get boring after a few days. But I really appreciate the tranquility. For me, Switzerland is a place of rejuvenation.
Speed traps are everywhere -- esp. in Canton Zurich. You speed, you get caught. And it's very expensive.
Driving lessons are expensive and people typically spend over $1000 to learn to drive. I learned it by doing - from dad, uncle, etc. - and studied and
I never had to take a test as my California license was converted to a Swiss one. But if you fail the driving test 3 times you're sent to a psychologist!
Tail gating is big in Switzerland. There are specific laws that prohibit it, for good reasons, but most people seem to not know that and not understand how dangerous it is to tailgate. It's an imposition mindset I guess.
I find most Swiss drivers as inhibited to pass others even when there's a broken line (passing allowed) and they rather wait behind a tractor going 10 km/hr than to pass it. But once in a while someone passes 8 cars at the same time, which is not legal. Instead of passing you if you're going 1 km below speed limit on a passing-allowed area, the drivers often honk or tailgate to make you go at or above speed limit, which I find strange -- just pass me -- it's passing lane -- I'm chill going 49 in 50 zone.
I have never seen a police pull a car over for speeding etc., like in the US where there's Highway Patrol for example. Switzerland mainly relies on cameras to catch speeders. Once a speeder was fined over a million CHF = ~Dollar. But there are random checks once in a blue moon where cars are stopped for a random check. Especially in Jan/Feb to check vignette.
Unlike in some other countries, traffic fines are very inflexible and binary. There's no possibility of getting them reduced. It's black and white. You're either guilty or not -- not like in the US where judge can reduce your fine on a speeding ticket. I guess it could be possible but going in front of a judge in Switzerland can cost you an arm and a leg as judges are paid by the hour and not one flat filing fee.
The grace speed limit is 3 km/hr. If you go 54 in 50 zone you have to pay up. Anything more than 25 km/hr is considered criminal and is referred to prosecutor to fining. Germans consider that funny since in Germany most freeways have no speed limit.
Haldane's book On Being The Right Size explains well why it felt so good to be in Switzerland regarding the size, as a contrast to Los Angeles where there's no center, and is just too big. In general I small small cities -- I also like big cities, they have a buzz -- but living in small cities is more comfortable for me -- I don't need the glamour of big city life though I'm a big city boy (born in Tehran which today has over 15 millions inhabitants).
I like running into people I know which hardly ever happens in Los Angeles for example, because it's so big.
The small country size also means it's easy to manage. The small size is a big factor for the impeccable organization of the country.
Government offices in Switzerland are a breeze to deal with. No lines. Low bureaucracy and red tape. You walk in and immediately get your case taken care of. It's not the same in many other countries.