Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Swiss Watching - An Englishman in Switzerland

Diccon Bowes is an English man who lives in Switzerland. He has observed the way of living here and of course he has also observed the Swiss... He writes about his life in Berne on his blog and has also published a book called "Swiss watching" (like whale watching). I have heard an interview with him on the radio and he made me laugh and smile. He writes about strange things in Switzerland which we, who are of Swiss native, think are normal. Looking at those things from a different angle may make them particular also for the Swiss and make us grin.

I must get that book in order to learn something about myself.
 That is always interesting, isn't it?

A ‘Best Book of 2010′: Financial Times
Forget everything you thought you knew about Switzerland. Swiss Watching is an original and intriguing read about this fascinating country. Expect the unexpected as the book unlocks this landlocked island, going behind the stereotypes of banks and skis, francs and cheese. In Swiss Watching, Diccon Bewes’ expert knowledge dispels the myths and unravels the true meaning of “Swissness”. One country with four languages, 26 cantons and 7.7 million people (but only 80% of them Swiss): there’s nowhere else like it in Europe. Switzerland may be almost 400 km from the nearest drop of seawater, but it is an island at the centre of Europe.
This is the country that not only gave us the Red Cross and an army knife, but also the Toilet Duck (1980) and Velcro (1955). It’s a country famous for punctual trains, strict neutrality, and Roger Federer – but what lies behind these stereotypes? What does Switzerland look like from the inside? 
Swiss Watching is a revealing historical journey around Europe’s most individual country. While seeking Heidi and meeting Tell, it relives a bloody past and explores an uncertain future. Unexpected facts include that for a country known for its cleanliness and courtesy, it has some of the worst graffiti in Europe and forbids recycling on Sundays; the Swiss consume the same amount of chewing gum per head as Americans, and most of it ends up on the pavement.  It is also known as a conservative nation, with the anti-minaret vote and right-wing politics, although this doesn’t stop Switzerland attracting over 15 million visitors a year! 
In a land of contradictions, this is a picture of the real and normally unseen Switzerland, a place where the breathtaking scenery shaped a nation not just a tour itinerary, and where tradition is as important as innovation.It’s also the story of its people, who have more power than their politicians, but can’t speak to one another in the same language – and who own more guns per head than the people of Iraq. As for those national clichés, well, not all the cheese has holes, cuckoo clocks aren’t Swiss and the trains don’t always run exactly on time. Swiss Watching puts the wit into Switzerland  
Swiss Watching is published by Nicholas Brealey, and is now on sale everywhere.

♥ Emilie's daughter 


  1. Dear Christa - it is good to read about our own country, and see ourselves as others see us. You are right, you often do learn something new - and congratulations on giving us the Toilet Duck! Did you read that book about Paris called A Year in the Merde?
    American, Bill Bryson, has written lots of books about living in Britain, and they are really amusing.
    I shall put Diccon Bewes book on my reading list. Thanks very much for the recommendation.

  2. Yes it is funny isn't it? I wrote at the beginning of my blog in Norwegian about how I see Norway and Nordmenn. People laughed. Like I laugh now, when a greek friend comes for a visit, having the same reactions I had twelve years ago... still I find a lot of things here every strange. Just like my husband ( my Viking) will never understand why all Greeks are literally screaming while talking on the phone ;p

  3. I know that i will relate to Diccon's book. 17 years ago when i first started visiting my daughter Nina in Lucern. I was blown away , by the Swiss.
    Nina and I would laugh at some of their strange habits and ways. Over the years It became a second home to me, I had also learnt a lot from the Swiss way of life. Still many of the "Swiss" ways are strange to me, but became less so as the years passed. The Swiss can certainly teach us a lot about recycling..certainly how to ski !
    I had the same reaction when i came to live here in Portugal. "Gosh, i used to say" what funny things these people do. (one is as Demie said.. the portuguese look as though they are going to kill each other when in conversation about something passionate.) The English people do not understand it at all.
    Dawning on me one day.. I thought.. yes, we can see these different ways and habits... but how do these people see us!.. or others from different countries.
    Its a world of different contrasts and cultures.. ways and habits that sometimes baffle us. Its what goes to making our world more interesting.
    I will be looking out for the book Christa..
    Have a happy wednesday in Berne..
    very interesting blog.

  4. Just to add. As Demie said "just like the Greeks scream.." the Portuguese do the same. It is often quite entertaining to watch their antics..

  5. Hello Christa:
    What a fun read this book looks to be. Thank you for the recommendation. Cultural differences are a source of endless fascination for us and certainly in Budapest there are no shortages. It is so intriguing to learn how the traits and customs of others are seen through the eyes of foreigners.