If Switzerland were a man, he’d be up in his luxury penthouse looking down on the world wearing a grey suit, extremely good looking and meticulously groomed. He’d occasionally touch his Rolex while stirring a pot of fondue…no scratch that, paying someone to stir his pot of fondue, but offering instructions that have to be followed to a tee that must be followed exactly or that person has to start again. He’ll coolly give off commands and with a stern look and a telling off to correct you for your disobedience of the rules (after making you sign a 10-page contract that is). That man, ladies and gentlemen, is Christian Grey.
I want to like Switzerland, I really really do, but after giving the country a second chance on my recent visit to Basel, after my stints at CERN for months at a time in Geneva in the past, I’m afraid that Switzerland is a country in Europe that is just incompatible with me. It’s like that date you meet from OKCupid, the one who most would think is perfect in every way, but you’d still prefer to go home with the scruffy artist you met in the dive bar the other night.
You probably think I’m a bit weird (disclaimer – I probably am), here’s my reasoning behind the Switzerland and Christian Grey analogy.
Switzerland is just too good looking for you
I first travelled to Switzerland when I was 16 on a coach trip to Italy. I remember passing through
those mountains the first time, scribbling in my travel journal “this is the most beautiful country in the world” (I didn’t know much better then), looking out of the window in awe as we crossed by the Alps, rising out of pine forests while being reflected in the nearby lakes. Switzerland is undeniably beautiful, even its cities, like Geneva and Basel, look like something out of a fairytale.
But it’s too perfect, almost too manicured. While I shouldn’t complain that the cities and the country is too clean (a clean city is a good thing), it’s intimidating. You’re scared you’ll taint it somehow, or that you don’t live up to that city’s high standards and expectations.
Switzerland is too rich for you
Like Christian Grey, Switzerland is loaded. It’s the country of banks and luxury watches, and it’s also easy to bankrupt yourself in a day just by eating and sleeping. Just like those annoying tourists who come to Budapest, throw their money around carelessly in Szimpla shouting how cheap the country is clearly don’t think of those there earning Hungarian wages (it gets a lot less cheaper then), Switzerland is the opposite. You get a one-course lunch and a coffee, maybe treat yourself to a glass of wine, and suddenly all that cash you took out of the machine is gone. Yet the streets of Geneva and Basel boast of opulence, luxury stores and designers, beautifully crafted watches and banks that agree to take on your services even if you issue them an NDA.
Switzerland is too much of a control freak for you
At a dinner party with an Italian colleague from CERN back in Geneva, he told me his neighbours would call the police if anyone played the TV too loudly after 7pm. My German friend laughed, “The Swiss make us Germans look chilled out.”
In the Museum of Fine Arts in Basel, with my the handbag I’ve taken to art galleries across the world, I get chided and told it needs to go in the cloakroom which is on the other side of the building. I’m a bit miffed at this point – would have been nice if there was a sign saying this when I came in or had been told by staff at the door that it needed to go in the cloakroom, so I argued back.
I was told it’s rules and regulations, I argued I understood that but they really should be clearer about this at the entrance. The same thing happened in the airport, where my suitcase – which has travelled on other EasyJet flights including the way over from Budapest – got singled out as I was about to go through the gate to my flight.
The woman at the gate told me to go to the back of the line, and to put the suitcase in the crate because she needed her colleague to inspect it. Perhaps I got unlucky, perhaps it’s my resting bitch face that offended the Swiss I don’t know. I get rules are there for a reason, maybe I’m too used to living and travelling in countries where you break them.
If the Above Doesn’t Bother You…
Then you’ll like Switzerland! It is a country that is beautiful and has a lot of culture and plenty of attraction, I get it. You do you and you do Switzerland. Just like many women will love Christian Grey (even think him the perfect man, if NDAs and contracts are your thing), Switzerland will appeal to lot of people. And my dear Switzerland, I’m afraid you’re just not my type.
Cover image of Geneva by Dennis Jarvis.