Spending time in a foreign location, living with locals, exploring the region in a somewhat slow pace has many benefits. One of these advantages is getting to explore and understand the lives that the people of the region live.
It is a fantastic experience when among all the differences that exist on the exterior you find similarities that make you feel warm and welcomed, even when you are thousands of miles away from your native land.
Switzerland was, for me, a sort of a revelation. Natural beauty aside – which, beyond a doubt, impressed me – I was taken in by how the country worked and especially by its people.
Even though different regions are highly influenced by their neighbours in terms of language, food, and culture, there is a sense of calm and unity that runs across the country. The support they display towards society and working for the greater good is a characteristic that is really commendable.
In observing the locals, as best as I could, I was truly impressed by certain traits I found to be alluring. Now, obviously these traits are not exclusive to the people of Switzerland. They can easily be found in individuals across the world and a similar sort of love for country and countrymen is quite common elsewhere too.
However, I found these traits omnipresent across all the places I travelled to in the country and maybe that’s why they left a positive impression on my mind, enough so as for me to write about them;
Work with their Hands – The Swiss love to work with their hands; watch-making, wine, chocolates, farming, cheese, I found the Swiss to be really hard working and not shy away from manual labour. Whether it is working in vineyards around the year or the delicately complex work required in making watches, the Swiss have for long believed in the power of the hands and the fact that their products are considered the best around the globe is proof of their dedication.
Pride – The Swiss are very proud of everything local and part of that is also because a lot of hard-work and passion goes into whatever they produce. What I found even more adoring was that the Swiss live by example; all the patronization for local products is not just for tourists or to “sell” them, rather they go out of their way and even pay extra at times to self-consume what they produce, be it wine and chocolates or vegetables from the weekly held farmer’s market.
Live and Let Live – You may be surprised to know that many celebrities from around the world have residences in Switzerland. One of the primary reasons for this is that the Swiss know how to mind their own business. A celebrity can walk down a busy street, shop at a local store, and no one will bother them besides a courteous hello or a good day.
Love for Food and Wine – There’s something infectious about the love that the Swiss have towards food and wine. The importance they give to produce and especially where it comes from (locally sourced products are always preferred as mentioned above) as well as magnificent food preparations at homes let alone restaurants is the reason why Switzerland is considered a dominant force in the culinary world.
Indifferent to the Weather – One of the most surprising characteristics of the Swiss is that they never crib about the weather. It is what it is and they simply adapt to it. For example, when researching for tourist walks I found that all of them advertised saying “come rain or shine” they will go ahead as planned. Being one with nature and what it has to offer, good or bad, is really something special.
Affection towards Children – The Swiss go out of their way for children. Whether it is discounts on food and local travel or using every free space of land they can find and converting it into parks with swings and jungle-gyms, they go out of their way to accommodate kids (both local and visiting) and as a result the bonds of family run deep in the country.
Walking and Keeping it Green – The love for nature that the Swiss have is also evident from the fact that they enjoy walking. Hiking is more than just a pass-time and even in their day to day lives walking (or using public transport) is encouraged. That might seem normal, but remember, the topography of Switzerland is such that walking isn’t always easy. Moreover, they are aware of their responsibility towards nature, and many villages and towns are car free because of that – Zermatt, one of the most popular ski-towns of the world, is petrol/diesel car free with only electric cars allowed.
Attitude Towards Art & Culture – There is so much art and culture in Switzerland, everywhere you go, that if you don’t stop and look, you will miss out on most of it. Murals on walls, museums, sculptures all around, beautiful fountains, buildings so spectacular that they are probably every architectural student’s wet dream; there’s something for everyone, and all you have to do is keep your eyes open.
Humble – One of my closest friends is Swiss and till the time I visited her this summer I had no clue about the amazing experiences that Switzerland has to offer. The Swiss are very proud of what they have but do not go boasting about it. They are very humble about their achievements and about the beauty of their country. Okay they have an amazingly expansive tourism board, but were it not for Yash Chopra and his movies, I’m sure we in India wouldn’t have “discovered” the beauty of Switzerland till a lot later.
Strong family ties, warmth towards visitors, love for society (volunteering to take care of common gardens or help with local official business), using their regional products, the Swiss truly lead by example in every field and that is why, be it for just a vacation, it is not possible to return from Switzerland without being impressed by the people and how they live.