Switzerland has been an interesting cultural learning experience. For a country of scenary similar to New Zealand, it unfortunately is nothing much like it. As the Meisters and I have figured out – almost nothing is the same. It really is hard to think of something that the two places share. Everything is so regiment and planned here. To the very letter with every ‘i’ dotted and t crossed. To me it even almost feels sterile, like there isn’t much life here. It feels too safe, clean and consistent.
The biggest show for this is the train system. Always on time to the minute. Always clean. Perfect plans in place for maintenance and issues (such as the unfortunately frequent train jumping suicides).
Most people greet you “gruetsi” (sp?) when you pass them on the street – although this could just be a small village of Aadorf thing… and possibly something still existent in tight-nit communities in New Zealand.
Buildings are mostly concrete squares with little life or colour. Schools especially shocked me – mostly office-like buildings with no life at all. If it wasn’t for the kids running around them, you’d often have no idea they were schools.
Changing between different cantons to see the different cultural influences is also very striking. The French part of Switzerland is very dead-set French. In fact English is almost preferred over German – in Switzerland! The same goes for the Italian part in the south. Even the trains switch over to Italian on the electronic signs once you cross into an Italian canton. It was really like being in Italy – the architecture of the buildings changed too… considering we were only 80km or so away from Milan, it doesn’t seem so strange, but still surprising when you’re still paying in Swiss Francs and still within the country’s borders.
I wish I had been taking note of more things… because the list is quite large. Whilst travelling around with Stef there was almost something new to learn every day about how it was different from New Zealand. I used to call Switzerland a smaller richer New Zealand…but I might have to rethink that…