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Reflections from an airport lounge in Switzerland

My blogging activities have been a bit patchy of late – possibly my enthusiasm or ability to come up with topics to write about has run a bit dry after doing this gig for almost nine years. But one reason for my lack of output has been my business travels, since after a busy day heading around from place to place, it takes a bit of effort to crank up another posting. Anyhow, in one nation I visited in the past few days on business – Switzerland – I could not fail to be struck at how folk in that nation feel a sense of being under seige. Under siege, that is, from various financially ruined nations such as the US and UK who are becoming increasingly aggressive in chasing after taxpayers. And although Switzerland is far from perfect – they have their own bureaucratic foibles and petty rules – I generally like the cantonal system, which means that if the canton of say, Zurich, decides to impose some dipshit rule, another one might take a more liberal view. And on the issue mentioned by Perry de Havilland of the totalitarian tendencies of certain medical lobbyists, I’d argue that Switzerland falls pretty well near the liberal, if not libertarian, end of the spectrum. Take the issue of smoking in privately-owned places. Yes, there are bans in some places, but I noted, for instance, that at Zurich airport, there was a rather smart-looking cigar bar. (Smokers are treated fairly well on the whole). In the hotel I stayed in, folk were smoking in one part of it without provoking any kind of anguish from anyone else.

I occasionally write about this nation because it is useful to have an example out there of a nation that has managed to resist the siren songs of being a “good European” and joining the EU behemoth, and because its people seem to still have a sort of cussed independence of mind that is a pleasing contrast to what I come across elsewhere. No doubt the Eyeores in the comment thread will tell me otherwise.

As an aside, I find the Swiss accent of German as hard to understand as ever, and I thought my German was quite good.

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8 comments to Reflections from an airport lounge in Switzerland

  • I sometimes wish I still lived in Zug. I would be taxed at a total rate of about 8%, I would earn more pre tax than I do in London and I would have a much better range of outdoor activities on my doorstep. However, it is a bit boring and you can’t flush your loo after 10 at night without potentially getting a formal warning from your landlord. Their petty rules are very petty.

  • Effing and Blinding

    From our old pal Ritchie Murphy here where he discusses the Swiss:

    http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2010/01/15/swiss-private-banks-want-to-renege-on-information-exchange/comment-page-1/#comment-562398

    See below where he says:

    “You also make the case for strong sanctions
    And for making clear that tax evasion is a predicate offence for money laundering
    Which the Swiss must realise – at cost to them, if necessary”

    Where does this clown get off?

  • Paul Marks

    Zug is indeed the lowest taxed Canton – although it (and other low taxed Cantons) are forced to subsidize the high tax Cantons.

    Sadly Switzerland has a large government these days – although (if honest budget accounting methods are used – not the corrupt dodges of Gordon Brown and Barack Obama) a smaller government (in proportion to Civil Society) than Britain or the United States.

    The political class in Switzerland (which also controls much of the “education system” and the “mainstream media”) is as bad as anywhere else – it is even supportive of the European Union.

    However, the Swiss People’s Party (the largest party in Switzerland) still largely stands against the political, academic and media elite.

    The people are not unrepresented in Switzerland – which, sadly, they basically are in Britain.

    In Britain no major political party really stands for the people against the political class.

    All major political parties controlled by a P.C. “liberal” political class (which they are in Britain) may be “natural” (“what one would expect”), but it is still bad.

  • John B

    I try to see people as individuals, not whether they are Brits or French or Swedish.
    But there are national characteristics and the Swiss are, indeed, cool. Boring but cool.
    Where else can you set your watch by the arrival and departure of the local suburban bus?
    That much attention to reality – you have got to be free!

  • I’ve heard Germans complain that they can’t understand Swiss German.

  • Ivan

    Swiss German is in fact an altogether different language from standard German. They are about as different as, say, Russian and Polish or Italian and Spanish. There are also great differences between various local Swiss German dialects, and the standard German as spoken in Switzerland has a recognizable accent and some other peculiarities, though it’s easily understandable to other German speakers. The German-speaking Swiss are normally bilingual between Swiss and standard German, and they’ll switch between them depending on the occasion.

    For the readers who understand some German, here’s an interesting video where you can hear the difference between the standard German from Germany, standard German with Swiss accents, and what I assume is real Swiss German (I can hardly understand a word of it, even though I easily understood the entire preceding dialog):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Prew3Zi-qIQ

  • Great link, Ivan. I don’t speak any sort of German, but I have a good ear for accents. One thing that stands out immediately is that the Standard German accent has a lot of gutterals, and the Swiss German accent has almost none. The Standard German ‘R’ is like the Parisian French ‘R’, rolled with the back of the tongue. The Swiss German ‘R’ is rolled on the front of the tongue, like Italian and Spanish. Also, it seems Swiss German uses the voiceless velar fricative – the ch in loch – a lot less.

  • Rich Rostrom

    “I find the Swiss accent of German as hard to understand as ever…”

    I wonder which is most distinctive from the accent of the “homeland nation”: Switzer German, Vaudois French, or Ticino Italian?