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Seven reasons to miss Switzerland

October 31, 2018, No comments

What do you miss most about Switzerland? That’s a question I’ve been asked a lot in the last few months, mainly because I wasn’t in Switzerland. Instead of enjoying the long hot summer at home, I was enjoying a long hot summer around the world, in Dubai, Australia, Samoa, Hawaii, Alaska and Canada. And a little bit of winter too, in New Zealand. In almost every stop, especially in those places where I gave talks and signed books, one of the first questions was about what I missed the most.

The funny thing is that my answers simply reinforced everyone’s preconceptions about Switzerland. The things I missed the most are the exactly the things that make Switzerland and the Swiss stand out from the rest of the world.

  1. Punctuality. I’m so used to everything running like clockwork that it’s hard to stay patient when your airport transfer in Samoa is 45 minutes late or your train in Canada can’t stick to a timetable. I think I’ve become really Swiss in this.
  2. Cheese. Seeing yellow rubbery stuff with holes being sold as ‘Swiss cheese’ breaks my turophile heart. Almost as bad is having to search high and low for a decent piece of cheese that hasn’t been imported from Europe. As for cheese that’s orange or in a can, don’t even go there.
  3. Schorle. My favourite summery drink has spoilt me. Now when I’m abroad I usually must choose between water, a soft drink loaded with sugar or a vile diet soda of some sort. Where’s the healthier tastier option of apple juice mixed with water and nothing else?
  4. Water. Speaking of drinks, there’s nothing quite like cold fresh Swiss tap water and I really missed that. At home I never buy bottled water but abroad I often had to, either because the tap water was undrinkable or because it was unpalatable. Cholera and chlorine aren’t great additions to any glass of water.
  5. Transport. I don’t own a car. Never have and probably never will. In Switzerland, getting around on public transport is easy (though not cheap) but you don’t realise just how great the network is until you go somewhere where there isn’t one.
  6. Efficiency. Four months away and we had a string of useless car rental companies, hotels messing up bookings, sights unable to handle crowds, and weird opening hours. Every so often I wished for a dose of Swiss efficiency to make everything go smoothly.
  7. Chocolate. Of course, I missed my daily piece of heaven. That doesn’t mean I didn’t indulge in the local varieties but it was never quite the same. And even the Swiss chocolate abroad tasted different, whether it was Lindt in Abu Dhabi or Lindor in Auckland.

I didn’t miss Rivella or Ragusa, because no normal person would. But I hankered after swimming in the Aare and walking in the Alps, despite swimming in the sea and walking in the Rockies. Funny how that works.

For all that, it was wonderful to be abroad. I cherished every beach and seaside I went to. I appreciated every time I got service with a smile. I relished eating countless plates of fresh fish and seafood. I loved talking to strangers about nothing important.

And I was amazed at how often Swissness popped up all over the place. Kambly biscuits in a Dubai supermarket, Maggi in a Samoa market, a Swiss bakery in the middle of nowhere in Canada, a sign for Interlaken in Tasmania, and watches everywhere all the time.

Coming back after so long travelling I realised that it is true, absence does make the heart grow fonder. It was great to be away but it’s even better to be home.

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