About me

Travel writer, chocolate lover and Englishman in Bern.

I grew up in deepest Hampshire. A degree in International Relations from LSE and an 18-month world trip set me up for a career in travel writing, though I took the scenic route via bookselling. After ten years at Lonely Planet and Holiday Which? magazine, I decamped to Switzerland, where until recently I was manager of the Stauffacher English Bookshop in Bern.

As well as grappling with German grammar, re-learning to cross the road properly, and overcoming my innate desire to form an orderly queue, I have spent the last few years exploring the bits of Switzerland I’d never heard of before. And eating lots of chocolate.

I am now a full-time writer, occasional radio guest, member of the swissinfo Public Council and permanent expat.

If you would like to know more, then please:

46 Comments on "About me"

  1. Tiana July 12, 2010 at 1:27 pm · Reply

    Just finished your book and loved it! Great help for anyone moving to CH. Or already here for that matter.

    • swisswatching July 12, 2010 at 1:37 pm · Reply

      Thanks for the feedback! Glad you liked it. If you have time, please leave a review on one of the online bookshops (eg Amazon) listed in the ‘About the Book’ page above. It really does help others when they are browsing.

  2. Tiana July 15, 2010 at 10:57 am · Reply

    Done just that!

  3. David August 16, 2010 at 5:31 pm · Reply

    I really enjoyed your book “Swiss Watching”. I’ve lived here 12 years and most of the trivia you described I’m familiar with, but it still brings a smile! I’m wondering if you’ve come across any books or material describing the Naturalisation process to become Swiss. Would be interested to know people’s experience with the commune interviews!

  4. Clare Hossack September 14, 2010 at 4:36 pm · Reply

    Half way through ‘swiss watching’ and i’m loving it! So much information in it and its all in a fun and light hearted way! Next time i visit Bern i will pop into book shop

    • swisswatching September 17, 2010 at 11:30 am · Reply

      So glad you are enjoying it. If you have time, when you are finished, please write a review on any of the online bookshops or book sites. It really does help. And do pop in and say hi when you’re in Bern!

  5. Montse Babí December 12, 2010 at 9:43 pm · Reply

    Dear Diccon,

    I can’t thank you enough for your book. Not only did I enjoy it to the full, but it also had me laughing from Fribourg to Bern and back (a commuting trip I have to do every day because of my job) for some days. As it happens, both my husband and I are expats from Barcelona and really appreciated your contribution. Apart from the fun, we learned a lot reading it too!

    I also wanted to tell you about the typo I think I found on page 241 (last but one line) on the book, when you refer to GA for dogs on trains: it reads ‘It’s not a ridiculous as it sounds…’ instead of ‘as ridiculous as it sounds’.

    Please take no offence! I just hope there will be many more editions of the book and would like you to make it even better, if ever possible, that is.

    Thank you again!

    Montse Babí (from Fribourg)

  6. ben neville January 11, 2011 at 6:52 pm · Reply

    an excellent, insightful and funny book. so much so that my swiss girlfriend’s father threatened to throw me out of the car when i laughed out loud whilst reading it.

    • swisswatching January 12, 2011 at 8:39 am · Reply

      Hi Ben. Glad you liked the book; I enjoyed writing it. And I’m all for more out-loud laughter in Switzerland! If you have a moment, please write a review at one of the online bookshops like Amazon. It truly does help others buy the book.

  7. Sarah January 31, 2011 at 2:27 pm · Reply

    I really enjoyed your workshop yesterday at the ETAS AGM and I’m about half way through your book already! Just wanted to say thank you very much for the great ideas and for very entertaining workshop. I especially enjoyed the part about Swinglish, as my sister and I had our very own version while we were growing up here. It’s not until I went to university in the UK that I realised how Swiss I actually was! Thanks again!

    • swisswatching January 31, 2011 at 3:07 pm · Reply

      Hi Sarah. Thanks for the feedback on the workshop. Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did, and hope the lesson plans help you. I love talking about Swinglish – it’s always fun to find new examples. Diccon

  8. Kelly February 4, 2011 at 4:43 am · Reply

    I’ve been married to a Swiss man for a year and half. Your book explains many of his quirks. His parents visited over Christmas and I asked them why they only had one child. A much too private question for the Swiss. They politely avoided the question. I have much to learn before my trip to Basel for Carnivale.

    • Jayne November 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm · Reply

      Kelly, you might find that is Fasnacht in Basel!!

  9. Marian March 5, 2011 at 2:49 pm · Reply

    Hi Diccon,I have read your book …ehm TWICE! Wonderful!
    It would be interesting to read something ,of course written by you,about England!

  10. Cécile March 15, 2011 at 6:32 pm · Reply

    What a fantastic book! I was giggling away while reading it, leaving people around me in the train or at the gym puzzled about my mental health.
    Your book also contains a high quality wealth of information and your point of you is always very respectful. Next edition of “Grüezi Newcomer! Insider’s guide around Lake Zürich” will be released this summer and I already updated the part where we recommend you. Please write and publish more!

  11. Gabriela Ordoñez May 12, 2011 at 12:47 pm · Reply

    Thank you for writing such a funny, insightful, helpful, and overall excellent book! I loved it! I am really looking forward to your next book!
    Gabriela

  12. melo May 12, 2011 at 8:24 pm · Reply

    i have to say your book was a fantastic read..
    i found myself in a flat in Luzern with neither native language or swiss-for-english-dummies guide to explain my marvelling at the punctuality with which the neighbours came and went…and the subsequent confusion i experienced as to why its such a sin for people to smile in public there…or speak above a whisper on the trains…or anywhere else for that matter unless celebrating some rather obscure festival..
    I think my girlfriend sensed the culture shock within the first four days..the swiss are quite observant once they realise you exist…and in true swiss style administered the correct medicine before utter boredom prevented me from being yet another ‘foreigner’ to make it on their news bulletin… i.e your book..
    In her opinion ,I guess it was more efficient than a 7 day debate anyway..as i had to leave on the 8th day..
    and so its true… they(the swiss, i mean).. do warm to you eventually, once you shut up long enough for them to consider you not vulgar enough to sneer at…
    us brits do have trouble shutting up though… and i think deep down the swiss find it refreshing to dispense with such rigidly conservative decorum once in a while…if only to acknowledge that there are indeed other successfully thriving lifeforms of the culturally curious but decidedly ‘non invasive type’ living uite contentedly beyond those oh so protective mountains…
    after all.. with a bit or perseverance…i did indeed realise that these loud visitors to switzerland do actually need directions to the nearest food outlet with their weak tourist currencies…and the swiss will acomodate such need as efficiently as they will forwn at your sense of fashion..because.. and its only my conjecture… i think the swiss believe that they(the tourists) are rather a pain to fit in the recycling bins if they don’t see to it they leave as alive as they came… and it wont do to raise the recycling bills any higher than they are already..
    but that aside…it is as you say an amazing country if you scratch beneath the conserfacitism… i was surprised at just how armed to the back teeth such historical ‘neutrals’ are… it certainly discourages ‘staring’ too long anyway…and that’s no bad thing on a train with only two people… one of whom may be a foreigner that didn’t do his research and forgot to bring his gun…
    i think the uk could do well to learn how best to run a city full of secondo labourers without saddling every taxpayer with the bill aa well as a mortgage for a leash to the rather ungrateful british taxman who collects from them twice every time they spend a £..
    having enjoed soem swiss efficiency..i must say… i’d quite like one of ken’s bendy buses in london to at least run on time if it must kill every fouth cyclist it passes in the process… I think even die hard pr0-lifers here in london could quickly reach a swiss-style compromise on such a public service benefit in the uk..
    i’d love to write a book about a swiss person in jamaica one day… maybe i will..
    but once again..thanks for a fantastic read. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone as ignorant of the swiss as myself…and as envious..

  13. marti October 18, 2011 at 6:00 pm · Reply

    Great stuff, scooped it.

    http://www.scoop.it/switzerland

    High Five Marti Zuidam

  14. Livia November 19, 2011 at 11:37 pm · Reply

    Hi Diccon.

    I got weird looks in Australia for saying hi to eveyone at parties…it wasn’t until I read the chapter on Apéros etc. that I realised how very Swiss I’d become!

    Oh, and everywhere I go I see red shoes. Thanks for that!

    Just wanted to invite you to the “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp” PANTO being staged at Theater am Käfigturm in December! Yes, most of the actors are Swiss students of English (UniBern) but do not fear – there won’t be any “toking laik dis”…

    I know it’s rash of me to assume that you being British = you enjoy Pantos… but at least you know what a panto is – and what to expect. I’m afraid the majority of the (Swiss) audience has no clue what’s in store for them but they’re definitely in for a pleasant surprise…

    Have a look at our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/thepanto or blog: http://www.panto.ch and reserve your tickets asap (there’s only a handful of tickets left for the premier!)

    Cheers, Livia

  15. Tom Waugh (@tomnwaugh) January 27, 2012 at 3:24 pm · Reply

    Hi. Just wanted to compliment you on your blog. Can’t remember exactly how I came across it but I’m glad I did.

    I’m also an Englishman living here in CH but I’ve been here since 1995 and am still learning stuff.

    You can see some of my Swiss pics from Tessin here: http://is.gd/5KuQrm

    I’ve added you to my bookmarks. Keep up the great work.

    Tom

    • swisswatching January 27, 2012 at 8:37 pm · Reply

      Thanks Tom. Glad to hear you are enjoying the blog – I certainly enjoy writing it. Almost as much fun as writng the book in the first place!

  16. naomi February 5, 2012 at 4:57 pm · Reply

    Hello, I am from Malaysia, and i am doing an assignment on Switzerland and its sustainable tourism practices. Hope you can help me out here with a few questions.
    I am on the topic of smoking in Lucerne. I have read before that the Chapel Bridge fire in 1993 could have been due to a cigarette bud. How true is this? And I have also heard that no smoking is allowed on Chapel Bridge due to this fact. How true is this too?
    Hope to hear from you soon
    Thank you
    Naomi.

    • swisswatching February 9, 2012 at 11:14 am · Reply

      Hi Naomi. I don’t know much about smoking in Lucerne, I’m afraid. Maybe you should contact the local tourist baord (http://www.luzern.com/en/); they will speak English for sure. I have also heard it was possibly a cigarette that started the fire but can’t confirm it for you.

  17. Hooi Luan September 22, 2012 at 5:57 pm · Reply

    You are amazing. I hope one day I get to meet you in person. You are probably the one who makes Cailler chocolate sales figure go through the roof, now that the world knows it is the best Swicc choc!

  18. Devon November 17, 2012 at 12:41 am · Reply

    Hi, Diccon. I have just finished reading Swiss Watching, and I would like to thank you for such a helpful and insightful guide into Swiss life and culture. I will be spending three weeks in Bern soon, and I feel that I have a much better understanding of the country than I did before reading your book. I am an American who has never been to Europe at all, and I greatly appreciate your taking the time and initiative to help educate and inform those of us who want to learn about Switzerland and its inhabitants.

    • Diccon Bewes November 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm · Reply

      Hi Devon. Thanks for those kind words. I’m just glad you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. And Bern is a wonderful city. I love living here! So you will have a great three weeks. Maybe we’ll vene bump into each other – it’s not a big place.

  19. Matthew July 25, 2013 at 4:32 pm · Reply

    What started in a holiday cottage near the banks of Lake Geneva ended on the train from Bern back to Berlin. I finally finished “Swiss Watching” … and what a treat it was. I too found myself laughing outloud at times while reading it — humor mixed with historical detail is always a pleasure for me. My hope is that my Swiss friend (who I plan to recommend the book to) will like the book as much as I did. Well done!

  20. the road to battlefield October 18, 2013 at 5:50 am · Reply

    Greetings! Quick question that’s totally off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My web site looks weird when browsing from my apple iphone. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that
    might be able to resolve this issue. If you have any suggestions,
    please share. Thanks!

  21. Rose October 29, 2013 at 7:30 pm · Reply

    I’ve just come across your site on a journey around the internet in search of other English ex-pats in der Schweiz going through the poppy-wearing-in-a-neutral-country situation, and I was amused by your video about Swinglish. One of the things I have had to come to terms with is the Handy / mobile vocab problem… especially since my surname is Handy! This causes my Swiss colleagues much amusement, as I’m sure you can imagine!
    Thanks for the insights you give here, it’s good to know that there are other people in similar situations to me!
    Rose

    • Diccon Bewes October 30, 2013 at 10:12 am · Reply

      what a great surname to have in Switzerland!

  22. Claudette January 4, 2014 at 3:52 pm · Reply

    Je suis une Suissesse qui parle trois de nos langues nationales et j’ai beaucoup apprécié de me voir “décortiquée” par un Anglais plein d’humour ! Merci

  23. Iain Wylie January 30, 2014 at 2:34 pm · Reply

    Dear Diccon,

    I was recommended to contact you by a former member of the American Women’s Club in Lugano. I also understand Robin Bognuda is your contact here.

    I would be very interested to meet you for a coffee some time in Bern to talk about the possibility of a Ticino visit to speak to the Anglo-Swiss Club of Locarno. You can read about us on the above website.

    I don’t have your address, or I would send a former speaker list.

    Let me know when it is convenient for you and I will be glad to come to Bern.

    Thanks and regards,
    Iain Wylie, ASCL.

  24. Andre March 6, 2014 at 11:15 pm · Reply

    I hope I can grab your latest book in the library since I don’t like buying and colleting books.
    May I show you my contribution to Swissness (see website).
    Greets from another englishman in Switzerland :-)

  25. Daniel Lorenzin April 7, 2014 at 3:57 am · Reply

    Hi!
    I don’t want to rain on your parade or be a party pooper Diccon but your book was a bit of a
    disappointment. I expected more about the customs etc of the French -speaking part of Switzerland and Ticino. Beside mentioning two or three famous people, you obviously didn’t spend much time in these parts. I wonder why.
    .Daniel Lorenzin

    • Diccon Bewes April 8, 2014 at 11:57 am · Reply

      Hi Daniel. Clearly you didn’t read the bits where I went to Geneva, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Neuchatel, Gruyere, Lugano, the Centovalli line and so on. Or talked about how Romandie and Ticino make Switzerland what it is, ie not just a German-speaking country, or about the Röstigraben. I’m sorry you are disappointed but it is a book about the whole of Switzerland (with a focus on the majority German-speaking part), not a book on customs of one particular region or the other.

  26. Howard Smith April 24, 2014 at 12:38 am · Reply

    I have just finished reading ‘Swiss Watching’. Having visited Switzerland earlier in the year (staying in Chur and Kandersteg) I found the book both fascinating and entertaining as well as thoroughly researched and insightful. I now intend to get hold of a copy of ‘Slow Train to Switzerland’.

  27. Kasturi August 17, 2014 at 9:03 am · Reply

    Hi there, Diccon!
    I have just finished reading Swiss Watching and so I had to leave a message. Just wanted to inform you that I have fallen in love with your book and I am already making plans to buy your book ‘Slow Train to Switzerland’

    Being Indian I met my boyfriend on a penpal site who happens to be Swiss. And he was the one who sent me the book so that I could understand the Swiss better. Guess what, it really helped! Especially the tips. Though my boyfriend is always in denial that he isn’t that stereotypical but he is. I have the live example of all the Swiss traits you have mentioned which is him. Though he is not really a xenophobe as you can see.

    Right now we are in a long distance relationship. He visits me but I soon plan to visit him and this book is going to be very handy (not the Swinglish meaning)

    Thanks alot again. And I am so happy that I got a chance to read this humorous book.

    Greetings,
    Kasturi.

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