April 1 in Switzerland

April 1, 2011, 10 Comments

SpaghettiThe Swiss spaghetti harvest. A classic clip from the BBC Panorama programme that was broadcast in April 1957 – back when people still believed what they saw on television. The hoax worked for so many reasons: it was on the BBC (beyond reproach in those days), the narrator was Richard Dimbelby (who had commentated on the Queen’s Coronation a few years before), and spaghetti was still an unknown dish for most Britons – something odd that usually came in a can with tomato sauce.

But perhaps what gives it that extra believability is that it takes place in Switzerland. Using Ticino rather than Italy for the spaghetti harvest was a master-stroke. Those trustworthy Swiss would never be party to such a blatant lie, would they? Italians, well, you couldn’t trust them; they were the enemy 12 years ago, after all. And the Swiss are famous for not having a sense of humour, so it must be true.

As if to prove that last point wrong, the Swiss themselves came up with a great April Fool (or Aprilscherz in German, poisson d’avril in French) in 2009. Again it uses the Swiss reputation for honesty and attention to detail to make it believable, playing on Swiss clichés of obsessive cleanliness and love of mountains to add extra credibility.

The video was made by the Swiss Tourist Board, giving it a stamp of officialdom, and some people actually asked about applying to the Association of Swiss Mountain Cleaners. The irony is that such a club is really not so far from the truth. It could easily exist somewhere in Switzerland, which is essentially a country made up of clubs of every sort. But at least the Swiss recognise that, and can sometimes even laugh at their own stereotypes. Even if only once a year.

10 Comments on "April 1 in Switzerland"

  1. Fergus Miller Friday April 1st, 2011 at 10:20 AM · Reply

    “The irony is that such a club is really not so far from the truth. It could easily exist somewhere in Switzerland, which is essentially a country made up of clubs of every sort. But at least the Swiss recognise that, and can sometimes even laugh at their own stereotypes. Even if only once a year.”

    Hi Diccon,
    Maybe they “The Swiss” should start a club to remove all the graffiti they have here in Switzerland as you point out in your book correctly so!
    Don’t take this the wrong way Diccon but sometimes you come across as a bit anti Swiss, I wonder if your attitude would change if your partner was Swiss? I am sure you will correct me if I am wrong but I think he comes from Liechtenstein which also is just a “club” of Switzerland with zero sense of humour!
    What clubs are you a member of? I guess at least a Fasnacht club!
    Have a great warm weekend Diccon
    Best Regards

  2. expatraveler Friday April 1st, 2011 at 07:42 PM · Reply

    I do love the pranks from the Swiss on April Fools day. I guess I must head on over to see what is in store for the day!

  3. Brige Friday April 1st, 2011 at 09:05 PM · Reply

    @Fergus — Diccon anti-Swiss? Is this your contribution to April Fool’s Day?

  4. Patrick Friday April 1st, 2011 at 09:18 PM · Reply

    Fergus, I completely disagree with you regarding Diccon sometimes coming across “as a bit anti Swiss” – I have read the book and virtually the entire blog, and always perceived his writing as being full of respect and a deep understanding for Swiss culture, sometimes even too much “pro Swiss” – and I’m Swiss 🙂

    Yes, there’s also some criticism and irony, but that’s a good thing – Switzerland may be one of the nicer countries to live in, but no country is a paradise, and Switzerland isn’t an exception. Life in Switzerland is good, altogether, but not perfect. Neither are we Swiss 🙂 – I like Diccon’s approach of pointing out our flaws and idiosyncrasies in a charming way! A book full of unmitigated praise for Switzerland from the first to the last page would be a lie, and not something interesting to read…

    • Fergus Miller Saturday April 2nd, 2011 at 11:35 AM · Reply

      Patrick, I guess I knew I would get some kind of reaction to my comment and I guess that’s why Diccon allowed it to be posted!

      I am sorry I have offended you.

      I agree with you about the book and his blog.

      I only said “a bit” and I am a Bitzeli anti Swiss! that’s all I am saying and what I feel from reading his blog which he allows comments on.

      You clearly point out in your comment that Diccon’s book is not full of “unmitigated praise” in fact your comment is neither positive or negative, now there is a Swiss stereo type!

      An Englishman pointing out the flaws & idiosyncrasies of the Swiss in a charming way could sometimes be seen as being patronizing, which is one thing I am sure Diccon is not.

      I am also “Swiss” 🙂 what ever that means and I have Swiss friends who have read his book & enjoyed it.

      The thing I see most in Switzerland with Foreigners who live here is that they don’t integrate because of the stereo type Swiss person they think they will come across, that’s why they should read Diccon’s book, but they should take NO notice of the chocolate blind tasting in it, Coop’s own brand is too sweet……just how the English like it 😉

      I am sure Diccon is a Charming man and I look forward to meeting him one day.

      • swisswatching Sunday April 3rd, 2011 at 09:21 AM · Reply

        Well, what can I say to all this but thanks for being interested and commenting.

        Just to point out, Fergus, that I ‘allow’ all comments to be published, even the one on the “Neutral but armed and ever-ready” post that said: “guess what? .. you don’t like it here.. get the f*** out! ..” Not pleasant, but showed how defensive and ignorant some people are when their country/politics is criticised. I certainly don’t just publish the comments that will make me look good or provoke a debate.

        As for the blind chocolate tasting, it was a group of 40 people, half Swiss, half expats (and very few of them English) who chose the winner. I was not involved as a taster. Swiss chocolate in general is far too sweet – much sweeter than English chocolate, at least for this Englishman!

        I don’t set out to be pro- or anti-Swiss, but to try to inform and entertain people while giving my own take on Switzerland and its people. How others react to what I write, well, that I can’t control or even predict.

  5. Janie Saturday April 2nd, 2011 at 05:54 AM · Reply

    Thanks for the laugh.

  6. Fergus Miller Sunday April 3rd, 2011 at 10:46 AM · Reply

    Thanks for being neutral Diccon, I am sure you have tried Migros (Frey) Chocolate which is much better than Coop, where were the 20 Swiss from……Bern?! 😉

    As you know I replied to “guess what? .. you don’t like it here.. get the f*** out! ..” I hope Patrick saw what I said.

  7. Gydle (aka Mary Parlange) Tuesday April 1st, 2014 at 04:32 PM · Reply

    Thanks for the laugh! I have to agree, the Swiss really like their April Fool’s. It seems they appreciate humor when it’s orderly and they know to expect it (and thus recognize it?) — i.e. once a year. In the French-speaking part, it often involves fish jokes, because it’s known as “poisson d’avril” there. This week I translated an amusing “press release” from EPFL about the Matterhorn: “Vast hollow chamber in iconic Swiss mountain worries geologists”

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