Swiss Watching

A ‘Best Book of 2010’: Financial Times

Forget everything you thought you knew about Switzerland. Swiss Watching is an original and intriguing read about this landlocked island, going behind the stereotypes of banks and skis, francs and cheese. In Swiss Watching, Diccon Bewes’ expert knowledge dispels the myths and unravels the true meaning of “Swissness”. One country with four languages, 26 cantons and 8 million people (but only 75% of them Swiss): there’s nowhere else like it in Europe. Switzerland may be almost 400 km from the nearest drop of seawater, but it is an island at the centre of Europe.

This is the country that not only gave us the Red Cross and an army knife, but also the Toilet Duck (1980) and Velcro (1955). It’s a country famous for punctual trains, strict neutrality, and Roger Federer – but what lies behind these stereotypes? What does Switzerland look like from the inside?

Swiss Watching is a revealing historical journey around Europe’s most individual country. While seeking Heidi and meeting Tell, it relives a bloody past and explores an uncertain future. In a country known for its cleanliness and courtesy, it has some of the worst graffiti in Europe and forbids recycling on Sundays; the Swiss consume the same amount of chewing gum per head as Americans, and most of it ends up on the pavement.  It is also known as a conservative nation, with the anti-minaret vote and right-wing politics, although this doesn’t stop Switzerland attracting over 15 million visitors a year!

In a land of contradictions, this is a picture of the real and normally unseen Switzerland, a place where the breathtaking scenery shaped a nation not just a tour itinerary, and where tradition is as important as innovation.It’s also the story of its people, who have more power than their politicians, but can’t speak to one another in the same language – and who own more guns per head than the people of Iraq. As for those national clichés, well, not all the cheese has holes, cuckoo clocks aren’t Swiss and the trains don’t always run exactly on time. Swiss Watching puts the wit into Switzerland.

Swiss Watching was published in 2010 in London. A second edition came in 2012, and a third edition from Hachette in October 2018, completely updated with a new chapter at the end. You can read reviews from the press and readers or just go ahead and buy the book:

Switzerland: all the English bookshops stock it – BooksBooksBooks in Lausanne, Payot in Geneva, Orell Füssli in Zürich and Basel, Stocker in Lucerne, and of course Stauffacher in Bern. It is also widely available in other bookshops. To order online via Stauffacher, just click here.

In the USA and UK, you can order online via Bookshop, which supports independent bookshops.

In other countries, either ask in your local bookshop or order a copy online:

There is also a e-book available to download from any of the online booksellers above or Kindle on Amazon US, UK or Germany. You don’t necessarily need a Kindle reader as the e-book can be read on any PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone. Or as a Nook Book from Barnes & Noble.

Once you’ve read the book, please go back and write an online review ; it really does help others decide. You can even be critical if you didn’t like it!