Are you new to Switzerland or have you been living here for quite sometime, but still can’t figure out the Swiss? Pick up the recently published book Swiss Watching: Inside Europe’s Landlocked Islandby British Expat Diccon Bewes. Armed with his experience as a travel writer, keen curiosity and a GA, Mr. Bewes sought to uncover the real Switzerland, what makes it tick and what keeps this country of contradictions together.Of all the English books I’ve read on Switzerland this one has been one of the most enjoyable. Be it from a brief and concise history of the country – with which the reader will be armed for many discussions with native Swiss people – to a discussion of the Swiss red shoe fetish, Mr. Bewes’ writing style is informative, attentive and witty. These features make the book a pleasure to read and will help many to better understand the Swiss mindset and their, at times, odd behaviour. The book is marked by a degree of British irony and sarcasm, which should bring a smile to most readers’ faces. Page 243 might have you swallow hard or laugh out loud. I did the latter.rather enjoyed the amount of actual experienced research that Mr. Bewes details his book with. Together with his taking on less traditional topics of discussion makes Swiss Watching: Inside Europe’s Landlocked Island stick out from the pile of books written by foreigners about Switzerland. When it comes to taboo topics, Mr. Bewes tackles them in an informed way providing historical and cultural context and allows the reader to make his own opinion. On the whole he writes in a very neutral manner.My one concern in the book is the language information offered. Where a great deal is painted with a brush of “Swissisms”, they are actually general German issues. By this I mean the same thing applies to German spoken in Germany and Austria. The word “Handy” for instance is actually the German word for mobile telephone and does come from the never actually established English term “handie talkie” which was also a synonym for “walkie-talkie”. In Switzerland mobiles are generally called Natels, which comes from the establishment of Switzerland’s national wireless network in 1975 (Nationales AutoTELefon).The book is well worth a read for anyone interested in understanding Switzerland and it’s people. Having taught at a Kantonsschule, I would go so far as to suggest that this book be used in either a history class or advanced English class, as reading it would help the Swiss to better understand themselves. For new comers to Zurich, I would also recommend Zürich for Newcomers by Barbara Milne. (ISBN: 978-3-280-05161-0) Swiss Watching Inside Europe’s Landlocked Island by Diccon Bewes. (ISBN: 978-1-85788-548-4) Looking for a good English Bookshop in Zurich? I’ve recently discovered Pile of Books – Great selection, friendly service and the best prices. (Written by Christian Langenegger, co-founder of Marathon Sprachen in Winterthur www.marathonlanguages.com)
In December 2009 the SBB and Trenitalia decided to end the Cisalpino train service, a joint venture between the two national railways. Naturally when such things happen allegations flew. The SBB claimed that the consistent late trains coming from Milan was one of the main reasons. Trenitalia also made claims, but anyone who has travelled to Italy or even wanted to come back from Ticino has experienced that more often than not it is the trains coming from Italy that are running late and causing delays elsewhere in Switzerland.Traveling back from Lucerne the other day, I was witness to something that would have played out much differently in Italy. Many might find the following incident tragic others as quite funny. For the sake of the protagonist, I hope that he will look back in five years and laugh.I was on a class trip with students all around 15 years of age. Having boarded the train we patiently waited for the train to depart. Outside the train was a man with two monsters for suitcases with a little twitch in his hand and a bead of sweat rolling down his face. Then the rail attendant made the last call to board the train. In a panic the man tossed his two suitcases onto the train and followed rescuing his foot from a closing door in true Indiana Jones style. Seconds later the train rolled into motion and a look of fear struck the man’s face. Quickly he ran to the window where I was sitting and frantically tried to open the locked window. The other teacher and I looked at each other and wondered what was going on.The rail attendant seeing the panic-stricken man running around the train tried to explain that she had given the final call and announced that the man had to either be on the train or off the train, but that the train was departing. Furthermore, once the train is in motion it will not stop until it reached the next destination. The man with an Italian accented Swiss-German then explained that his wife was still on the platform. Adding to the problem of leaving his wife behind, was the fact that neither of them had mobile phones on them. After twenty some minutes on the train the man deboarded the train in Zug after apologising for his frantic behaviour.This little story illustrates a fine point about Switzerland. In fact it is one of the paradoxes of this tiny country, especially for Expats: Ask most Expats to list three things that they like or even love about Switzerland and the rail service will surely be listed. “It’s efficient and punctual” is a praise often quoted by Expats from the UK and Ireland, whereas most Americans and Canadians are simply amazed that trains can transport more than goods. However, these are the same people who find it terrible and cold hearted of the SBB to give such little regard to travellers racing down the platform with a suitcase trailing behind them trying to make the train as the last call is announced and the little green light encircling the open button disappears for the last time and the doors shut leaving that poor traveller to wait for the next train.Cold and heartless would be one explanation. Mechanical and calculated another. Much can be said about Switzerland by looking at the rail system. The reason the trains are on time and why a 10 minute delay is front page news is because it has been calculated. If the train waited an extra 30 seconds at every station it would gradually delay itself more and more. Other trains would then need to wait for passengers needing to make connections and the entire system would descend into chaos like in Italy, where one travelling by train can merely hope that there will not be a strike and that the train will arrive that day.While disorder and unpunctuality are frowned upon in Switzerland, so are limitations to mobility and personal freedoms. Therefore, most longer routes are travelled once an hour and many of the in-between-stops can be reached by taking another train. The other thing that makes train travel so convenient in Switzerland is that it is a “one ticket all trains service”; unlike travelling with the Deutsche Bahn where ICE trains cost more than regional trains.The best tip for travelling with the train in Switzerland is to give yourself a few extra minutes to get to the station. If you’re on time, you should not miss your train.If you’re travelling by train around Switzerland here are a few tips: Frequent travellers of longer distances or people who simply love sitting in trains should get a GA (Generalabonnement). This is a card that gives you unlimited travel in Switzerland for the year for 3100.00 CHF or 285.00 CHF/Month in second class. Less frequent travelers should at least get a Halbtax that gets you 50% off the price of all tickets for train and bus. The cost for this is 150.00 CHF for a year.Both will save you money. As a reference a one-way ticket Zurich to Bern at a normal price is 46.00 CHF.Have visitors coming to Switzerland? Tell them to get a Swiss Card for the time they are here to save money and hassle when travelling. There are different time frames from a few days to a month. Are you on facebook? You can become a fan of the SBB and see their Sparbillette programme and see all the latest ticket specials. For iPhone users the SBB Mobile App is great and allows you to check your connections anytime anywhere. German – English Vocabulary for train travel: das Gleis = track der Zug = train die SBB = Schweizerische Bundesbahn (Swiss Federal Railway) die Bahn = railway / rail der Fahrschein = ticket der Nachtzuschlag = addditional fee for night trains (after 1 am) die Verspätung = delay die Gleisänderung = change of track “Der Kluge reist im Zuge” = “The smart one travels with the train” (Written by Christian Langenegger, co-founder of Marathon Sprachen in Winterthur www.marathonlanguages.com)
One thing to certainly be aware of if you are apartment hunting is scam postings on Craigslist. These are highly organised operations and exist purely to relieve you of your money.
You start to picture the situation of your wonderful luxurious apartment, inviting friends over and regaling them with the tale of how you picked up a wonderful bargain on Craigslist. The truth is, unfortunately, that the story you will end up with is one you will never want to tell anyone – of how you were totally scammed out of a deposit by a West African fraudster.
Take this ad for example:
I have two lovely bedrooms flat available for rent at the central heart of Zurich..It is available for rent presently.
DETAILS ABOUT MY APARTMENT……….Address : Falkenstrasse 10, Zurich 8008, Switzerland.\r\nSize of the Whole Apartment :85 m square
Number of bedrooms:2
Number of bathrooms:2
Monthly rental price: 800chf for the whole apartment including all bills
Security Deposit: 1200chf
AMENITIES AVAILABLE IN MY APARTMENT..
Equiped Kitchen,washing Machine,American Kitchen Fridge & Freezer Oven,Microwave Dish Washer Crockery & Utensils,Bath Shower Hair Dryer,Towels
Internet Dial Up, Internet Broadband Cable/Satelite
TV,Stereo/Radio System DVD Player,DVD/Music Collection
Central Heating Air Conditioning
Included in Rent:
This may well be the most well-appointed apartment in the world. Look what wonderful pictures!
It is “available” for 800CHF.
The premise is simple. if it sounds too good to be true, then it is.
Hello friends and welcome to Zurich Expats. The site was set up when we moved to Zurich as a way of recording the things we have found and storing the information we have so that it may be of use to use it. Of course, we welcome information from our users and visitors so if you have a suggested topic then please get in touch or take part by commenting on our articles.