I live in Switzerland, you know the place that for most people is not even noticed. If you travel from North to South, you have to go through a few tunnels to stay in a direct straight line, but you can do it in four to five hours, perhaps even faster. West to East and vice versa is a bit longer. Let’s say six to eight hours, according to a smooth journey on the motorway. You can pass through Switzerland, travelling to another country, and perhaps not even realise that you have been there. We share four languages. French in the West, Swiss German in the East, Italian in the South and in between somewhere in the East Romantsch. Notice I said Swiss German, which is my local patois. Children have to learn proper “high” German at school, otherwise no-one would understand them in Germany which is one of our biggest neighbouring countries. The problem with Swiss German is perhaps, that sometimes even the Swiss do not understand everyone. There are over one hundred dialects, according to the town, even villages, where you live. Swiss German in Zürich is different to Swiss German in Bern, and those in Basel also speak in their own way. That was now just a quick summary to let you know what it is all about.
Now to the state of the nation. I could start with the motorway. The curse of all tourists that want to visit with their car. We have a motorway ticket, permit or whatever. For year 2013 it will cost forty Swiss francs, which every Swiss citizen pays with a feeling that it is worth it. Tourists arrive clueless on the border, wanting to enjoy our hospitality and that is where they meet with their first disappointment. Pay, stick it on your window, and show that you now have a right to drive on our super motorways. It could be that you will encounter a few obstacles if you visit in Summer. It is the best time of the year to do the repair work, caused by the snow and ice in Winter. So let’s get rid of this financial burden for the motorists. Of course, an alternative is the train. Swiss trains are perfect, always on time, but are very very expensive. So dear Leader, let’s do something about that.
But I am jumping the crossbow, as William Tell said. Just imagine a country with only seven million citizens, a government with seven ministers which are revoted once a year in December. Even our president is only president for a year. At the end of the year a different minister is chosen for the job. So, dear Leader, whoever you might be this year, next year you will not even be our leader. Although one positive development perhaps, we now have women in the government. On 7th February 1971 women were given the right to vote in Switzerland – on a national level. (I bet that is a shock to some of us in other countries). They had to wait a few years longer until they could vote in their own Kantons (states) but even that happened. Of course it was the men that voted yes to give us women the right.
We are Federal, so like the states, what we agree to in Geneva, might not be agreed to in Zürich. Over the years women dared to become members of parliment, senators etc. and even manage to achieve a majority amongst the seven ministers, or at least fifty percent. Dear Leader woman, now is the time to tone it down a bit. I am feminine, and like to see women treated equally in life of course, but you can go too far. The situation in Switzerland is gradually losing the balance. Women are being chosen for promotion in their area of work, over men, although they probably do not do the job better. You should be judged on your qualities and not on statistics. Some men have given up the hope of ever being able to progress in their working life, because there is now a thing about making sure the women are considered and chosen.
Otherwise living in a perfect country, which could originate in fairyland, everything seems to run ok. We have unemployed but how many no-one really knows. Of course they are supported if they are not earning, but after a few years of being unemployed you are contracted out of the system meaning that we might have a few thousand officially unemployed, but there are a few thousand more which no longer exist on paper. They have to get their support from their local governments. That way we keep the mount of unemployed at a nice comfortable amount.
We have a perfect health system, and I mean that in a positive way. OK, we have to pay for it with a private insurance, but it works. No waiting for hours in the emergency or for an operation. Hospitals are basically well run (nothing îs perfect anywhere), but you do get the see the surgeon privately that will be operating, you do not have to wait for months for the operation, and the comfort in the hospital can be compared with a five star hotel. It also costs as much, but according to your insurance, it is covered. I grew up in England, visit once a year, do not want to talk about the english NHS, but knowing the system, this has made me a happy Swiss (I have two nationalities).
We vote a lot, about once every 2-3 months according to how many signatures have been collected for this that or the other. A referendum system. We were even stupid to vote for an increase in the VAT, or said yes to increasing the retirement age for women. So I cannot always blame the government, sometimes it is our own fault.
This is a short summary on life in the country of banks, Zürich gnomes, alps, and skiing. I have been living here now for 46 years, 44 as a Swiss. My life in England is more or less a thing of the past, and I would not dare to criticise the English government – they have their own problems.