In the eye of the beholder.
For Swiss News' Diarmuid De Faoite--as for many long-term expats--the "quirks" of life in Switzerland eventually become an everyday normality. However, seen through the eyes of an uninitiated visitor, it is as bizarre as it is amusing ...
Having lived in Switzerland for approximately eight years--about the same amount of rime you'd serve for a serious crime in most countries--the everyday oddities of the Swiss sometimes escape me because I am too used to them. That's why it was refreshing for me, when an American with no German-language skills (and no expectation to learn any, beyond "Ein Bier bitte") came to work in my office for three months. Some of his musings about life in Switzerland were top-notch.
On how the Swiss greet one another
"They're like a bunch of sailors on shore-leave, with all their hois to one other."
"In America, if you're famished we say "I am so hungry, I could eat a horse". In Switzerland, people actually eat horses ... it wasn't meant to be literal!"
"So, I was at the tram stop last night and this bum comes up to ask for money in German. I said, 'Sorry, can't understand you' thinking he'd go away. Without any hesitation, he then switched into perfect English and asked me for five francs! This bum speaks at least two languages fluently. Hell, I bet if I'd answered him in French, he'd probably even speak that too. Where I come from he'd be like the CEO of a company! Switzerland just might have the smartest damn bums in the world! They're not shy about the amount of money they ask for either--five francs, that's like five bucks! When I gave him a few small coins, he looked so disgusted I thought he might just give them back to me."
On street violence
"What's with all the gangs here? Seems to me like there are two rival gangs in Zurich--the Ein Gang and the Aus Gang. It's like a turf war, you never see the two names written together ... it reminds me of the Bloods and the Cripps in LA."
I explained to him that after a while, you are no longer surprised to be woken up on Saturday mornings by the sound of shooting from the community firing range. Imagine the impression this must make on some visitors. "Oh that? That's gunfire. It's pretty normal here."
On people from Basel
"Oh right, you're from Basel? So you're a Baselian then? Man, there sure are a lot of Baselians in this country!"
"I don't understand parking here. The other day, I was walking down the sidewalk, minding my own business, and all of a sudden a car comes barrelling off the street and onto the sidewalk toward me! Whose bright idea was it to put a parking space on the sidewalk?"
On the postal system
"This letter can't be for me. See right here--it says Herr. I'm not a her, I'm a him! Also, what have people here got against the post office? Everywhere I go I see 'Die Post'!"
On how the Swiss say goodbye
"Ciao, ciao, ciao, tschuss, tschuss, ciao, ciao, ciao, an Schona, ciao, ciao. What the hell is that all about?" Thanks for all the laughs, Patrick!