My theory on Switzerland’s legal and social….. how to phrase this……

The Swiss are very savvie people. They don’t do socialism properly, but do do social care and responsibilities. They have a (relatively) strong economy and a fantastic education system. But… then you come across laws like this…..

“A divorced woman cannot remarry within 300 days of the dissolution of her previous marriage unless she has meanwhile given birth to a child.”
What the…. I mean….. how…. when….
Then I realised. Switzerland is in a very unstable area of the space-time continuum, quite often time slips occur, most residents no longer notice, even the most severe ones.
You see, records say, and people remember, that women only got the full vote in Appenzell Innerrhoden in 1991, this is clearly ridiculous. Switzerland is a forward thinking country and a caring society. Women actually got the vote in 1934 in (AI) for local matters and the federal level (entire CH) in 1938. But in 1991 there was a huge timequake centered in the ‘city’ of Appenzell which caused the area to briefly shift to the middle ages, when it returned, the universe, being what it is, smoothed over as best it could, but could not totally get rid of all the anachronisms, which is why everyone and everything believes women only got the full vote in 1991. Aftershocks keep happening, or the timequake was so widespread (who can say when aftershocks happen in a timequake?) which means that these medieval things keep popping up, like women not being allowed to re-marry for 300 days after divorce. And whilst many think that these are laws that have always been there and just not got rid of yet, the truth is, they were got rid of decades ago, but the timequake put them back again.
It’s not all bad, I mean, the farms are a great example of timequakes, multi-culture, small farmsteads rather than the mono-culture big business models I know so well from the UK.
So, next time I’m described as “a ‘so-called’ half family” or see adults smoking in the after-school club, I’ll just remind myself, it’s a timequake aftershock putting us back to the ’70’s, the Swiss are not really like this.

5 Things that I thought were weird, but now I do.

Switzerland is not much of a culture shock. Maybe because I moved from academia to academia rather than real world to real world. But when I first came there were a few things I found really strange to me. Now I see new people coming and seeing the strange things I do, because I’m getting weird (or integrating).

1. Not Clapping.

First thing I notice that threw me was not clapping at the end of talks. I came for my job interview and gave my presentation, and everyone started banging the table with their knuckles. ‘Oh no’ I thought ‘I knew it wasn’t great, but I didn’t think it was that bad!’. Turns out that’s how the Swiss clap.

I put it down to the fact that the Swiss do not like to show to much emotion. And beig English this suited me down to the ground. It’s so much more restrained and dignified. I think clapping has been spoiled for me buy the American overuse of it. ‘The pilot landed the plane, let’s celebrate’. Urm… that’s not only his job, but his life too. ‘You are kissing someone, let’s celebrate’. Urm… first of, get a room and secondly, why are all you strangers ogling someones private moments. It’s almost like they are stuck in infant mode, when mommy clapped like you won a Nobel Prize ‘cos you did a poo in the potty.

Anyway…… knocking the table is much more civilised and I love it.

2. Frenman.

Well, it’s not frenman, it’s Swiss German, which is actually nearly a couple of dozen dialects, mostly German, but with a few different words and french thrown in.

I came with not a word of German, and though I am learning, it’s High (or German) German, not Swiss German I’m learning. There is a reason for that. Swiss German is not a written language. Why you ask? Well, choosing one of the dialects over the others would probably cause an unending civil war. So they just stick with High German.

Of course, this does cause problems. Many Germans (OK, the couple that I know that have no connection to Switzerland) think that Swiss German is not that different, that it’s just a funny pronunciation and a few French words thrown in. No, this idea comes from the fact that when Germans read the Swiss media, it’s all in ‘proper’ German, and when Swiss people come to Germany (excluding the border towns…. but we’ll get to that later) they speak High German with Swiss accents.

Swiss German is as different to German as Dutch is. In fact Pennsylvania Dutch is actually derived from Swiss German, not Dutch, so if you want to hear how real Swiss German sounds listen to some Amish people.

I say I’m learning High German, but I’m learning Swiss High German. Which means no pesky that ss letter that looks like a B with a tail, see I have to type that because it’s not on my Swiss keyboard. It also means that I say Hello and Goodbye the Swiss way, not the German Way.

English            Hello           goodbye        thank-you              please              Sorry

Formal            Grüetzi        Adieu            Merci veilmal           Bitteschon       Pardon / Exgüsi

Informal          Hoi              choss            Merci                      bitte                 Entschuldigung

My favouate is Merci veilmal. Thank you very much, in both French and German. Cool huh?

Of course, I had a problem with Swiss High German when I went to Germany the first time, soo many odd looks when I say Grüetzi rather than GrüetGod as the Southern Germans say.

3. Shopping Abroad.

‘Wow, you work in Switzerland! You must earn a packet!’ Oh yes, but then I live in Switzerland so I pay a packet too.

Seriously, do not get a headache in Switzerland. You have to go to a pharmacy for what in the UK is over the counter medicines, like paracetamol and ibuprofen. I think this is very sensible, because when you find out the price you need something for the heart attack you are having.

The Swiss are a very clean nation, VERY, I don’t know how they do it when cif power spray is CHF7 here and £1.50 in the UK. Yep, just looked it up.

So how do the Swiss do it? Simple, they pop over the border. Constance is an hour from Zürich, and that is where people buy mediciments and cleaning material, and meat, and…. well anything they can fit that doesn’t go over the allowable import. (There are many reasons why Switzerland isn’t in the EU, and I think that limiting the import amount of steak (or any fresh meat cuts) to 500g is one of them).

I have never, of course, gone to Germany to shop….. I do it in the UK, I have a stockpile of adult and child painkillers, as 25p for 16 paracetamol is much better than CHF1 each.

4. Relaxing on a Sunday.

Switzerland is a religious country, parts have a strong history of purtianism, Calvin ran Geneva and Zwingli ran Zürich. Amish come from here. Shops are shut on Sunday, work is not allowed to force you to come in on a Sunday, it is a day of rest and peace. Of course, that means you can not do your laundry, mow your lawn, wash your car, do your recycling either. I personally think you might be able to get away with doing the recycling on a Sunday, as long as you time it so the church bells are ringing……. Peace and quiet does not count for the churches and they seem to have a bell off every Sunday.

But, some people do work, public transport does not have a reduced Sunday service, that’s family day, when people go places. Museums, galleries, zoos etc are all open too.

I was really worried when I moved, working a 42 hour week, when the shops shut at 19:00 in the week if you are lucky, and are closed on Sundays, when will I get my shopping done? But now I like that I have one day a week to just BE with my kid, no errands to do, Just me and her, and the best public transport system in the world (IMHO).

5. Eat.

Think of Switzerland and what comes to mind? Cheese, chocolate, cuckoo clocks and Nazi gold. Well, cuckoo clocks are actually southern German, and, like Basel Faulty said ‘Don’t mention the war’. So that leaves cheese and chocolate.

Yep. Its true, the Swiss do a lot of cheese and chocolate. I personally find the cheese very samey, and either import British cheese or go to a British cheese stall to buy cheese for sandwiches, crackers and just general eating. (something that made my boss consider not renewing my contract about when I told him….. see the Swiss do make jokes….. I hope). But melted cheese is a whole other matter, Swiss cheese is made for melting (it’s too melty for cheese on toast for example, I use British cheddar or I end up with cheese on oven and toast). The Swiss have fondue without a trace of irony (but only in Winter, fondue any other time is just for tourists), raclette (only in Autumn), and even rosti is normally served with a slice of cheese melted on it (all year).

I LOVE cheese, and I LOVE cooked cheese. It’s great when I have guests because I get the fondue pot out and go mad. Even in Summer (I use the excuse it’s because I have guests, but to be honest I normally buy enough cheese for two lots and have some when they’ve gone too).

But it’s not just cheese. The Swiss take eating very seriously, You must eat three meals a day and snack on chocolate in between. I have put on nearly a stone since I moved here, because I am eating….. and eating well (I must never look at my cholesterol level). I am finally safely in the normal BMI range.

What is weird, however, is the lack of fat Swiss people. I’m shocked when I go to the UK at how many overweight people there are, and I’m sure the Swiss diet has far more calories than the UK. Maybe it’s fewer carbohydrates, maybe it’s better exercise, maybe it’s the smoking, maybe it’s because the food here is better quality (something has to justify the price) or that most people only eat meat once or twice a week (too expensive) I don’t know.

But the Swiss EAT and are a healthy weight. Just like me.


Forgot I had a blog.

Urm…. I live in Switzerland now…..

So much for the big society.

It’s been announced that the 25th hour campaign will be scrapped. This was based on the idea that everyone can find an extra hour in their day to help others with voluntary / charity work, and to reward this behaviour 2,012 pairs of tickets for the opening ceremony  were going to be given to the ‘nicest’ people.

So we are all meant to be part of the big society and take over many government roles not only for free but also for no recognition. Nice!

Knew it was coming… but so angry

How can you lay off half a million people AND cut benefits at the same time?

Dave….. Do you really think this will work?

‘Cos all I see is the economy grinding to a halt.


Scientific evidence is evidence; Or why I had a glass of wine when pregnant.

So another scientific review published and ignored by the government. I’m begining to understand why the government want to cut Quangos and Science funding, it’s not like they take any notice of it anyway.

There was the badger cull argument, A scientific study showed that extensive badger culling actually increases TB incidence in surrounding cattle, but the government only read the bit it wanted to about it reducing where the cull was.

Now a paper (the second in a series) has been published that shows that very light drinking (one or two units a week) during pregnacy has no effect on child development. and the government respond with

“After assessing the available evidence, we cannot say with confidence that drinking during pregnancy is safe and will not harm your baby”

Urm…. yes you can. You can look at the evidence in the scientific paper and say that light drinking is safe.

When I was pregnant I looked at the advise, government advised not at all and hinted about fetal alcohol syndrome, NICE (a Quango made up of scientific experts and general public etc) said that 1-2 units 1-2 times a week was fine. Now, generally, when I want medical advise I ask the Dr not the doctors accountant so when I want scientific advise then I’ll ask a bunch of scientists, not a bunch of pencil pushers.

Some quangos are needed. I just wish they were listened too.

Tory cuts benefits…..Oh…wait…I agree.

What is going on in the world. I actually agree with the Tories? Or maybe it’s a Lib-Dem thing, yes that’ll be it.

In ‘the current economic climate’ (really, how long are we going to use this phrase) everyone needs to make cuts, the private sector has cut back, and very shortly the public sector will cut back 20-30%.  Presumably this included the benefit departments. And at a time where people are losing jobs left right and centre, I don’t really see how they can do that. So asking people earning £44K a year if they could manage without £20.50 extra a week seems like a sensible thing to do. I mean, I’d quite happily lose my child benefit (or family benefit as I’ve now learned it’s called) if I was taking home £550 a week. (assuming 65% net pay at £44). I think I could spare £20.50, it’ll be about 4% of my net wage.

OK, it’s not really fair that a couple earning £43 each are earning nearly twice as much as a single parent (hiss) or a stay at home mum with working husband (apparently we like stay at home mums this week), but nothing is perfect.  And DC actually made a logical argument saying that it didn’t make sense to ask people who are earning a lot to give more to help the poorer and then give it straight back to the better off.

And, actually, saying that, unless there is an issue like disability, then we should cap benefits completely at the average family income makes sense too. Especially as they already announced that they will put a cap on housing benefit at £400 a week for a four bed house.

Yes it’s a shame that people might have to move away from knightsbridge, but they would’ve had to do that anyway with the previously announced reforms. To be honest, socialist though I am, I was always a little uncomfortable that paramedics and nurses couldn’t afford to live in central london, but unemployed people could. A good way to get round this ‘ghetto’ problem is to have affordable housing everywhere. Bring back proper council houses I say, for everyone, not just the poor. Maybe if there is a government saying that to rent this house costs (insert affordable amount here) it may stop the buy-to-let scalping prices.

Anyway, no one was up in arms about the £400 a week housing benefit cap a couple on months ago, so why are they up in arms about the £500 a week total benefits cap?

Although, I don’t know where he got his figure of £26K for an average family income when according to the Student Loans people the average income for an individual is £31.8K (mortgage style loans like I’ve got have to be payed back when earning 85% national average income, currently the deferment cutoff is £27.5K). So he might need to re-think that £500 a week figure.

Please help me, I’m agreeing with the Tories on benefits reform. It’s true what they say, you get more right wing when you get older and when you have kids.

(fervently hopes that it’s a Lib-Dem thing)