You may remember a few months back I wrote that I was stranded in London with no money and a cancelled flight, which left me mildly traumatised, like a tit flapping violently in the breeze. You may also remember that I wrote about an incredibly kind woman who took me back into town from the airport, put me up in a hotel for the night, and then advised me on how to get back to France by train. Well, last month this lovely woman (Ba) and her equally lovely husband (David) were in Bordeaux. We caught up over dinner at Chez Edouard and they invited me and my friends to stay with them in Switzerland. I’d been to Switzerland before, with my parents, and that sucked some fierce donkey balls. Morgs, Em and I had planned to visit Zurich during the summer but accommodation in the land of the neutral was far too expensive. So when the opportunity to stay in this awesome couple’s house for FREE came up, we booked our Easy Jet tickets faster than we could shower in a communal bathroom.
Ba and David live in a village not far from Baden, which isn’t far from Zurich. The area they lived in was what Ba described as the Swiss countryside – it was fairly rural, but we didn’t spend a lot of time there. We divided our days up between trips to Zurich, a day in the Alps, and a day in Basel.
At this point I will quickly switch into dot points for maximum efficiency.
– A lot of people have told me that Switzerland is a beautiful but incredibly boring place. Perhaps this is true of the western, French-speaking side of the country, but I found Zurich in particular to be a thriving big city with lots happening.
– Holy shit this country is expensive. Over dinner one night we asked David how much it would cost to have dinner at one of the better-known pubs in Zurich. “Quite expensive,” he said. “You mean, like, 15€ per person?” we asked. “More like 80,” he replied. We spent the remainder of our time in town eating roasted chestnuts off the streets (they’re not very nice) and falafels from kebab shops. For some reason we also bought lots of crisps from vending machines. I don’t get it – I don’t even like crisps, and here I was eating them like they were delicious or something. Note: they weren’t.
– The Swiss sure are conservative racists! On our drive to the alps, Ba and David told us about some very racist political campaigns that the country has run in the (recent) past. For your viewing pleasure:
I wasn’t aware that the Swiss government was so conservative. Silly, un-informed Tuppences. Switzerland was also, notably, one of the least multicultural places I have visited. At least France has a large North African population and, while they may face a lot of discrimination, at least they exist. In Switzerland? Not so much. As I am writing this, Em is sitting opposite me trying to finish an assignment. She has just interjected and said: “I don’t think I could live in Switzerland – it’s too mono-cultural and racist”. SAYS SHE, THE WHITE GIRL. So if whitey can’t handle it, I highly doubt chinky winkle would be able to.
I think a lot of people have this idealised image of Europe – I know I certainly did when I came here – and it’s a bit of a nasty shock to realise that most countries in Europe have serious issues, whether they be political or otherwise. Those issues are easy to gloss over if you’re only here for a few months, but having now lived in France for a year, I can say that I have received some frequent and unwelcome reminders that I am not really Australian (because my “eyes don’t look Australian”) and that because of my physical appearance, it is unlikely that I will ever truly be accepted as anything else other than “that Chinese girl”. This isn’t to say every European I’ve met has been a racist jerk – the majority have been delightful and I wish to take them home with me to Sydney – it’s more of an under-current that I have felt from just living here.
BUT HEY, THIS DIDN’T STOP ME FROM HAVING FUN TIMES IN SWITZERLAND, YEAH! Seriously, Zurich in particular was a very cool place. We bought chocolates. We drank in a sex cinema bar (which is to say we drank alcohol, as opposed to…oh nevermind). We visited the Cabaret Voltaire. We hung out with Ba and David. We went to the alps and any time I saw snow I’d run up to it and stomp on it while saying “POW-POW-POW-POW-POW”, before singing the LCD Soundsystem song, Pow Pow (Pow Pow Pow Pow).
In terms of being a beautiful place, I award Switzerland succulent brownie points. Succulent, moist brownie points. Lol, I said ‘moist’. And I didn’t actually experience any problems at all while I was there – people were friendly enough. It’s just sometimes you visit a place, learn of their politics, and realise that it’s probably not a place that you’d be able to live happily while feeling completely accepted. At which point, you realise how lucky you are that you can always go back to Cabramatta.