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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Thursday, June 30, 2016

SWITZERLAND for beginners


·         Food – fantastic quality across the board, from supermarket to cafes, to high-end restaurants, the quality and presentation of food is superb.  Local laws prevent the use of many pesticides and chemicals commonly used in NZ. Being summer, there is an abundance of crisp fresh local vegetables and luscious summer fruits and berries.

·         Smoking – many people smoke openly on the street and inside restaurants and cafes. Cigarettes are relatively cheap in Europe compared with NZ. And street vending machines are available to sell cigarettes to anyone regardless of age.
·         Waitpersons – the rule here is polite, very efficient and professional but with little warmth. Meals and drinks arrive in short order. You pay at the table. They have a little holster with a mobile  eftpos and a purse to give change. Tipping is not obligatory.

·         Fashion – I am amazed at how global the fashion world has become. Being summer, it’s short shorts and crop tops for the girls, jeans and check shirts for the boys. Tattoos (see below) are abundant. Also many ‘Vikings’ haircuts – shaved sides with ponytail and variations thereof.

·         Tattoos – not so prevalent or extensive. Mainly monochromatic and minimal.
·         Children. Maybe because it’s a day away from the big summer break, but the Swiss grade school kids are the loudest white children I have ever encountered, albeit fairly well behaved. Fecking deafening.

·         Wine. Very good. No really. Very good. I had a local Swiss Pinot Noir/Beaujolais last night and a Syrah tonight – both extremely clean flavoured and memorable.
  Health and Safety – the Swiss are a very complex mix of liberal and prescriptive. You can smoke pretty well anywhere except inside an office. Openly drinking alcohol on the street is OK. We went on a lake cruise – and there was no mention of life jackets or emergency protocol. Dogs are allowed inside shops and on public transport. There are no hazard warnings on anything. Touristi Emptor. Yet in 5 days I have seen no dog poo on the pavement, public transport runs precisely on time, and I have spotted only one homeless person.

·         Military. The Swiss are proudly independent, yet aware of their vulnerability. Military training is still compulsory for Swiss males. The Cold War period made them pretty well paranoid. By law, every home must have a nuclear bunker for the family with provisions to last months. There are at least 40 kilometres of tunnels under the Alps containing military infrastructure in case of war. Even in the Alps there is an Air Force base at Ballenburg, just by a popular tourist attraction dotted with historic Swiss rural buildings and docile animals. The FA-18 jets do routine training flights through the Alps with a deafening and alarming roar during the day. Luckily the animals appear to have got used to it or have suffered sufficient hearing damage over a  lifetime.

·         Economy – pretty damn fine. The Swiss Franc is stable and hearty and they regard the EU with disdain.  Banking and pharmaceuticals are the two main drivers of the economy. Agriculture is subsidised, yet the Swiss chocolate and cheese are world famous. Lindt is a huge international chockie brand.

·          Cuckoo clocks. Touristy bollocks. Yes you can find them if you want. Just like Swiss Army knives.

·         Watches – yes there are still some famous Swiss brands, despite the democratisation of the quartz watches. I spotted a watch at a local store on sale for 22,000 Swiss Francs.

·         Exchange rate. Pretty awful. A basic Domino’s Pizza costs $NZD 29.00  ($USD 19.50)

·         Minimum wage – about 20 Swiss francs an  hour  ($NZD29.00)

·         People – friendly, practical, honest, hard-working 


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