If teachers around the People’s Republic are writing to their heads, requesting time off to explore the world, they could easily do it in more style. There’s also a thing about sticking a UnionPay sticker in a shop in Luzern, and actually trying to understand the culture of the cardholder. All of this leaves incredibly little room left for the wrong carriages on the wrong tracks — be that one that involves the Chinese, Americans, or Swiss. ▶
Jau sun dischillusinà, SWISS!
Ti sas bain: Tgi che sa rumantsch sa dapli!
For 2014, I avoided flying with SWISS International Air Lines because I totally exploded into a year-long fit of fury after a bill to limit immigration from the rest of Europe passed by the narrowest of margins.
So when the year-long self-imposed ban lapsed in 2015, I returned to flying “my” bit of the world. To my absolute shock and horror, though: it looked like SWISS had done away with Rumantsch, certainly on their displays and other items, and where I could easily brush up my knowledge of Deutsch, Français, Italiano and Rumantsch (in addition to English), this was simply gone. Never mind it was spoken by “just” 0.5% of the Swiss population and has six or seven variants; it’s part of Switzerland and you simply don’t throw it away! ▶
Dörf ich Ihrni Frau seh?
Immigration at Zürich Airport was incredibly quick as Tracy and I just landed in Switzerland. She actually made me dress up a little bit more “formal” than usual. This was a trip back home unlike any other — to the same nation that officially registered my name as David Feng. There was no doubt the real David was headed back to his country of citizenship.
All that was needed was to show the immigration officer both my Swiss passport and Tracy’s passport — and we were welcomed. Into a very different Terminal B. ▶
A so-called “popular initiative to keep immigrants out, and yet to enable the distribution (read: literal showering) of contraceptives outside your home country”. Can you see how flawed the logic is? It’s therefore no surprise that the so-called “Ecopop initiative” was completely defeated at the polls on Sunday, 30 November 2014.
I am happy and proud to be a Swiss citizen, as a part of a nation that knows what’s right, what’s wrong, and knows how to vote. The so-called “Ecopop initiative” was so convoluted, it was designed to be one that would be completely rejected from government, from the political parties, and from the people. ▶
One of the most fiercely-debated constitutional amendments is up going to be voted upon this weekend, and I have totally seen Instagram being flooded with pictures showing people voting NEIN, NON, NO to Ecopop, a “popular initiative” that threatens to cap immigration in Switzerland at a mere 0.2% per year.
This so-called “initiative” is completely flawed any way you look at it. There’s a somewhat sick joke going around in terms of what Swiss officials might say to prospective immigrants who have exceeded their annual quota: “Sorry, we can’t let you settle in Switzerland, but we can give you a condom for free.” This is not a quip from north Korea’s hysterical propaganda “news agency”. It is what might very much happen in Switzerland.
The proposed “initiative” so-called is also a potential threat to the Swiss abroad, as it covertly suggests that if the Swiss abroad were to return to their own home country en masse, they might be stopped as well. The era of the internal passport a la Soviet Union times is over for Europe. This is a ridiculous “proposal” and it eats into the rest of the Swiss constitution itself. And suddenly, you realise your Swiss passport is probably not as valuable as you thought it might be — if it can’t land you back in your own country, what use is it anyway?
The reality is this: Switzerland accepts the “Ecopop initiative” entirely at its own risk. A “yes” could bring the Swiss success story to an end. It could be the ultimate Swiss swansong. This is why I’ve already sent my vote back — and like any sane, patriotic Swiss, I’ve made the decision I know won’t strangle Switzerland: I voted NO. ▶
I’ve seen this in signs on anything train-themed, both in Asia and now in the UK as well. The Swiss Federal Railways’s ICN trainset, Switzerland’s own high-speed set of locomotive wheels, is a favourite for anyone train-related the world over — and why am I not surprised? It’s a work of art.
However, there are still bits and bobs of the ICN that not everyone has come to adore. The food is perfect, but what annoys me a bit is the huge noise you hear in the compartments just by the dining room. Power gets cut at times, and the noise is loud enough to make you un-productive. ▶
If there was anything that would drag Switzerland to the surrender position — it would not be the guns of an alien army, but rather surrendering everything to Brussels. The Swiss are more than prepared for the former, but most of us in the country would consider the latter more than just merely “cruel and unusual punishment”.
This does not mean Switzerland is un-European. It does not mean Switzerland isn’t happy with people who don’t think Swiss, look Swiss, or hold a different passport. But Bern and Co do have other priorities. OK, even if you think Bern might eventually want to EU-ise us, reality is, most of us (certainly here in German-speaking Switzerland) aren’t too happy to be dragged into the loose union run by the institutes at Berlaymont. ▶
I admit I sunk my teeth into the Mac very early on — in 1991, in Switzerland. In 1990, I was given a test drive on an old Apple (pre-Mac!) machine, where I completed this oddly-named course called Type to Learn. I was the first-ever student in the whole class to finish it in that year, which kind of made my Chinese parents happy (since the Chinese, Asians etc were supposed to be best in class, yotta yotta yotta…).
I remembered from very early on that this in essence gave me a “licence” to test-drive the Mac much earlier. I’m talking about the pre-Mac OS era: back in the day this was System 6.0.7. If you could imagine a compact, all-in-one Mac in greyish-platinum, capable of running only one app at a time in black and white, this was it.
The Swiss had some kind of nationwide obsession with the Mac, it seemed, even though Apple Switzerland (as in the office) wasn’t reality until 1995. It wasn’t like that made any difference, though: before the Wallisellen office was set up, the nation was already engulfed in Mac mania. I was invited in 1995 to an office which was completely run by Macs. ▶
The vote on 30 November 2014 on whether or not “Ecopop”, an initiative which seeks to impose very rigid immigration caps per year, as well as give federal money for foreign birth control measures (link in German), is like one of those surreal plots to just simply put a cork in what some in Switzerland fear as “mass immigration”.
To me, Switzerland has always been a country which has continued to grow, although if it wants to “chase China” in terms of growth, it is sorely behind. Train stations have continued to witness key expansion projects, and I cannot blame anyone or anything other than “natural development” as the reason.
Most of the growth was basically in parts of the country which was already relatively well urbanised. I have driven through a part of Zürich which goes through older parts of town, more hilly terrain, and parts of the countryside. I think I have seen about 5%, no more than 10%, in terms of newer buildings. Yes, Zürich has continued to grow, but what do you expect from a part of the country that brands itself “downtown Switzerland”? ▶
Grüezi mitenand, alli Billette vorwiise biitte!
For too long in Switzerland, I was used to this on the trains. A regular refrain from the conductor, it simply meant nothing more than they were checking up on tickets and passes — to make sure no-one gets a free ride, exactly as the law would require.
My trek and story with Switzerland has been unlike any other story you might have bumped into. For the first twelve years after landing in Zürich, I was an Ausländer, a foreigner, a Chinese citizen. I had to get a visa to get in — granted, as dad had a job in a Swiss company, and mom joined him in the country. Then I had a B Permit, a residence permit which had to be renewed every year, as we settled in Opfikon, just by Zürich Airport.
Sometime in the 1990s, for reasons I would much more relate to being a happy student in Swiss-German class in school, this became a Swiss Green Card, or a C Permit. The deal: you’re allowed to stay in the country forever — as long as you don’t desert it for over two years in a row. Twelve years in Switzerland meant that I was eligible for a Swiss passport. ▶