In London, for as much as work as I did finding Swissness at Sainsbury’s, M & S, and Waitrose (I deliberately shun Tesco as much as I can, and I never do Aldi, Lidl, or the like), I found only limited Swissness when it came to dairy products. I was a regular Onken yoghurt consumer, but as it had German roots, I wanted to look for something “more authentically Swiss”. And the only Swiss yoghurt you got were at Whole Foods, from a local dairy in Bischofszell (or thereabouts), Canton of St Gallen. You could easily forget what Waitrose passed off as its Number 1 choice for chocolate — I as a Swiss feel quite insulted that we weren’t picked (but the choice was made pre-Brexit, so they could always reconsider!).
For Beijing, by no means are they cheap (apart from the occasional sale), but if it’s something that won’t kill you, I’m going for it at all costs. ▶
I cannot think of a more exciting place to take centre stage in than the city of Beijing. And I cannot think of a better way of pulling this off than with all the elements of Swissness.
You see, Switzerland is now such a big element of me that I simply cannot be myself without being Swiss. First things straight, I have a Swiss passport. This red booklet is a design classic and opens the gates to around 170 countries and territories — no visas needed! It also is one of Europe’s most multilingual passports, and there’s also a lot of “cantonal elements of Swissness”: on the first 26 pages intended for visas and stamps are printed the iconic buildings of every Swiss canton. The one that’s closest to me? The Wasserkirche of Zürich, just by the Limmatquai.
In the same canton, Zürich, I went to international school for just around a decade. The Inter-Community School gave me my first stage to perform on — things got off to a start when I read along with a fellow student, on a stage, in front of the microphone, a poem in French. Stage fright instantly disappeared, and my trek and path to bigger-still stages began in Switzerland, 20 years ago. (That’s why I call it “Stage Swissness” — made in Switzerland!) Equally 20 years ago, also in Switzerland, I coded my first HTML page that would eventually be one of only three websites to make it to the “wider” Internet — as a student page of the school on the Internet.
To not to be Swiss is impossible chez moi. ▶
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! ▶
As a Mac user since 1991, I go by one of the Mac community’s most frequently-seen slogans — Don’t imitate, innovate! The Swiss have come out with some of the best fonts (although as a world-ready citizen I’ll be switching to a more “international” font soon — but that font is also used at Zürich Airport). Things like Helvetica, Frutiger, Univers and Avenir.
Think about it: When SWISS International Air Lines first started, they couldn’t wean off their own Swiss font, Univers. Swiss roads and motorways are making a much-needed switch to Frutiger (in private, I predicted this would happen as early as 1998). Swiss TV is (used to be) a Helvetica fanboy, with the font now over 50 (but that font is by no means “senile”!). And then you have Starbucks, which is gradually making the switch over to Adrian Frutiger’s Avenir.
For the longest time, these were the most iconic fonts in the — well, “fontosphere”. But in the past decades, something awful has started to happen. ▶
Take this from a Swiss expat in Beijing (with Chinese blood keeping up the internal battery no less). You know you’re Swiss, when…
1. You refuse to email, phone or text message anyone except for your friends and family on Sundays.
2. Your car is nearly as clean as it was about 14 months ago, when you bought it.
3. You get upset if there is a tiny dent in your car… ▶