Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Swiss complex

There is something about Zurich that makes me feel slightly inferior to the Swiss. Perhaps it is the perfectly clean and efficient tram service or the way that everyone, from professors to shop keepers, speaks accentless English. Maybe it is the beautiful buildings, the mountains or the giant metal cowbells that hang around bovine necks just like in the picture postcards. It could be the sparkling clear lakes or the fact that the Astronomy department has both foosball and ping pong tables that have never been stolen in a drunken student revelry.

Not that the nation does not have its idiosyncrasies. Many citizens extol the virtues of mountain air, good cheese and fresh bread and then proceed to smoke like a chimney. It is an eye opener and a mouth (and nose) closer.

I am currently sitting in the newly renovated apartment I have rented for two weeks. Aimed at visiting academics, it is opposite the University of Zurich's campus and comes with everything you need; bed, TV, stove ... and an incredibly complex coffee machine. Like the rice cooker in my apartment in Japan, the Swiss seem to have clear opinions of what is absolutely essential for survival.

Amusingly, I was repeatedly taken aback to be addressed in German as I mooched around the town centre. Ah, that's right! It's a foreign country with buttons on objects you would rather were kept simple, but it's not Japan and all Europeans look the same.

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