With just three days left before I go back home to South Africa, I felt the need to pen more things I have learned in the land of chocolate and cheese.
1. Inedible fruit
Switzerland has water in abundance, meaning whatever is grown here flourishes, be it vegetables or fruit. There are thousands and thousands of fruit trees on the fields, but most are inedible. As delicious as they look, the same cannot be said for their taste. So, the apples, the pears and the cherries are only good enough to make schnapps (a kind of brandy with a 50% alcohol volume). All the edible fruit is imported from SA. Yoh, South Africa, we feed Switzerland!
2. Men wear a single earring
I don’t have a problem with men wearing earrings — their ears, their life. But I had to stop and ask why they pierce little boys ears too? Nobody has been able to give me a satisfactory answer, other than that it’s tradition.
3. Horseshoes, spiders and pigs
In my previous post I wrote about how pigs are thought to be a sign of luck. Otto told me there was once a man in this village who owned a restaurant, and he had a piglet for a pet. He put perfume on this pig and he went to each table and let the people caress it, so it could bring them luck.
Anyway, back to horseshoes and spiders, nearly every second house I’ve seen, either has a horseshoe at the gate or a spider — because luck people!
4. Here’s something you can learn from the Swiss, South Africa
The president of the country only reigns for one year, and one year only. A very small window for corruption, don’t you think? It is only the members of parliament that serve their respected parties for a term of four to five years.
5. Water is not purified
It comes straight from the source and into the peoples taps, and boy it’s nice, not a hint of chlorine. Evens so, I find it strange that at some restaurants they ask you to pay one franc for a small glass of water. Really people? Really?
6. Food glorious food
Each of the 23 cantons (not counting the half cantons), have their own traditional dish. For instance the traditional dish for canton Uri is fish and rice, for Bern it’s sour cabbage and a variety of sausages. Speaking of food, you will not believe how much processed food the Swiss eat, they hardly eat any real meat, just a lot of sausages. Each butchery has its own brand of sausage. I suppose with a small piece of meat ranging at R 900, one is bound to eat sausages instead. South Africa we are damn lucky that we don’t have to pay so much for meat. So dam lucky!
7. Swiss German is totsitaal (slang)
The Swiss invented their own language, very crafty people these. Apparently, if you go to Germany and speak the Swiss brand of German, people will look at you and think you are a couple of sandwiches short of a Happy Meal.
8. Independent shrimps
Nobody walks their kids to school here. The children either walk or cycle to school by themselves. They just have to wear reflective jackets. It must be nice to live in a country where nobody has a desire to harm or kidnap children. That’s a luxury most of us will never know — because there are ample a uncle Dodgy Rodgy running loose on the streets.
9. Our plain yogurt is a lie
Psst! South Africa, you are yet to be introduced to real plain yogurt, not the overly-processed-chemical-infested white stuff we find on our food shelves. Christine and I went down to a dairy once to get some plain yogurt, upon tasting it, I knew immediately that I was eating real plain yogurt, for the first time in my life and it’s called natural yogurt.
10. High tea is a thing
The Swiss have a sweet tooth that is unparalleled. If you go to a bakery consider yourself lucky if you find something savoury. You will however find tarts of all kinds and a bunch of other funny looking sweet stuff that look like they are stuffed with meat — don’t be fooled by this — it is all fruit puree. OK, that’s not the point I was trying to make, the point is, instead of lunch the Swiss bring out a variety of sweet things and highly pleasant-tasting tea.
11. Strangers know the name and the date of birth of your child
The Swiss have a different kind of baby shower. Instead of bringing you gifts such as clothes and all the baby stuff that smell good, they bring placards with the name and the date of birth of your child. They then proceed to plant these around the house. They also decorate a tree in the yard with cordon tapes and ribbons. How peculiar.
12. A country of saints
There are more churches than there are people (strubob). It is not uncommon to find small chapels and praying stations along the trail. I’m told that the chapels, monasteries and praying stations are a result of people bargaining with Jesus. For instance, if a loved one is ill, one of the family members will go to church to pray and promise to build a church if he heals the loved one — judging by the many churches there is here, Jesus must have done a lot of healing.
13. Frugal but not frugal
If the Swiss make dinner and there’s some left over, whatever is left will appear again on the dinner table the following day. At first I thought, how strange. Then I noticed another strange thing, people hardly ever eat out. They only ever eat out on special occasions and this is not a matter of affordability, they are frugal because they are saving to travel. This has been the most valuable lesson for me — Be frugal in your own country, so you can live like a king in another. Other than that, the Swiss have no problem spoiling others rotten.
15. Bizarre eating habits
When we were in Locarno, Christine packed us some scrumptious goodies for lunch, salami, ham, cheese and bread. As usual after our trekking we sat down to eat. Christine handed us each a salami and a piece of bread. I stuffed mine in the bread, but Christine and Otto held the sausage in one hand the bread in the other and started eating. They looked like little kids doing this. I thought this was just their idiosyncrasy. Then one day we went to Einsiedeln to watch cows descend from the alps ( a story for another post), I saw scores of people holding a sausage in one hand a slice of bread with a blob of mustard in the other. They would dab the sausage on the bread and then take a bite from the bread, they continued this way until they finished eating. This time I had to ask my hosts what grade of witchcraft they are practising, eating like this? Turns out it’s just the way they do things. So I tried eating like this once — because as they say — when in Rome do as the Romans do.
My stay in Stay in Switzerland has been nothing short of spectacular. I had wonderful hosts who did not only open their home to a stranger, but treated me with love and kindness. I am eternally grateful for this cultural exchange, and their generosity. I am not blind to the fact that a lot of people wouldn’t have done what these two have done for me.