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[personal profile] cheeni
On Sundays and holidays Zurich wears a deserted look. The shops are closed, the streets are empty, there is practically no one around. The only shops that are open are in the many Railway stations that dot the city. The Swiss Railway system among the best in the world is very central to the Swiss lifestyle, and I don't mean just for the transportation. Today is Whit Monday, a local holiday, and so I had to visit a railway station (translated english link) to withdraw cash, shop for groceries, grab a sandwich and a magazine. Luckily I knew of this beforehand, else I'd have gone hungry for a couple of days.

The Swiss lifestyle forces health upon you. The (guest) house I am staying in is less than 1000 square feet in size, yet it has 5 bedrooms spread across 4 floors. I stay in the loft, so when I need to use the bathroom I descend a floor, when I need a drink of water I descend 2 floors, when I want to use the washing machine I come down 3 floors, you get the picture. Bear in mind that this is a decent sized house around here.

So, I am shopping at Migros, the grocery chain that's open on holidays, and I hand the checkout clerk my credit card. She throws me a look of scorn like I'd just insulted her ancestry. There are two reasons for this, as far as I can tell - first, there was a swipe machine on my side that I hadn't noticed, so maybe she thought I was refusing to pull my weight - you know, treating her like she was my inferior. Second, and more importantly, Switzerland maybe the banking capital of the world, but their credit card system sucks. A cab driver told me that it takes 2 months for cash to be credited to him when he accepts a credit card. I also wonder if the privacy angle isn't somehow playing into this.

Anyway, I wasn't getting away that easily from this clerk. I find that there's no one to bag my purchase, ok, so that's fine. I reach for these ridiculously thin and tiny plastic bags and I can feel the scorn-meter rise once again for being an environmentally insensitive jerk.

It would be an exaggeration to say that Switzerland is a friendly place to foreigners, but I don't suspect it's xenophobia.It's just that they have a very elaborate societal system, and a lot of rules, and foreigners are n00bs who break these rules.

Date: 2008-05-12 10:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] karbak.livejournal.com
Hey, at least you didn't have to buy the plastic bag, like you would have had to, say, in Sweden. Not that that's a bad thing ...

Date: 2008-05-16 03:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sriniram.livejournal.com
Well, why keep it there then? You know, it's ok to provide say brown paper bags or some such.

Date: 2008-05-13 12:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sidcarter.livejournal.com
One could also argue that their societal rules are such that foreigners are made to stand out ;)

One of my friend's brother lives in Switzerland and he tells me that they are quite conservative and quite the islamophobes. But then, most everyone is an islamophobe these days.

Where else are you gonna be travelling ?

Date: 2008-05-13 10:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sriniram.livejournal.com
Islamophobes: I don't know if that isn't the case for most parts of Europe. But, you are right: Scandinavia and Switzerland are among the more traditional European nations. I hear church bells calling the faithful all day long :-)

Date: 2008-05-13 03:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] themadman.livejournal.com
A cab driver told me that it takes 2 months for cash to be credited to him when he accepts a credit card.

That's ridiculous. There is no reason for it to be that way. Heck, in India, it's credited the next day into your account.

I also wonder if the privacy angle isn't somehow playing into this.

How would that affect things?

Date: 2008-05-13 10:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sriniram.livejournal.com
Privacy: EU has very rigorous privacy laws, so every credit card transaction has to be accounted for and guarded from inadvertent leaks. There's an insurance that many pay which is based on the number of credit card transactions that a store handles. But, this is a really large chain store, and I don't think the cashier really cared about any of this.

Maybe she just had a crappy day :-)

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