cheeni: (Default)
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.
cheeni: (Default)
The company visitor's guide told me that the Swiss are very healthy and ecologically aware. They don't rent cars or taxis, preferring instead to take a train or tram. I decided to act like the Swiss when in Switzerland and got onto a train at the Airport with my luggage, and dragged it somewhat uncomfortably the rest of the way from the train station to my destination. The journey was more complex than usual because I was navigating a strange public transport system with signs in German. My feeble grasp of German picked up from classes at Goethe Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan many years ago was finally coming in handy.

I must admit it's not the easiest lifestyle option to use public transport, but you know, maybe that's what is needed to conserve the earth. Ok...so then I chat with the guard at the office and I tell him how I found my way from the train station and he is quite curiously attentive. The reason became clear when he explained that he always drove his car and hadn't ever taken the train to work. In fact he urged me to take a taxi as long as I was here. A few minutes later I was in a taxi heeding the advice of the local, and I saw a stretch limo.

And so I learn, so much for stero-types...

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cheeni

April 2009

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