Switzerland the land of abundance. The land with one of the highest living standards on earth these days. The land where the old, and the poor, the sick and the addicts are taken care of. Where dogs and people are getting registered, where regular trash is collected twice a week and special runs are made for paper, metal, glass and compost, where it is announced when trains are seven minutes late, where you can find apples from New Zealand sitting next to half a dozen different types from local production in the shelf of the supermarkets, where a coffee costs more than $4 not to talk about prices at Starbucks, where most families have more than one car, where more and more people get a flu shot every winter, where police fines you when you have somebody sitting on the rear rack of your bicycle, where the monthly minimum wage is higher than the yearly income of so many people in other parts of the world. It is the land of abundance, of wealth and order. And if that alone is not enough it is the land of natural beauty.
It is the land where I was born and raised. Where I never lacked in anything. Where I had the freedom to choose to become a graphic designer and photojournalist. Where I earned enough to become independent and travel at young age. For all this I am and always will be grateful. Visiting other countries made me appreciate our high living standard, our right to vote and the freedom of expression even more. And yet, I often struggle. I struggle with too much rules and regulations, too much order, too much perfection, too much security, too many prejudices and therefore too much boredom. What is left when there is no room for the unexpected, for drama, for danger, some chaos? For too many Swiss the only thing left is fear… fear of the unexpected, the insecurity, the new and unknown. They see their comfortable lifes and wealth threatened. They see it threatened by the refugee who is living on a few bucks a day, by the Chinese business man who is investing money in our country, by their new neighbour who has a strange name and goes to mosque on Friday rather than to church on Sunday.
But what is left for me when there is no room for the unexpected, for drama, for danger and some chaos? For me life becomes a dull everyday routine where the biggest excitement is to cross the street while the red light is on. My senses wide open when I travel in Bangladesh and India shut down because there is no stimulation. No chaos, no noise, no smell. When I walk through the streets of my city these days I’m surrounded by an anonymous crowd of black and grey coats which match the cold weather. I miss the colorful coats that are seen all over Beijing and brighten up any so cold and grey day there. I miss the chitchat, laughter or arguing between strangers that can be heard at every corner in India and Bangladesh. But here in Switzerland there is no time for that. We are on our way to the next meeting where no final decisions are taken. Here we follow the rules because imagine if nobody would…
People looking at my unsettled lifestyle say that I’m running away from something. But hey, what is wrong with that if I got the possibilities to do so? Should I stay home all the time feeling trapped and unhappy? Should I be one more face walking down the street with no smile and complain about my job day after day but never change anything? No! So the only thing I escape is pure boredom. I’m seeking for excitement, for passion, for danger to a degree that makes me feel alive. I want to be challenged and learn from the unknown. I want to overcome the classification between we and them that I too often hear in western society. In mixing with Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and Atheists, with poor and rich, with educated and illiterate people I learned one thing: That I don’t need to be afraid of the unknown. That we all have way more in common than what separates us. It makes me angry when people in the west talk about some cultures as backward and intolerant. My experience with those cultures is that they are more open and tolerant than we are. I never felt judged or excluded due to my religion or skin color but have often been welcomed and invited by total strangers to share a meal, a home or celebrate a festival together.
I wish more Swiss would recognise that and embrace the new and unknown rather than building walls and more regulations. I wish that Swiss become more laid back and don’t say «imagine if everybody would do that» as soon as somebody does something outside the norm. Because not everybody is going to do it even if it would be legal. I wish that Switzerland would stop keeping up false double moral standards while praising its neutrality. Is it neutral to turn a blind eye on where money comes from when a dictator is parking it in Switzerland? Is it neutral to deliver weapons to countries like Saudi Arabia?
Switzerland is the land of abundance. Switzerland is the land of natural beauty. Switzerland could be paradise on earth just as it is glorified by lots of people I meet during my travels.
I admit that I often forget about that when I’m preoccupied with the ever same daily life here or get frustrated when dealing with narrow minded people. So sometimes it takes guests from overseas to remind me of the beautiful place I live in. The visit of a friend from Canada «forced» me to explore Switzerland in the season I dislike for the cold and nasty weather. And I found a country full of beautiful scenes and some nice strangers. Somebody offering us a free ride when we were waiting for a bus in the middle of nowhere. A family inviting us to spend New Year’s Eve at their home instead of campping up on Creux du Van. Even though the thought of a warm meal and bed was very tempting we decided to stick to our plan and put up the tent and make a fire… illegal. Just imagine if everybody would do that!