I consider Switzerland my second home. I lived in the francophone Geneva for two years and loved every minute of it. Geneva is such an international city, home to the first United Nations building – Palais des Nations – and to several extremely important international organizations and NGOs. You can find people from all nationalities living there, from any sort of social background (high ranking diplomats to migrant workers seeking better life opportunities), which contributes to a very ethnically varied population. Although diverse, everybody seems to understand and respect the Swiss way of life – always calm and peaceful.
I joke that in the two years I lived there, I’d met only a few true Swiss (they were my boss and my French teachers), and the rest of my friends were foreigners just like me. This is quite intriguing, actually. When we live in a country that is not ours, we end up going to places that only foreigners go as well, living in a kind of “foreigner’s society”. It’s not that we don’t go to places where local people go, but this society seems to be a comfort zone (maybe because they speak either English or your own native language) in which people are as alien as you are. I don’t know whether searching for a comfort zone is good or bad, notwithstanding it provides a great life experience: instead of meeting people from one nationality, you end up meeting a bunch of people from all around!
All the stereotypes of Switzerland rang true to me: they are punctual, reliable and full of rules – also, they know how to make great chocolate & Gruyère cheese. I love all of those qualities, maybe because my own country is so different. Everything works properly, the public transport always arrives on time — well, except Geneva’s line 11 in the direction of Bout du Monde (End of the World), which seems to arrive 10-15 min late (I should not be complaining about that, as the bus does go all the way to the End of the World and is still able to return in a decent amount of time); there are few bureaucracies regarding papers & documents and at the same time there is a rule for everything. This Swiss organization impresses me every time that I think of this small country. The respect for the rules and the serene personality of the Swiss are impressive as well.
Chocolate & Gruyère are my Swiss favorites. You can buy a bar of great chocolate for cheap, not to mention the bargain that is a piece of delicious Gruyère at the local supermarket. If you want to spend a little bit more, you can always go to Globus on Rue du Rhône and buy the finest of both products. I used to love hanging around Rue du Rhône, which is near the beautiful Lake Geneva (Lac Léman in French) in order to buy gifts and see clothing stores. There is a lovely secret spot at the beginning of this street called “Passage de Lion”. In there you’ll find Godiva’s café (yeah, I cheated and drank Belgian chocolate), where you can order the most delicious hot chocolate ever. Trust me, it’s delicious.
Another good thing about Geneva, and Switzerland in general, is the life outdoors. Switzerland has the most beautiful scenery that I have ever seen in my life. It’s not the seaside landscape that I’m used to in Brazil. The mountains, the snow, and the lakes are just stunning. It is so beautiful that people get inspired to do things outside all the time, so there is always something to do with a group of friends, or a group of strangers, whether it’s hiking or going skiing on a glacier. In my opinion, the Swiss are one of the healthiest people on the planet, as they are always trying to practice sports and to eat nutritional (they call it bio) food. That’s just brilliant to me.
Switzerland is a small country that provided me a great life experience, which I could not have imagined before living there. Because of that – and of the chocolate, of course – it is so Sweetzerland to me!