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Kristi
The Boy, 2 Muttleys and I have finally realized our dream of living 1 mile from the Lindt Chocolate Factory. Leaving Atlanta (the World of Coke) for Zurich (the World of Chocolate) hasn't come without challenges, incredible fun or giggles. Follow along as I chronicle our adventures as we acclimate to this new Swiss lifestyle.
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Zurich - A Sociologist's Wet Dream

Today has been one of those days where I have felt pushed too far - literally and figuratively.  It all started when I boarded the bus this morning.  On my bus there are two types of seat designs, seats of four where two seats face two seats and the other design consisting of two seats next to each other.  I chose to sit in a group of four seats and sat diagonal from an older woman.  The bus started to fill and I moved over to sit directly across from the older woman so I could free up a seat for someone boarding. The older woman didn't budge and literally sat in her seat like she was lounging comfortably in a Lazy Boy recliner.  All she was missing was a built in cup holder and a bag of smoked almonds. Her lounging style meant I was scrunched up against the bus window with my feet and legs having little place to go.  I looked like a 36 year old fetus.  When I gave her the "Really?" look, she just stared straight ahead and gave me the "F You, winner winner chicken dinner" look.

My destination this morning was the gym and once I disembarked the bus, with moderate to severe cramping, I hobbled to the nearest tram stop for the next leg of my trip. My tram had arrived and what happened next happens EVERY time I board a tram in the city.  Flocks of older people come from nowhere and storm the door, trying to get on before any passenger has the chance to get off.  It is shocking, annoying and funny all at the same time.  This morning was no different except this time I was hellbent on getting on when it was my turn.  Cue an old lady in a fur coat, which seemed to have come from a grizzly bear, who cut in front of me and saw out of the corner of her eye that I wasn't having any of that.  She then proceeded to stick out her elbow. This time I actually said "Are you kidding me?" but she just scurried on the tram without a moment's hesitation.

These two events really ticked me off but they also got me thinking.  If I had a gun pointed at my head and was forced to divulge which group of people had the highest "asshole quotient" in Zurich, I would say the older generation.  More specifically, women aged 70 and over.  Before you start brandishing me as an Ageist, hear me out. I started thinking, why in the world are these older women so rude?  Why must they push and shove and cut in line and give you dirty looks when boarding public transportation?  Why aren't the Swiss women more of a domineering presence in the international basketball arena? Because these beeyatches can box the hell out.

The Boy and I discussed a few possibilities last weekend.  I even posed the "maybe it is because they are the descendants of world wars...they always had to fight for what they had and perhaps it has manifested in their everyday life".  But the Swiss have seen little, if any war.  I am sure they have seen the effects trickle into their society over the years and there have certainly been times of famine or hardship.  All cultures have experienced bad times.  Then I saw something on the tram that made this hypothesis null.  An elderly woman who was fitted with a cane was having a hard time boarding the tram.  A younger woman turned around and smiled at her but proceeded to board the tram in front of her.  When I saw her turn around and smile at this incapacitated woman, I thought for sure she was about to give her a helping hand.  Instead, it was more important for the younger woman to board the tram vs help this struggling woman.  I then witnessed the same older woman get off the tram and again, no one helped her.

Independence is fiercely revered in Switzerland and it is taught at a very young age. While it is adorable to see little 4 year old kids hold hands and go to school without adult supervision, it is more a lesson in self reliance being taught.  Swiss independence is something to be admired and yet I can't help but think it comes at the expense of compassion and manners.  Perhaps by the time these women have reached their 70's, they are so fiercely independent and so used to not being helped, that they could give a rat's ass if they cut some young whippersnapper in line.

The Boy and I have heard more than once that us Americans rely too heavily on others and that we are "too nice" allowing ourselves to get pushed over.  By no means do I think Americans have cornered the market on how to treat people but I do always come away from a visit to the US thinking "God, everyone is SO nice!".  For the longest time, I thought a lot of the negative experiences I have had here were the result of not knowing the language but all of the examples above required no conversation at all.  I was satisfied with my new hypothesis, the Swiss are fiercely independent...at all costs.

On the bus ride home, as I was patting myself on the back for figuring old Swiss women and the Swiss in general out, I witnessed a young boy and his mother eating lunch.  The young boy was eating a banana and a portion of it fell to the ground.  I thought to myself, surely this boy will pick up the banana that just fell to the ground...nope.  Then I thought, surely his mother will tell him to pick up what he had just dropped...nope...and quit calling me Shirley!  Argh, back to the "try to figure the Swiss out" drawing board because not picking up 5 inches of banana has absolutely nothing to do with independence.

4 comments:

Caitie said...

Hahaha. This is hilarious considering the day I had yesterday. This old lady and I were facing each other in the bus aisle, and we were both making a move for the same--double!--seat. So I let her go in first, and she proceeded to plunk her ass down on the aisle seat and not the window. Then she casually starts taking off her gloves, picking at the fingers one at a time, and not looking at me. So I say "EXCUSE" and she says to me 'no, no, no, this seat is reserved for my husband.' I was totally dumbfounded. Bitch! Old bitch! But bonus points to me for understanding her. Then I told Dan about it, and he has gripes with old commuters too. In his words 'why do the RETIRED insist on going out for their morning coffee during rush hour? They're GD retired! Wait another half hour. They get onto the already packed bus and we all have to squish around so someone can give up their seat. Or worse, they elbow you when you're waiting for the bus just so they can secure their seat. Relax...you're old, you're getting one anyhow!"

hahaha. Now you know the Swiss have gripes with the old public transit passangers too ;-)

Dimitri said...

Great writing, and so true! Congrats on figuring out this demographic ;-)

Next up, I would love to read about your thoughts on why the Swiss can't cue/stand in line for their lives! It's a cattle culture, alright, but waiting for your turn should be a pretty basic concept.

Any thoughts?

Kristi said...

Dimitri - I have experienced the lack of lines throughout Europe. I wish I could pin it all on one country but I am afraid it is definitely a European thing. I especially hate how you can't get off a bus, train or tram because someone is trying to push their way on. The crazy thing is, I don't think Europeans find it rude at all. It is very "every man for themselves and too bad if you get in my way sucka" here.

Caitie - it is good to hear that the younger generation Swiss feel my pain...literally.

Melania said...

I've experienced similar scenarios and I agree, common courtesy is extremely rare. Here's something else I never ever thought I would say. I miss having the shelter of being able to sue someone if they seriously hurt you. I lived in NYC and Brooklyn for 15 years and have never experienced the amount of terror I have felt in Zürich this past 1.5 year. I walk in fear. There are insane bike riders, car drivers, and pedestrians. This is truly a no man's land. If you get hurt, there are no repercussions. I don't plan to have kids but if I did, there's no way I would let them walk to school alone. You can build independence in less pedophile friendly ways. Maybe it's about survival of the fittest.