Landlocked island

In appreciation of a speech I delivered in Kuala Lumpur in late February on the global financial market outlook, one of the organisers, the Swiss-Malaysia Business Association gave me a book, ‘Swiss Watching’ written by a British expat Diccon Bewes. I read it even though the initial reaction was one of disinterest since I had lived there for five years in the 1990s. The book was full of useful tips for an intelligent tourist. The author takes readers to locations where there is unique Switzerland – places where they make watches, cheese and chocolates; the place where three gentlemen put their hands together and sealed the formation of the Swiss Federation, the home and the cemetery of the author of Heidi, to name a few.

Very interesting to read that a store brand (a brand of chocolates made by the supermarket chain Coop) came second in a blind test on chocolate tasting. The brand is Coop Prix Garantie. The winner was Cailler.

These experiences are sprinkled with stories of how Swiss eat, what they eat, the do’s and don’ts in Swiss social gatherings (greeting every one by name when you enter and exit!), how to eat, whether to offer to pay for lunches or dinners in restaurants with Swiss friends, etc. The book makes the point that the Swiss do not like to queue!

There is a separate section on Swiss rail system  – as it should be. That system is a marvel and still very much a model of high efficiency and comfort.

Serious readers would find the commentary on their direct democracy fascinating and be envious of the system that has worked well so far. The accusations of the Swiss having profited from Nazi loot are put in proper perspective. The author’s objectivity comes through.

I must admit that the book made me nostalgic for the place although on seeing the freezing, sub-zero temperatures during this Easter weekend in Switzerland, the nostalgia quickly gave way to relief at not having to endure those temperatures on a long holiday weekend.

Written with good humour, the title of the book, ‘Landlocked Island’ is both apt and interesting. Recommended read.

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