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Swiss Watching: Inside the Land of Milk and Money [Paperback]

Diccon Bewes
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.99
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Book Description

22 Mar 2012


New updated edition for 2012, new statistics and Epilogue

One country, four languages, 26 cantons, and 7.5 million people (but only 80% of them Swiss): there's nowhere else in Europe like it. Switzerland may be almost 400 km from the nearest drop of seawater, but it is an island at the centre of Europe. Welcome to the landlocked island.

Swiss Watching is a fascinating journey around Europe s most individual and misunderstood country. From seeking Heidi and finding the best chocolate to reliving a bloody past and exploring an uncertain future, Diccon Bewes proves that there s more to Switzerland than banks and skis, francs and cheese. This book dispels the myths and unravels the true meaning of Swissness .

In a land of cultural contradictions, this is a picture of the real and normally unseen Switzerland, a place where the breathtaking scenery shaped a nation not just a tour itinerary, and where tradition is as important as innovation.

It s also the story of its people, who have more power than their politicians, but can t speak to one another in the same language and who own more guns per head than the people of Iraq. As for those national clichés, well, not all the cheese has holes, cuckoo clocks aren t Swiss and the trains don t always run exactly on time.

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Swiss Watching: Inside the Land of Milk and Money + The Xenophobe's Guide to the Swiss (Xenophobe's Guides)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing; 2nd Revised edition edition (22 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857885872
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857885873
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 13.6 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Diccon Bewes worked for ten years at Lonely Planet and Holiday Which? magazine, before moving to Switzerland, where until recently he managed Stauffacher English Bookshop in Bern. He is now a full-time writer.

As well as grappling with German grammar, re-learning to cross the road properly, and overcoming his innate desire to form an orderly queue, he has spent the last six years exploring the bits of Switzerland he'd never heard of before. And eating lots of chocolate. All in the name of research, of course, while writing his first book, Swiss Watching. That became a No1 bestseller in Switzerland and is now in its second edition, with a new sub-title - Inside the Land of Milk and Money.

Twitter: @dicconb

Product Description


We all know that Switzerland gave us the world of cuckoo clocks, triangular chocolate and penknives, but how about the Toilet Duck, Velcro and LSD? Europe s landlocked island is a great subject for a cultural anthropologist and Bewes is a perfect guide.
Financial Times, Book of the Year

Bewes has an engagingly light and comic touch. The narrative moves with ease between subjects as diverse as graffiti and recycling, and it s easy to dip in and out of.
The Sunday Telegraph

"Informative and Entertaining."
Harry Ritchie, The Mail on Sunday

"It's a real page turner, a treasure trove. Absolutely jam-packed with fascinating facts that really got me thinking."
Margaret Oertig-Davidson, author of Beyond Chocolate

"Everything you wanted to know about Switzerland, and then some. Not just a travel book, 'Swiss Watching' is a no-stone-unturned exploration of what makes (and has made) this enigmatic country tick'
Peter Kerr, author of the Snowball Orange series of five books

A fascinating book, teeming with facts, figures, and anecdotes which even the Swiss don t know. A journalist, anthropologist and satirist, Diccon Bewes gives us a book that is serious without being academic and funny without ever falling into caricature.
L Hebdo


About the Author

Diccon Bewes is a full-time writer following the international success of Swiss Watching . A degree from LSE in International Relations and an 18-month world trip set him up for a career in travel writing, via the scenic route of bookselling. After ten years at Lonely Planet and Holiday Which? magazine, he decamped to Switzerland, where until recently he was manager of the Stauffacher English Bookshop in Bern.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An absolute gem... 8 Nov 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A real insight into the Swiss and what makes them tick, written by a Brit who lives in the country. Ever wondered why the Swiss are rich and successful and we're not? Read this book. The author often uses comparisons with the UK to illustrate a point. Great for fellow Brits. Lots of useful and interesting stuff written in a very engaging and amusing style. The author clearly enjoys toilet humour and never misses an opportunity to share his amusement with the reader, such as 'FART', the initials of the train operator in Ticino and 'dagshit', a Swinglish word for 'today's special offer'. Essential reading for anyone planning to work or live in the country. Only 4 stars because the kindle edition is rubbish. No photographs, unreadable maps, tables don't line up in columns. Clearly not made in Switzerland!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Kate
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book contains facts that even my Swiss husband didn't know. Funny and amusing although some bits about the language seen from the British perspective were kind of boring. What the author found strange and exotic about German is not so exotic it's the UK being a bit different. But overall a very good buy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
If you want to travel to or in Switzerland you go and buy yourself the relevant Switzerland Lonely Planet Guide. If you want to find out about the challenges and risks involved in living in Switzerland you should read Diccon Bewes' book. He does an excellent job in showing us some of the pitfalls you have to watch out for if you plan to live in Switzerland.

Bewes starts off with telling us some of the notable points of history in his host country, how it all started and how it evolved into the Switzerland as we see it now. By the way, what's wrong with 1754? I won't reveal the answer ... you will have to read the book and look it up yourself.
The author follows this up with the religious set-up of the country, its peculiar form of democracy, the money of course (the Swiss are believed to have a lot), neutrality, the military and some of the products, Switzerland is known for; chocolate and cheese of course, but there are quite a few others as well. Lastly, you will find out everything you always wanted to know about Heidi.

At the end of each chapter you will find a Swiss Watching Tip - there are 11 of them in total - telling you such vital things like when a Sunday is a Sunday or when a weekday is a Sunday or a Saturday. Personally, I would prefer more Sundays because the Swiss drive more civilized on Sundays than they do on non-Sundays. The author calls Swiss drivers polite ... I have yet to meet one on a non-Sunday.
Tips No. 5 and 6 didn't strike me as just a Swiss problem. All German-speaking countries appear to be deficient in that respect.
Tip No. 11, i.e., an introduction to Swinglish, I enjoyed the most although again this is not just a Swiss problem.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating place, but the author... 18 April 2014
Nice book: Switzerland is a very fascinating country with its traditions and contradictions.
I like the style of the author, but I don't think he really knows anything apart from the UK, the US and (of course) Switzerland: he finds strange that in Switzerland people don't use greeting cards as much as they do in English speaking countries...the fact is that English speaking countries are the only ones that massively use cards (so it is not just Switzerland, but the rest of the world as well).
He also finds strange the fact that, in Switzerland, Italian dressing for salads is made up by oil, vinegar and extras...basically the same way salad dressings are in Italy...
There are a few more examples in the book, together with some questionably 'humurous' remarks about other countries, that are a bit annoying (it seems as if anything that isn't British or American is weird). It's a shame because all these little things undermine the potential of the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, witty, well-researched, so true! 27 July 2012
Thanks a million for this book devoted to the Swiss, I also really benefitted from the author's great language and writing skills. It dawned to me that things and matters which he mentioned were either so taken for granted (Heidi, chocolate, penknives, Rivella, Helvetia) or I have never thought about them (landlocked but big merchant shipping fleet). Warmheartedly monitored, researched, collected facts and thoughts in such an expressive, humorous yet still worthwhile criticism.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well documented, pleasant to read 7 Nov 2013
By Lacure
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Should be a compulsory reading for all the expatriates who have to spend some years in Switzerland and strongly recommended to Swiss who want to know more about the peculiarities of they country and appreciate the british way of telling things.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Phippu
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Diccon Bewes has attempted what is indeed a very difficult task: trying to find out how Swiss people really tick and that as somebody who has not grown up in Switzerland and does not even speak the native language of this hometown Berne fluently, i.e. Bernese German. I am a Swiss and have lived in the UK for over 10 years and I think foreign Swiss have indeed a unique view on Switzerland and what it means being Swiss. Bewes has overall done a very good job although I think his generalisations oversimplify the country and its people. Although he tried his best to be balanced and mentioned some of the negative bits as well, the whole book feels to me too much like a tourist ad and re-enforcing British people's prejudices. Everything in Switzerland has of course to be better than in the UK so as to justify his choice of living in Berne whether it is chocolate, direct democracy, public transport, recycling, neutrality, etc. As a Swiss who has chosen to live in the UK, I think this is all a bit condescending. Also, his attempt to make the number of foreigners nowadays living in Switzerland look more comparable to other European countries is flawed: the recent influx of EU citizens probably due to the crisis in the rest of Europe is remarkable: almost 90,000 enter Switzerland every year and major cities such as Basel and Zurich have changed. Bewes has made a good attempt but he still suffered from the fact that Swiss are so reserved, i.e. Swiss rarely share what they really think with a foreigner. Good book but more surface than people would assume when reading it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read
I bought this for my brother and his wife who are regular visitors to Switzerland . It's a book of rules and regulations which come as a surprise to many Swiss.
Published 1 month ago by BarryL
3.0 out of 5 stars Neutrality

The author writes: "The two World Wars affected the Swiss but just not in the same immediate every-family-lost-someone way. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Simba the Lion
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!
A beautifully accurate description of what makes the Swiss tick! I really enjoyed this book and found it very informative, and humours.
Published 6 months ago by Tashi
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Fascinating insight into the people and habits of Switzerland, a country the author clearly loves. It is the result of some very thorough research, but written in a highly... Read more
Published 6 months ago by LM Buchan
4.0 out of 5 stars Information on all things Swiss
Funny easy to follow book covering many different topics on the Swiss and Switzerland
Useful as a travel guide as well as a good read
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Suisseophile's Library
Very informative and well written. Explains much about the Swiss and their country, which we visit frequently. Rather a lot about politics.
Published 7 months ago by E. Freeman
5.0 out of 5 stars love it
this is a very good book about Switzerland and the Swiss. I was surprised how kind the writer is talking about us Swiss. I do recommend it.
Published 9 months ago by erica
5.0 out of 5 stars I like it!
This book really made me chuckle. It points out some very funny things about Switzerland and the Swiss people. If you want a crash-course on Switzerland, read this book!
Published 9 months ago by Miss S.
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable for a traveler or someone living in Switzerland!
Bewes is writing as an outsider who is living in Switzerland and trying to understand the culture by observation and questioning. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Susan B. Hanley
5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny and usefull
Very funny stile and very useful. Lots of myths discussed and explained. For additional details, go however for "Beyond chocolate".
Published 14 months ago by Florin
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