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on 23 May 2012
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. A lot of German - be they Swiss or otherwise - use English words which in `real English' often mean something completely different.
The one Tip I was missing was how to deal with Swiss border controls. If you've ever passed through a Swiss customs post you will understand what I mean. The relevant section in Asterix in Switzerland is a good description I think.

All told this is a lovely book. I think you will enjoy the author's witty comments on all things Swiss.
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on 2 January 2013
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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on 10 September 2014
We have just returned from a wonderful holiday in Interlaken (Aug14), lots to see and do.Our Inghams rep Alistair recommended this book; he said even though he had worked in Switzerland for seven years, he had learnt a lot about Swiss culture from this book. Dicon Bewes writing style is easy reading with humour mixed in with serious facts, like you never get a tatty bank note in your change! My son is living in Switzerland married to a Swiss Italian, we are always surprised how she casually leaves things lying around in vulnerable public places, but now I understand that they are very unlikely to be stolen. There is a really good section that explains the complex structures of the Cantons and democracy in Switzerland. A great browse read for anyone who is interested in what is probably the best country to live in and visit. One English person we were talking to said ' Once you have been to Switzerland for a holiday you have been to the best country in Europe nowhere else compares favourably' (he had been every year for last twenty years).
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on 30 July 2013
Bewes is writing as an outsider who is living in Switzerland and trying to understand the culture by observation and questioning. He's not an academic so doesn't have a theoretical structure. What you get is a personal and practical understanding of the Swiss. A few readers have taken umbrage at his tone, but I find him to make equal fun of the Swiss and his own country, England. I enjoyed reading the main chapters, but what makes me give this book 5 stars are the tips he gives at the end of every chapter.

It is in the tips that one learns why a woman was so annoyed with me when I opened a window on a slow-moving train on a sweltering hot day, and she wasn't sitting either next to me or across the aisle. Now I understand why people line up to board a bus and then so many sneak around the side of the line and get on first. Bewes tells us the etiquette for attending a large party, for going to someone's house, why people cross streets the way they do, and much more. I only wish this book had existed when I started visiting Switzerland decades ago. If you read nothing else, do go through all the tips, which are easy to find because they are in different print from the chapters.

If you want a less humorous and more academic approach, then get Margaret Oertig-Davidson's Beyond Chocolate, which is equally indispensable and covers different topics. But don't spend time in Switzerland without reading both books!
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on 8 November 2014
My own associations with Switzerland go back over 30 years due to the good fortune of marrying a Swiss national back in 1984 and I have been a permanent resident for the last 4 years. My wife has read this amiable expatriate account 3 times and consequently my curiosity was aroused (a departure from my normal obsession with history). Her advice was right for the book is an entertaining and informative read with never a dry page. The author is blessed with an original literary style that succeeds in holding the attention. To my mind Mr Bewes does capture much of the essence of the country and the great likability of the people.

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on 8 November 2012
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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on 4 February 2013
This is a very helpful and challenging book for people not too shy to look into a mirror in order to find out something more about them.
When reading this book we got aware of many facts which we have been considering as self-evident at least for us who were born in Switzerland. (E.g.: voting on nearly everything, different languages, public transportation system, etc.) We learn about our habits, traditions and the different ways of life in the more or less segregated parts of our country. We have to admire the knowledge's of the British author about the function of our old democracy consisting of the citizens, their government and parliament. And we can learn a lot. The author is a gentleman in teaching. He is witty and always respectful. The book is a very suitable tool especially for English conversation classes, since it covers many topics. Each topic is a challenge to deal with in order to find out the different opinions and feelings from foreigners and people grown up in Switzerland. Of course, whenever possible we should try to read the book in English, since the typical British humour needs to apply English.
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on 3 November 2017
A really insightful book on Switzerland by a British writer who lives there. It explains some of the apparent contradictions in this fascinating country which, by all accounts, shouldn't be as successful as it is. Bewes wanders the country, from the site of its foundation, to its chocolate factories, to give the reader an in-depth sense of Switzerland's uniqueness. Highly recommended.
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on 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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on 1 August 2016
For all those who are interested in our Swiss neighbours and their beautiful country, this is a highly enjoyable and informative read. I've recommended it to others. Diccon Bewes has a enjoyable and very readable style. I intend to dip into again because thank to this book, I fully intend to take some time to discover some of the places mentioned in this book.
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