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Insightful although limited review about current Switzerland
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.