Switzerland: Happiness is Boredom
Weiner's chapter on Switzerland reveals an odd love/hate relationship with the country. On one hand, life in Switzerland functions smoothly. The country is clean, the economy is good, the chocolate is wonderful. However, he also describes Switzerland as a super-nanny country where "In many parts of Switzerland, you can't mow your lawn or shake your carpets on Sunday. You can't hang laundry from your balcony on any day. You can't flush your toilet after 10:00 PM" (p.33) An acquaintance of his even received a note asking her not to laugh after midnight. Why, I wondered, could that possibly be called a happy country?
I then started to do some research on Switzerland. The country is divided into French, Italian, and German cantons, which all have representation in the government. All three official languages are official. How could such a linguistically fragmented country be so conformist? The answer came from one of my sisters. As she pointed out, the Swiss had to create one society and expect everyone to conform to it, or the three different cultures would have divided the country and there would be no Switzerland. Therefore cultural conformity was needed for happiness.
However, as I researched further, some indications of current cultural unhappiness began to emerge. Last year, much tension about foreign immigration into Switzerland began to emerge during campaigns for a general Parliamentary election:
Twenty percent of Switzerland's population is from outside of the country. As the number of foreign-born inhabitants continues to rise, so does tension inside the country between the foreign-born and native-born inhabitants. This makes sense when you remember that Weider notes that "The Swiss are deeply rooted in place. Their passports list the name of their ancestral town. Not their hometown but the town of their roots. Maybe they've never even been there. But it is their home." (p.38) People who have been rooted to one geographic area in one country for so long would understandably have trouble relating to people who have just moved in from Africa or the Ukraine.
Also, Weiner never talks to any recent non-Western immigrants to Switzerland. How do they perceive Swiss society? Do they feel bored? Do they feel stifled by Swiss conformity? Do they want to change Switzerland? What is their happiness level? And then of course, there are the Swiss economic problems...