Stereotypes on Switzerland (No.6)

🇨🇭 The original list I made was random, subjective and is maybe a bit offensive to anyone who actually knows the place. It was created as a fun game to see the “before and after perspective“ of a trip! You can find it here: Swiss Stereotypes List

On my list, Stereotype No.6 was that all Swiss are rich.

This was an all-round favorite stereotype that 99.9% of people believe in. So it must be true.

This one was tricky to confirm or dismiss, for the simple reason that it’s not an easy subject to open up with a stranger! I don’t think anyone feels comfortable talking about finances. But I made it (I think!).

If I’m honest, if you have basic understanding of how the economy of a country works, this is easier to understand and you possibly can already guess if the stereotype is valid or not. We won’t be getting into economic terms or complicated theories. It’s very simple: their salaries reflect the standard of living and are determined by the overall market prices.

Before my trip, a colleague had told  me that her sister had visited Zurich in the past and that “from the moment you step out of the airport, everything costs you a lot“ and that “even breathing will cost you“! I must admit that this kind of made me anxious, because I had to survive 2 weeks with around €500! She had told me about €20 meals and €4 water bottles!

A country with such prices is definitely considered expensive, no one can doubt that! Or not?

The Swiss have less social classes than most other countries have. Or at least the majority belongs to 1-2 classes.

Firstly, there are no ‘poor’ people. For you to be poor in Switzerland, you need to reaaaally want to be poor! The government protects the unemployed and in some cases they will protect even foreigners. I can confirm that I didn’t see any beggars in the italian and  german speaking cantons, and that I had no fear for any kind of criminal activity taking place.

Most of the country is either middle or upper class and third in line is the “elite”.

Let’s start from the elite. I believe that the country has this “rich” stereotype because of the elite. This class is consisted of the bankers, accountants etc corporate related jobs. When you walk on Bahnhofstrasse (Zurich), you see suits with Louis Vuitton briefcases walking really fast, downing their espresso shot in a minute and rushing back to their work, looking like they are constantly in between appointments. (When do these people eat?)

Zürich Hauptbahnhof

Zürich Hauptbahnhof

This is not the majority, however film and media portray Switzerland as the land of money, sharp looking people (mostly men) and piles of gold!

As far as I can understand, the Swiss that are not into a corporate job, are some kind of trade. Into IT, medicine, law etc.

Opera House Christmas Market in Zurich

Opera House Christmas Market in Zurich

However, in contrast to the elite that love to flash around how rich they are, the rest of the country keeps to themselves so much, that you cannot tell who has money and who is “struggling”!

The Swiss are very humble as far as lifestyle goes. Their auto pilot will opt for practicality over showing off.  From dressing practically versus fashionably, to buying a full unprepared meal as a gift instead of something flashy and expensive.

For whoever is not from there, I’m sure you’re wondering what I mean by an uncooked meal as a present, so I’ll clarify. Check out any local supermarket and you will see baskets filled with things like pasta, wine, spices and decorated with a ribbon and cellophane paper. Some are more expensive than others and some have higher quality or more ingredients. I asked my friend what were these (there were whole areas in the supermarkets filled with baskets) and he explained that the Swiss generally offer practical gifts like these. They might pick an expensive wine, but they would not offer something that is obviously expensive.

The logic behind this: By buying something very expensive you almost offend the recipient of the gift. The Swiss find expensive gifts tacky and forceful, almost like they are being bribed. However, a personalised or practical everyday simple gift is much more appreciated.

This made me realise a few things: that the Swiss are financially ‘comfortable’, but (once again) humble. And that yes the country might charge more for food in a restaurant and the salaries might be higher than most countries in the world, but the economy and the wealth distribution is overall balanced. That probably means that if I myself were Swiss, I would’t say that the country is AS expensive as foreigners make it out to be.

Most Swiss have told me that ‘the country is expensive…in comparison to other countries’.

And that is the answer!

Keeping in mind that the country has much higher taxes, which pay for basically everything that makes Switzerland such a powerful and wealthy nation, like the excellent public transportation, it is of course viewed as more expensive and the residents are seen as rich.

In reality, the overall quality of life is what is rich.

Who would not prefer minimal daily conflicts? Less (or no) crime, basic necessities for all, minimum discrimination? In exchange for living in a more expensive country?

To conclude, I’m not sure if the Swiss can be considered as rich or not! I believe that they are, in comparison to other countries, but also that they are not in comparison to the lifestyle and the taxes that are paid. I need help deciding the verdict on this stereotype…

Go Explore!
Nicole xx

Check out:
Stereotypes on Switzerland (No.1) here.
Stereotypes on Switzerland (No.2) here.
Stereotypes on Switzerland (No.3) here.
Stereotypes on Switzerland (No.4) here.
Stereotypes on Switzerland (No.5) here.

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