Thursday, May 24, 2012

Swiss Culture

I am a proud American, but still, everybody has an alternate culture of which they hold interest. Whether it be due to the entertainment value, an interest in their way of life, their cuisine, or any form of material culture, holding such interest allows an expansion of how people look at the way of living. It doesn't mean you have to agree with everything they say or do, but you learn new things. For Anime enthusiasts, Japan has been a prime country of interest. We also hold interest through our take on a specific cuisine, such as that of Mexico, Italy, China, and the list goes on and on. We hold interest through languages, especially Spanish in this day and age. My interest is held primarily in European countries and areas of cuisine, literature, and the humanities of such areas. I am naturally a mixed-breed, but Italian plays a heavy influence, especially on the way I eat. I also hold interest in plenty of other cultures. Though in depth, the Swiss culture seems to be one of those countries in which I hold keen interest.

Switzerland is a European country found north of Italy. The capital is Bern and the Alps cross the country. There isn't a Swiss language, because the country is a hodge-podge of cultures, somewhat of a common ground it holds with America. Instead, there are four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansch. German holds the heaviest influence, but French holds an influence closer to the French area and Italian holds an influence closer to the Alps. Geographically speaking, Switzerland lies in the center of a lot of action.

Like plenty of other countries, Switzerland has its stereotypes. You have the Alpine men, the fact they have no personality, they're frugal, they remain neutral in all instances, and they have chocolate and cheese that is more memorable than anyone else. Some of these are fairly true, some of these are exaggerated.

They are isolated from other foreign affairs, like it's distance sister Sweden. They remain neutral in fighting in the military and instead "mind their own business," which is very common for a Swiss person to do. Swiss people are also highly reserved, don't speak with people unless they know them or are introduced, remain very much on time (they are sticklers for being on time and the transportation is almost always this way), and they do have people that live in the mountains, but they don't climb up to the top in shorts and a Alpine uniform and yodel to the top of their lungs.

Switzerland has been known for prime places such as banks and sanatoriums. Its banks are highly popular, due to the secrecy that it promises for the holder, as the holder is the only one that could interfere with the account. Its sanatoriums are highly mentioned for people who need to escape reality and mentally recuperate from a specific problem.

Switzerland is known for plenty of its products, such as its watches (branded as "swatches" on occasion). They have the Swiss army knife, St. Ives body wash (made from Swiss botanicals), and Ricola cough drops, the latter two could be found in stores of all kinds. However, as far as products are concerned, its cuisine is deemed the most memorable, especially the chocolate and cheese.

Lindt Lindor truffles are the most noticeable make of Swiss chocolate, despite the fact that so many exist. I myself thoroughly enjoy the creaminess of Lindt's milk chocolate melting in my mouth. The chocolate from Switzerland tends to have a high amount of quality and a very rich taste. Tolberone, Kohler, and Teuscher are other names in the field of Swiss chocolate.

From a young age, the first thing we attribute to the Swiss is their cheese. We all know Swiss cheese as "that cheese with the holes" and educational television programs and cartoons use this cheese to portray all cheeses. Many of these portrayals are stereotypical. Switzerland is one of the countries known heavily for their cheese. Maybe not as much as the neighboring France, but the love and joy does spread. Cheeses that play a role in Swiss culture include Gruyere, a sharp cheese named for a village. Appenzeller, named for a northeastern section of Switzerland and a hard cow's milk cheese, is another. Raclette is another Swiss cheese, known for being melted and served with foods such as potatoes. The most memorable of the Swiss cheeses is Emmentaler, which IS the ORIGINAL Swiss cheese. It has the "eyes" caused by a bacteria known as Propionibacterium freudenreichii, which releases carbon dioxide and produces "eyes" (which are referred to as "holes"). "Swiss" is an interpretation of this cheese, whether it be from America, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand. Other more unique interpretations of the use of this bacteria are Norway's Jarlsberg and the Netherlands's Leerdammer and Maasdam. Gruyere and Appenzeller produce eyes, but much smaller and in less common stages as others.

That leaves me to the literature aspect of the country. Much of it is influenced by its other countries background, German in particular as it makes up the majority of the country background, but a key novelist is Hermann Hesse, a 20th century author who wrote novels such as Siddhartha, the story of the original Buddha. I recently completed this novel and enjoyed it. Other works of his include Steppenwolf and The Glass Bead Game. Hesse was a Nobel Prize winner in 1946 as well. There are plenty of other Swiss authors, such as Max Frisch and Friedrich Durrenmatt. Much of our knowledge for Swiss literature comes from the name of the book and not the author. For instance, Johann David Wyss wrote The Swiss Family Robinson (which remains on my "to read" list on my book shelf) and Johanna Spyri wrote Heidi. We know these novels really well, but not so much the names. The Swiss Family Robinson has been mentioned plenty of times in the world of entertainment, as Heidi has been a notable story... and a TV showing interrupted a football game as well.

Another mention to the country is its breed of dogs. The one that sticks out the most is the Saint Bernard. I never owned one, but it is a recognizable breed. It's most recognized as the dog that carries the barrel and serves as a rescue dog. It does make sense, given that it's rescuing people in the Alps. It's influence is played in the Italian section of Switzerland, which is the Alps. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is another breed of this caliber that is also recognized by the AKC. Offshoots of this dog include the Bernese Mountain Dog.

The Swiss do have fairly strange laws, or at least according to us as Americans. The strangest being that after 10 PM, you cannot flush your toilet or relieve yourself standing up.

That's my culture based fascination... and to be specific, it's a culture based fascination that isn't our own culture. I had to do a presentation on a religion that wasn't my own in World Religions. Now I'm doing the same thing, only with a culture that isn't my own. The Swiss culture is a hodge-podge culture with influence from a few other countries and they run their country as they please, something every country wishes to do. Now, after writing this post, the thoughts about chocolate and cheese on separate occasions sure makes me hungry!

1 comment:

  1. I think Scotland deserves more recognition, as it's the origin of the "Brownlie" name (apparently; my family is, according to a certain family tree and some info provided by my Aunt Muriel, originally from near Glasgow). My family has been thinking about visiting Scotland for several months already. We just visited an old hangout place in Hell's Kitchen called the Landmark Tavern this past Saturday with my aunt, who told the current owner that she used to go there when she was much younger and that my ancestors knew the original owner.

    Swiss stuff comes next, though.