Is there a happy medium between the Swiss and the French?

Mosaic in Geneva - "I don't dirty the sidewalks!" 

Whenever I mention to a French person that I used to live in Montreux before moving to Paris, they invariably  respond, "Oh, Switzerland, it's a beautiful country, but it's very clean.  The French, we're not so clean, we're rather dirty", all the while regarding me with an air of suspicion lest I whip out a cleaning cloth and start scrubbing everything in sight.  Even though I'm far from being the compulsive neatnik that they imagine, there's something to be said about enjoying the sights of the city rather than constantly scanning the sidewalk for dangerous piles of dog poo.  For all too often, Stéphane will give me a hard shove to the left when he notices an ominous pile on the sidewalk in front of me and then I repay the favor by knocking him to the right when he doesn't see the next one.  So, here are a few of the things that I wish that I could pack in my suitcase to take home with me:

Street cleaners - these little marvels with their scouring brushes work a lot better than the flowing water that's used to clean the gutters in Paris.  And best of all, they also clean some of the wider sidewalks.

An orderly system for waiting in lines like the one in this Swiss post office where you take a number and wait for your turn, thus making it impossible for anyone to cut in front of someone else.

And just in case you're starting to agree with the French, who think that Calvin and his clan left behind a sterile environment devoid of any fun, here's a reassuring sign that everything isn't always so orderly in Switzerland.


  1. I remember going to Lake Constanz one summer with German friends. it was so lovely there, so clean. Then we went into Switzerland and I thought Germany looked like a dump by comparison. I don't know how they do it.

  2. One of the signs that an expatriate is becoming "too" Swiss is "no matter how much of a bad-ass you think you are, you will still pick up your candy wrapper off the floor if an old lady asks you to". It's all of the old ladies (and men) who keep the streets so clean. Maybe I should take a few of them back to Paris with me!

  3. It's just part of our education. I remember how each class took turns in picking up papers from the school grounds on Friday afternoons. Since everybody hated this job, the obious thing to do was NOT to throw anything on the floor! Still today I regularly give some people the "bad eye" when I catch them throwing away their stuff in the middle of the street - and I'm not an "old lady", Mary Kay!! Unfortunately, even in Switzerland things are changing, and in this case it means that the cities get dirtier (like everywhere else).

  4. Heidi, You're definitely not old! But I would still like to pack you in my suitcase and take you to Paris. Imagine the impact that your evil eye would have on the people who refuse to clean up after their dogs. Maybe then the sidewalks would actually be clean and we wouldn't have to watch where we walk! I didn't know that you used to have to pick up papers from the school grounds. For some reason, that never came up before.

  5. As I am reading this, Mary Kay, it takes me back to my first visit to Switzerland. Even in November, I was surprised by how clean it was! And during our visit there was a celebration in Vevey for...I hate to admit that I don't remember that one day in November for the celebration I think of the farmer? I'm so embarrassed...But my point is that even after the parade and market, the streets were spotless. Just heavenly.

  6. Hey Ann, Are you thinking of the big St.-Martin Fair? It's held in November at the Place de Marche and almost always rains! In any case, I know what you mean about the streets being cleaned immediately after the parade. After all, it wouldn't do to have horse manure from the parade lingering on the streets of Vevey. But I may have to eat my words about the French because I was super impressed by how quickly they cleaned the streets after the Ganesha Festival today. Very impressive!

    Thanks for commenting! :-)


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