There are a lot of cultural differences in Switzerland. To name a few: (most of which start with the letter S)
-Six. What is so important about this age? Well apparently being six years of age makes you nearly a grown up in Switzerland. Before the age of six you don't go to school. Maybe to a nursery but not school. At the age of six though, you go to school and you walk (sometimes across a highway!) alone. Swiss kids also come home for lunch daily so around noon every day I see them walking around, riding buses and doing things that are slightly more than your average six year old.
-School. Schooling in Switzerland, aside from starting at the ripe old age of six is rather different. It is different for Girl and Boy because they go to an international school, but Swiss kids have a different system. At the age of 11 Swiss kids take a test to see whether they are intelligent enough to go to "Gymnasium" (or high school, the college track) or to go to trade school. So in five years you have to cram in as much information as you can, because at 11 your future is almost set. What the hell?! If I had to start my career path at 11 I probably would have picked to be in the Babysitter's Club. Oh wait...
-Smoking. Now the Swiss are known for being anal about punctuality, cleanliness, quiet, but smoking is something they cannot live without. They can still smoke in bars (whereas most European countries have banned it, and some cities in Switzerland as well, Zurich is lagging behind). Nothing is fun about waking up the morning after going out and smelling like you bathed in an ashtray. (I'm mostly bitter because I got burned by a cigarette last night!)
-Recycling. (Okay not an S word, if you think of one let me know.) The Swiss are nuts about recycling. You have four types; soft paper (magazines, newspapers), hard paper (cardboard), glass and metal (self explanatory), and plastic. With the plastic and glass bottles you have to take them to the grocery stores and put them in the appropriate bins, and the paper items go out on a specific day and must be tied, in neat bundles, with string. Now, not to insult my home country, but this shit would never fly in the States. I mean really, people are much too lazy to go through all that trouble. The reason they do it here is because of garbage. Or garbage bags to be more exact. Instead of paying for the trash removal service you pay for the bags (about $2 per bag!). So the more you can recycle the less trash bags you have to use. If this were the case at Denison we'd have either had a lot less parties or recycled a lot more cans of Natural Light.
-Smiling--which falls under the general category of Swiss girls. Okay, a lot of Swiss girls that I've met are wonderful (i.e. my lacrosse team). But, a lot of times, Swiss girls aren't the nicest. In America, or at least the sheltered parts I've lived in, if you like a girl's dress/purse/headband/et cetera you'd say, "I love your ____! Where'd you get it?" or something to that effect. In Switzerland if a girl likes your ____ she'll give you a look like you kicked her dog and say, "That ____ looks stupid on her." Excuse me? Swiss guys love American girls. Oftentimes when we're out they'll come over and say, "American girls are so wild!" and we look at one another thinking, "What the heck? We're just smiling." Granted not all Swiss girls are rude! Last night I met this lovely Swiss girl (with great bangs!--Wish you were here to cut them Cait!) who said most of the rude ones reside in Zurich (she isn't a native Zuricher, so maybe it is the location).
-Cell phones. (Okay it sounds like a S word.) Everyone here has these incredible cell phones, and all I can think, "How do you afford this?!"
Oh and on a completely different note. We made two new American friends last night who just moved here a week ago. The woman is from Philly and said she goes to this one liquor store in Pennsauken all the time (double points for knowing where my family is from AND for liking cocktails). Better yet, she went to IES Vienna. And had my German teacher. Wild!