Frenchness rubbing off on the Swiss

<Geneva airport carpark, Switzerland>France and Switzerland seem like unlikely neighbours to me. The French love slow time while the Swiss love to keep time. Some of my French friends park illegally and don’t care while a Swiss person can book their neighbour for parking in a car-free neighbour’s allotted spot. France is still learning what the internet is all about while the Swiss tourism people have already embraced social networking to make personalised advertisements starring you.

In a country where the tunnels near Geneva airport sometimes smell of peach cleaning product, Switzerland takes the cake for being efficient. And that’s why I was surprised when these doors appeared across the car park at Geneva airport when I tried to leave. My passengers, eager to get on the piste, had already been held up for an hour getting through airport security. They tried to hide their impatience.

I buzzed a nearby airport intercom and explained in French that some doors were closed and I couldn’t exit the car park. The guy clearly thought I was a nutter, but said he would come down. Minutes passed so I called again. The man said he was still on his way.

Five minutes passed and a queue of cars had built. This didn’t feel like Switzerland at all! A driver asked me what was happening, then he swore into the intercom and eventually, two workers arrived and looked surprised at the closed doors. After some discussion, they overrode the automatic closure system and manually forced the doors open, grunting along the way.

Just a few minutes later, we were moving at the speed of a tortoise with a hangover thanks to a car accident and the chaos of no traffic police. I wondered if we were really in efficient Switzerland until the smell of peach cleaner returned as we crawled through a tunnel. My friends managed half a day on the piste. It would have been less had I not made a new car parking space near the ticket office.


I’m a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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3 comments on “Frenchness rubbing off on the Swiss
  1. Jayne says:

    Well, me and my colleagues reckon that Geneva is not truly swiss. Its seems like a strange mix of swiss idiosyncracies mixed with french laissez-faire sprinkled with a good dose of internationally-flavoured topping. Recently the Geneva police went on a work to rule/strike in that they refused to verbalise anyone. Passing the border each day, often the border police are nowhere to be seen, even the vignette sellers are often not outside. I think the visible absence of motorway police shows they just let us frontaliers sort outselves out and squabble amongst ourselves even tho’ its generally quite disciplined apart from the odd ass who causes a shunt (at least 3 or 4 a week) that makes like a misery for the rest of us. Give me France anyday.

  2. Steph says:

    Uh oh, one of those days, but what can you do? I have to say I thought everything ran smooth as clockwork in Switzerland too.

  3. Wendy says:

    Actually Jayne, I didn’t buy a vignette in all of 2010. I tried, but they kept letting me through. In the end, it became a challenge to end the year without one and I did!

    Steph, yep, just one of those days – probably due to the huge amounts of snow falling that day putting everyone in slow mode or something…

About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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