Sunday, September 4, 2016

[Sunday in Switzerland] What a trip to the U.S. can teach you about Switzerland

Among the questions I got on my first return trip to the United States was "what do you like most about living in Switzerland?"  It took me a while to put my finger on it.  Things like "amazing public transportation" and "it's very clean and orderly" were superficially easy, but not really the core of what makes Switzerland great.

What I like most about Switzerland: the mutual respect people have for each other.

This is possibly best shown by example.  Driving in downtown Pittsburgh, pedestrians repeatedly crossed against the light, when they had a don't walk sign.  I've done my share of that, but I always knew I was in the wrong and hurried to get out of the way when a car approached.  I had a guy flip a cigarette butt at my car as he was crossing against the light.  The reason?  I had the audacity to drive through the intersection and make him stop his illegal crossing.

Pedestrians in Zurich generally cross with the pedestrian signal.  Consequently, drivers in Zurich respect pedestrians that walk with the signal.  They also stop for pedestrians in a cross-walk, even if there's no light.  Everyone is obeying the rules, respecting the other party's right to be there.

Another example: bicycle riders in Zurich are given respect on the roads.  In Zurich, I have never seen a car accelerate angrily (and dangerously) past a person on a bicycle just because they dared to use the same road.

That mutual respect and understanding is what I like most about living in Switzerland.

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