In many ways Switzerland was everything I’d wished for in a place. Thanks to Bollywood, most Indians know Switzerland as a paradise on earth. A mythical place of peace and beauty. I was excited to discover it’s reality. And it didn’t disappoint. The beautiful mountains, surreal landscapes, an effortless transport system, the peace and quiet of the relatively small cities. It was perfect. Perhaps too perfect. On my last day, while I was leaving class, I spoke with an older man of Korean descent who was raised in Switzerland. I asked him how life in Switzerland had been. He said, “It’s been wonderful. But no one tells you off the problems of comfort, of abundance. Materially, all is perfect, yet something is missing. For if one doesn’t fit within this system, or isn’t satisfied, they alone bear the burden”. It wasn’t surprising to hear this. It had become commonplace to hear my Swiss friends complain of essentially not being perfect enough. The cultural demands of perfection seeped into one’s private affairs too. The zealous work ethic in the culture reflected this. My politics professor at university traced this attitude back to an idea from Calvinism, which professes that one’s outward success is the only way to realise whether God has favoured them. And that the historical belief of Protestantism in Switzerland could explain this work ethic. I felt that in some cases the excessive demands people put upon themselves caused an imbalance and unhappiness. But most of all it surprised me, after having witnessed the unending beauty of the country, to see that there was unhappiness despite outward perfection. Similarly, when I visited India during the winter break, I was surprised at the joy in the people that I met despite an outward lack. This made me appreciate India for what it was. For when I was younger I felt a certain disdain for India, which in many ways is a far cry from the effortless organisation of Switzerland. I wanted to escape the inconveniences of being there. I thought if only society were organised differently I’d be happy. After having lived in the relatively perfect world of Switzerland. And seeing unhappiness and happiness show up where I didn’t expect them to. I’ve come to realise that happiness isn’t dependent on the external, but at its heart is the openness to whatever is. Suddenly I didn’t feel that I’d regret living anywhere. Yes some places are far more difficult to live in than others. But these challenges can be seen as opportunities for growth. I didn’t expect that I’d appreciate the chaos of India by living amidst the serenity of Switzerland, but I am grateful for this realisation. And while the Swiss work ethic can sometimes be excessive, I found the challenge to be more disciplined with my work a welcome consideration, as my usual way, in very Indian fashion, was perhaps far too laid back.
All in all, living in Switzerland has been a beautiful dream. I was immediately struck by how unbelievably beautiful the country was. The mountains, forests, lakes often left me speechless. The transport system is excellent, so getting to and from places was a painless affair. This meant that I could get on a train and be on the mountains in 30 mins! Zurich is a beautiful city and I spent many evenings walking around Lake Zurich. The unbelievable natural beauty of Switzerland is hard to describe but perhaps my pictures will give you a glimpse.