Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Surprises in Zurich

I didn't think I had too much of a pre-set notion of what Switzerland is like, but I've seen a few things here that have surprised me nonetheless:

1. Cigarette vending machines. I don't think I've seen one of those in more than twenty years. Youngsters reading this have probably never seen one. All I can say is "What the...?" Perhaps someone who knows more about Swiss culture than I do can explain to me some coherent reason for why they haven't joined the rest of the civilized world on this one.

2. People biking in traffic without helmets. Lots of 'em. It seems like none of the bikers here wear helmets. I'm not necessarily going to say "There ought to be a law..." on this one (unlike the cigarette vending machine question), but I would think people would care more about their own safety than that. Even though drivers here are much more disciplined about stopping for pedestrians here than in France, still it only takes one mistake.

Then on a more positive note, #3: the "Condomeria"

I don't think I've ever seen a store openly display such wares in the shop window. Even when I went on my pilgrimage to "Good Vibrations" in San Francisco, as I recall the shop windows were obscured -- customers had to enter to see what was for sale. (San Fransciscans please correct me if I'm wrong on that.)

For a second I thought it was appropriate that the condomeria faced a large French bookstore, but then it hit me that they don't have any shops like that one in Bordeaux (a city of comparable size). For all of the French disdain of prudishness, the many sex shops of Bordeaux have kind of an air of sleaziness: they're more of the "peep show" variety and don't give the impression that female customers would be welcome to enter even if they wanted to. For the ladies in France they have the lingerie shops instead. Maybe it's just me, but places like this condomeria make the whole business seem more wholesome and egalitarian.

Things that didn't surprise me?

Zurich is very green and very, very, very clean. :D


Anonymous said...

Because Zurich is like Germany.

We have cigarette vending machines as well. What really freaked me out when I moved to Germany, wasn't the vending machines. It was the fact that the vending machines were on the sides of buildings or in residential areas. Like this.

Germans don't use helmets either but they panic if their kids don't use one. Go figure.

As far as condoms go. Check out the current Gib AIDs keine Chance (Don't give AIDs a chance) ad campaign. You see those veggies on every bus stop in Germany right now. (Last year's ads were pretty creative too.)

Just ask if you want any translated.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Ben!!!

Wow, cigarette vending machines in residential neighborhoods? That's crazy!!! I was already worried when I saw a cigarette fending machine in a cafe in Zurich. On the other hand, it's true that ad campaign is cool...

Anonymous said...

Is that first picture a Niki de Saint Phalle?

j a higginbotham

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey J. A. Higginbotham!!!

I have no idea, sorry...