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Swiss Watching: Inside Europe's Landlocked Island

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,226 ratings  ·  140 reviews

Swiss Watching: Inside Europe's Landlocked Island is a light-hearted yet revealing journey around Europe's most individual country. From seeking Heidi and finding the best chocolate to reliving a bloody past and exploring an uncertain future, Swiss Watching proves that there's more to Switzerland than banks, skis, francs and cheese. One country, four languages, 26 cantons,

Paperback, 310 pages
Published July 16th 2010 by Nicholas Brealey Publishing (first published 2010)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  1,226 ratings  ·  140 reviews

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Elizabeth Atwood
Jul 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
I started this book while I was in Switzerland and finished it a few days after getting home. I thought he did a really good job of mixing the history of the country with his own experiences and opinions. I certainly found some truth to his observations, and he is pretty funny too. Favorite lines...
"German words such as Unabhangigkeitserklarungen are not words, they are alphabetical processions."
Explaining that a Swiss man invented Velcro and "ended up changing the world of children's trainers
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
What a great book! Id especially recommend it to Swiss people because of the inside joke feeling it will give you, but its such an enjoyable read that I think anyone will like it.

A big part of what made the book such an enjoyable read was the British Humour with which it was written; funny, witty, cheeky, sarcastic, yet always respectful.

I am Swiss by heritage and even though Ive never lived in Switzerland, a lot of Swiss Things are on my radar and part of my daily consciousness because I grew
Jan 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-a-copy
After reading this book, I feel like I could apply for Swiss nationality; I should be able to pass the exam easily!

Seriously, a great book filled with numerous and mostly interesting facts about Switzerland, many of which I didnt know (or wouldnt have been able to summarize this way) even after 10 years in this country. Diccon Bewes travelled all over the country, talked to all kinds of people and apparently did some intense historical and cultural research. Some of his views were too much
Tammy Ford McHugh
Aug 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Although I learned some things about the history of CH, the generalizations were overwhelming. At times the stereotypes do ring true, but I have issues with people stereotyping. I think the book is good for non Swiss who choose to live in CH. I've been here over a decade and admittedly had many moments when I read something and nodded my head in agreement with the author. However, a few times I shook my head in disagreement.
Jul 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
Admittedly Im not a fan of these types of books, no matter how informative (or not) a, say, Bill Bryson is, the person usurps the writing, and more often than not, that person comes across as a twat.
This book is hardly and exception.
Aside from random clichés and stereotypes (which, oddly, the writer shows his loathing for when one is used upon him), with such nonsense as the Swiss are obsessed with and the Swiss love nothing more than, other parts seem taken right from the writers imagination
Jul 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up from an English book shop in Berlin to prepare for the Swiss-leg of my holiday, having realised that I knew nothing about Switzerland, except armed neutrality, cheese, mountains and chocolate! I found the book really enjoyable with lots of Bill-Bryson-like bon mots and facts and figures. To me, the fact that Bewes is an Englishman in Switzerland, made the book relevant to travellers, especially those who are English or from cultures similar. I found-out a lot, gained some ...more
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: europe
This is almost required reading for non-Swiss residents of Switzerland, but I found it disappointingly shallow and not particularly insightful. The volume includes some light popular history, and a lot of descriptions of the author's trips around Switzerland. The descriptions are occasionally mildly amusing, but more often full of less than useful details. There is no overarching narrative, and reads like a random collection of snippets. For a book on Swiss culture, it contains very little ...more
Feb 03, 2011 rated it liked it
This book was okay. I really would only recommend it for someone who is moving to or is living in Switzerland as an expat. Even then, I would still caution anyone who reads it to keep an open mind beyond how the author describes things. After living in Switzerland for several months, all of the author's generalizations just aren't true.
Sorina Negrilă
May 28, 2016 rated it liked it
The funny thing is how people from 2 different cultural backgrounds (author - British, me- Romanian) can notice and be puzzled by the same Swiss particularities: train rides with soldiers who carry their guns in plain sight in the prototypical neutral country (I admit to being a bit worried when I first noticed it & immediately opening a news page to see if I had missed the latest news), the serene littering of streets with cigarettes when I desperately search where to throw mine (in a ...more
Rebekka Flotron
Apr 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-books
If you are interested in Switzerland and its people, read this!

As a Swiss citizen, it is very funny but also very intersting as I found out about habits Swiss people actually do have, that I did not know before. But whilst reading this amazing book, I noticed them and I find myself very strange now.

There is a great deal of sarcasm in this book, but I never felt as if the author is making fun of "the Swiss Way of doing stuff". It is just a perfect represention of Switzerland!

Diccon Bewes tells
Jul 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very enjoyable book about a country that most Americans know far too little about. The only drawback to the Kindle edition is that the maps are difficult to read see and the photographs are missing, but I enjoyed the book and will probably re-read it some day as visiting Switzerland is on my travel bucket list.
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
A good overview of what makes the Swiss...erh...tick. Like the Swiss the book is well-ordered and easy to navigate. The author's light, cheeky humor keeps the more tedious topics of history and politics engaging. It is a book similar in style and character to T.R. Reid' book on Japan "Confucius Lives Next Door." A perfect book for gaining insight to Switzerland either before or after a visit.
Christina Tsafoulias
Sep 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Bewes does a great job of offering insight into Swiss society based on its history and cultural peculiarities, often done with a good amount of humor. This book gave me a better sense of Switzerland and its people while entertaining me along the way.
Lupeng Jin
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book written by a British journalist describes another amazing country - Swiss, which I, personally, have little knowledge about. I fancy the views and words the author applies in this book. I recommend it to all my friends, especially who love travelling.
Jacob Martin
A good romp through most of Swiss culture. Some stereotyping but usually fairly accurate and in good fun. A times positively helpful to the Auslander. Some of the historical parts a bit patchy but there are others out there which cover this very well.
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. I got it as a gift from a Swiss friend before leaving Switzerland (after living in Geneva for six years). I enjoyed a lot reading the book. I smiled and laughed several time (mainly I was reading the book on the bus on my way to work or on planes) Very entertaining and funny (a bit stereotyping in a funny way) . Strongly recommend to all friends living in Switzerland (and the Swiss ones as well). Now I want to go back to Switzerland and go to all the fantastic places mentioned in ...more
Alexander Temerev
Written from a British expat perspective, occasionally untrue, not deep enough. Some entertaining facts are there, however.
Quí Hiển
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
1. Really good humour.
2. Swiss culture from a British perspective.
3. I'm trapped between the urge to finish the book then move on to his other books and to not want it to finish.
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Excellent book for someone who has recently been or will be going to Switzerland soon. Funny and informative as well. I picked up the book on my last day in Switzerland and had most of it read by the time I landed back home. Highly recommend
Missy J
If Indonesia, Etc: Exploring the Improbable Nation by Elizabeth Pisani is the perfect guide to learning about Indonesia, I highly recommend Diccon Bewes' Swiss Watching: Inside the Land of Milk and Money to learn about Switzerland.

I knew a little something about Switzerland before reading this book, the basic facts at least. But I wasn't familiar to the history of the country one bit. This book presents the history in an easy manner and dedicates entire chapters on cheese, chocolate, politics
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To a large extent this book confirms most of the stereotypes that we have of Switzerland:
The Swiss are very organized, reserved and rich.

But it does a decent job in explaining WHY they are like that.

Some of the things I learned or which I hadn't really thought about:

(1) How Switzerland's geography influenced its culture. Being situated in the mountains, each valley was somewhat isolated from the others, so they developed a fierce independence.

(2) I didn't quite realize that Switzerland does
Apr 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
Not sure why a guy who's obviously never been anywhere near Switzerland feels he has to write about the country?!
Surely he can't seriously be expecting people to believe he's living there, after filling a whole book with Swiss clichés and random facts - some with references, others just made up for the fun of it - constantly slagging off the Swiss lifestyle... not much of a surprise that he would find it hard to socialise with the locals!

Never mind that most of his "so very Swiss" observations
Grant Trevarthen
May 05, 2013 rated it liked it
When we think of Switzerland, most of us think of Watches, Chocolate, and those who like Skiing, so visitors by the coach full flock to either the Eiger or the Matterhorn.
It is strange that for all that Switzerland has to offer, there are not many recognized personalities, I can only think of 2, Roger Federer &
Martina Hingis, both are Tennis players.The strange thing is that even though Switzerland is a land-locked country, it has one of the top ranked
America's Cup syndicates, skippered by
Aug 07, 2014 rated it liked it
I'm not generally a fan of travel writing - often I find it fairly dull and I find that the opinion of the author often then overrides my own which changes my experience of the place.

However, this book was really informative and at the same time was fairly easy to read. This was particularly the case because of the good, yet subtle, use of humour throughout.

I don't think it would appeal to people who have got nothing to do with Switzerland as it is in-depth, but to ex-pats and tourists it is a
Jul 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
I tried, I really did. I saw this book in the sale section of Amazon's Kindle downloads and I should have remembered the old adage, "You get what you pay for." It sounded interesting. Switzerland is a country that I don't know much about and I generally enjoy good travel writing. But the author's tone (which alternated between, condescending and trying to be funny) drove me insane. Here's a hint to writers everywhere: Comedy is hard. Leave it to the professionals. I made it through the first ...more
Jul 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I may be half Swiss, but not having ever lived in Switzerland, there is so much about my mother's country that I didn't know. This is a very informative book but it's also hilariously funny at times, and I was quick to recognize some of my Swiss relatives' quirky habits. It can't have been easy writing this as Switzerland is actually quite diverse despite the uniform impression it gives to the outside world. I think Bewes manages the depiction of contradiction and consensus really well. ...more
Margaret Clark
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Light, entertaining read that touches on everything from Switzerland's history to neutrality to current government. I loved it, and I would highly recommend it to newcomers to the country, such as myself, or anyone who is interested in knowing more about the country. The only drawback is that the author is obviously British, and often the comparisons that he made didn't hold much meaning for me, an American. He does refer to the US/Americans as a comparison a few times, but often it suffers from ...more
Jun 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, history, travel
With a breezy English humour Diccon Bewes injects more than his own insights into the view we traditionally have of Switzerland, and more particularly the view they have of themselves. Rather than a travelogue, this guide by a British ex-pat in an era of internationalism gives deeper roots and fresher fruit to the inquiring reader. Not once mentioning niche markets, Diccon shows the importance of individuality while retaining market share. It has to do with not giving all your secrets away ...more
Susan Rumsey
Oct 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of the most enjoyable books I have read in years. Whether you are interested in Switzerland or not (I wasnt until I read this book), this is mandatory reading for anyone who wants a chuckle a page and a hearty guffaw a chapter. The authors observations of the Swiss are affectionate and spot on, his tone is delightful, never deprecating. Witty, insightful, extremely funny, and highly informative: books just dont get better than this. If you are thinking of travelling to Switzerland, this book ...more
Doug Conroy
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
A thoroughly honest, entertaining, and informative of all things Swiss and un-Swiss. Having now been to the capitol of Bern three times (as well as a few nearby towns and cities, including Zurich), and written from an outside cultural eye as well so that I can relate to quite a bit of the storytelling, my fascination with the Swiss way of doing things has become all the more enhanced and ingratiating.
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“The Swiss are rich but like to hide it, reserved yet determined to introduce themselves to everyone, innovative but resistant to change, liberal enough to sanction gay partnerships but conservative enough to ban new minarets. And they invented a breakfast cereal that they eat for supper. Privacy is treasured but intrusive state control is tolerated; democracy is king, yet the majority don’t usually vote; honesty is a way of life but a difficult past is reluctantly talked about; and conformity is the norm, yet red shoes are bizarrely popular.

It is perhaps no surprise that the Swiss are contradictory, given how divided their country is. Since its earliest days Switzerland has faced geographic, linguistic, religious and political divisions that would have destroyed other countries at birth. Those divisions have been bridged, though not without bloodshed, but Switzerland remains as paradoxical as its people. While modern technology drives the economy, some fields are still harvested with scythes (all the hilly landscape’s fault); it’s a neutral nation yet it exports weapons to many other countries; it has no coastline but won sailing’s America’s Cup and has a merchant shipping fleet equal in size to Saudi Arabia’s. As for those national stereotypes, well, not all the cheese has holes, cuckoo clocks aren’t Swiss and the trains don’t always run exactly on time.”
“And in Bern there’s a physical reminder of his army’s presence: the street signs in the city centre are still in four different colours, a system used to help illiterate French troops find their quarters. In some streets signs are green on one side, yellow on the other; a little historical anomaly that modern tourists barely notice as they take photos.” 0 likes
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