So long as those boats keep sinking*
“Was not the earth of Allah spacious enough for you to emigrate therein?”
— Quran, 4:98 (Sahih International)
Swiss cooking may not be as exquisite as Italian or French cuisine. And, Brexit notwithstanding, the Helvetians’ capacity for multiculturalism does not compare to London’s. As a people they suffer from worse-than-German workaholism and almost-Scandinavian interpersonal detachment.
Besides, there probably is something to the claim that theirs is less of a country than an efficiently run and profoundly amoral business. Never mind the Bahnhofstrasse, Europe’s most expensive high street, in Zurich. You only have to remember Davos to feel you’re in the control room of global hunger. But still!
Whether in terms of prosperity or security, the landscape itself or the sheer cleanliness of air and water, Switzerland is paradise – and not just for skiers, CERN physicists and members of the Bilderberg Group.
Jonas and others I’ve met cite the influx of Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka in the nineties, for example: their dark, unfamiliar faces initially aroused suspicion, but since they proved to be hard workers – the one true condition for effective integration into Swiss society – they swiftly acquired a good reputation; they now have Swiss nationality and are in no way discriminated against.
Invisible though I am, I myself feel welcome enough when, the festival at Leukerbad over and the descent back to Leuk complete, Jonas Lüscher – my host and guide in Switzerland – accompanies me to one of Zurich’s notoriously overpriced hotels in the old town.
It is from here that, for two days in a row, we will set off to his birthplace in the canton of Aargau.
A more or less homogeneous farming and commuter housing community, Oberwil-Lieli is a 5.4 square kilometre merger of two villages, home to 2,222 people. Boasting a few examples of the country’s distinctive half-timbered facade, it is 58 percent farming land and 27 percent woods.
For many it has become an alternative to “the Goldcoast”: the evening sun-bathed northeastern shore of Lake Zurich where millionaires like to live.
Today most of Oberwil-Lieli’s residents have considerably higher real incomes than the average when Jonas’s parents moved there in the seventies. But that is not the reason we have settled on it as my case study.