Why Americans Aren’t Coming to Switzerland, It’s All Them Muslims – August 2015
We took a ride on the paddle steamer on Lake Thun in Switzerland. It runs a bit like a ferry, from one end of the lake at Thun to the other end at Interlaken, pulling-in to lakeside stations along the way to pick up and drop off passengers. It is one of a number of ferries that do this trip but these days the only one that is driven by paddles powered from a traditional steam engine. It is thus popular with certain types of tourist.
We found a seat at a table near the prow of the boat, conveniently under an awning as the day was one of squally rain showers. Diagonally behind us an English couple who managed to strike up a conversation with two Germans who made the mistake of innocently sitting opposite them.
“We've been coming here for sixteen years”, said the man. “Fly from Manchester to Zurich . . .” and I was just waiting for, “It were raining as we left home but it cleared up a bit as we got onto M56”, but I think he thought better of it and instead got into:
“Been staying in the same place for six years now, it’s nice, but is getting very expensive, I think we’ll have to look around for somewhere else.” He’s right, Switzerland has always been expensive but now with the strength of the Swiss franc it is becoming in general exceedingly so.
“The only people who can afford it now are Japanese and all these Muslims.” And whether he is right or not about the affordability there are certainly a lot of Japanese, as there has for some years and the numbers could well be growing, and growing number in recent years a very large number of Muslims, the women in traditional dress, many of them fully veiled, and the men the opposite, in polo shirts and cut-off jeans. They are to be found quite simply everywhere in the tourist areas of Switzerland.
Why? Are they refugees? Some may be, but surely not those milling about the lobbies of the five-star hotels and those who have spent quite a lot of money to travel up a funicular or cog railway to the top of a mountain for the view. Many appear to be tourists, but where they originate from is not clear, it may well be more than one place and it may equally well be London in many cases, but that uniform, of the women cloaked and veiled and the men in stone-washed jeans, seems 100 per cent universal. Wherever they have come from, when they get there they are notably sartorially uniform.
On Interlaken West station
“And the Americans aren’t coming much now”, announced the Englishman, “Very religious, Americans, very religious, most on ’em. They won’t like coming where there are a lot of Muslims.” Where he got that theory from, I’ve no idea.
“And we’ve got all these people at Calais.” I was sitting with Zoe and we looked at each other with a look that said, I wondered when that was coming.
“The Germans don’t want them, they’re sending them all over to Calais.” He may have read something in the press about the disquiet in many towns in Germany when a refugee reception centre is planned for an area. There have been protests and there has been violence, and outside Dresden a tented area has been set up to try and cope with the incoming migrants, which has caused particular objections from locals, so possibly the Englishman has got a bit muddled with his geography. Though who knows where he got this idea that the migrants at Calais are being sent there by ‘the Germans’? Next: “You Swiss are you?”
“No, we are German, from Munich.”
Ooops! But the bloke didn’t seem fazed in the least, and it’s quite possible that he doesn’t really know where Munich is. It was only us who were cringing.
But anyway he took discretion to be the better part of his flow and changed the subject:
“Munich, aye, very nice. Have you been up that Hindelberg?” (something like that, we didn’t quite catch the name of the peak he was referring to though it seemed to be in the general area), “You should go there, we went up in a gon-daw-ler.” (with the stress on the daw).
And it was at this point that we realised that the German couple was only probably getting about a third of what he said, which came as a major relief. Gon-daw-ler, it’s our word of the week, Zoe and me (for we were the only ones present earwigging at the time). Gon-daw-ler.
And by this time the rain was blowing in coldly from their side of the boat, so the Germans, and the pontificating Brits, felt it was time to go inside, and that was the end of our excruciating entertainment for the afternoon.