Works Like A Swiss [fill in the blank]

Posted by David Bowles on Saturday, September 15, 2012

Arriving in Geneva was like meeting a beautiful woman who won’t talk to you. It was vibrant and alluring, but aloof and distant. I did not become better acquainted for having briefly visited Geneva.

Blonay Castle – still owned by the Blonay family

Blonay, however, was a different story altogether. Here we were met with a wonderful welcome offered up by Janet’s old friend Valerie and her husband Etienne. They have two beautiful daughters, Virgine and Auriel, 13 and 20. Being in the company of these four provides us with a warm bath of hospitality and a lens through which we can view this special place.

The Swiss manage chaos with precision.  It is not that things always work well, but they don’t tend to energize the dysfunctional by railing against it. Rather, they focus on the next step, progressive but cautious. They live in communities that have been under the stewardship of their parents and grandparents, ad infinitum. There is veneration for the place in which they find themselves and regard for the impacts their actions may produce. They seem to understand that short-term solutions might be long-term problems in slick outfits. Underpinning the folk spirit of these people is a core value for responsibility.

In America, as a people, we are compelled by our value for freedom. Yet so often this impulse is expressed as “freedom from” – freedom from domination, freedom from being told what to do.  And we have high expectations. It is not that we are spoiled, per se. Often willing to work hard, we do so out of an expectation of reward rather than a sense of duty or responsibility.

The connective tissue between our desire for freedom and our sense of responsibility is often tenuous. With this connection we can create boundaries that establish the space to express our impulse as  “freedom to”. Freedom to fulfill our purposes, freedom to produce the outcomes we desire.  Instead of embracing boundaries as useful and creative we erroneously view them as constraints that make us less free.

The Swiss seem to be much more practiced in managing their responsibilities and more positive in the way they deal with their problems. We throw out the baby with the bath water. They treasure babies and recycle grey water. And they are rewarded for their restraint. This area is a lovely place filled with warmth and laughter and a quality of community that is truly inspiring

Categories: Restaurant News

3 Responses to “Works Like A Swiss [fill in the blank]Comment RSS feed

  • Vivi
    December 19th, 2012 12:40 pm

    While I was writing you a Xmas card I was enjoying myself in reading your feedback of the September European trip. David, I also loved your writing to Debbie, the one who cannot cope with your special sense of humour. I hope both of you are doing fine and that you are not overwhelmed by work during Season’s Holidays. Any plans to relax in Hawai? On our side, we are preparing ourselves to celebrate Christmas and New Year with friends and family. I took off some time to be with the kids and hopefully we can go skiing. Dear Friends of the West Coast: Merry Xmas and Happy New Year! Livre your dreams and share an Amarone dela Valpolicella, it’s always a celebration, isn’t it? Love Vivi

  • Kelly
    October 14th, 2012 10:11 am

    I love visiting places in Europe — always so fun, allows you to experience the best of what the countries have to offer, and ability to leave without having to experience any real problems.

    Having lived in Europe for 3 years, I found things quite a bit different when you don’t get to leave after a few weeks (kinda like visiting nieces and nephews, vs. them living with you). Lot’s of good on both sides of the coin, it’s largely in how you approach your circumstance, but it’s different than sipping wine in the afternoon sun.

    And I’ll admit, not having a choice can be very freeing, you just do what you do, wherever society forces you, you work and are happy (what choice do you have anyways?). When I was in Desert Storm as a Marine, it was some of the most relaxing times I’ve had – I had no decisions to make, I did what I was told to do for that day, no problems – I had no choice.

    It’s easy to be critical of having freedom to choose, and dealing with results of bad choices, but you get to choose again, you get to reinvent, you get to learn from your mistakes (hopefully) and try again. That is what is so amazing and unique about the Freedom we have here.

    Our ability to break through those “boundaries” (heck, even ignore they exist) is the soul of our country and is the core of our freedom, and what makes the USA so great. I’ll admit, something has been lost in the last 30 years… there’s a bizarre sense of entitlement, a loss of work ethic… probably a symptom of being so successful for so long we have a generation who never had to work, or keep score, or deal with any real consequences. Good news is, we can learn, work hard, and move ahead – both personally and as a country – and so we shall.


  • Linda Dahan
    September 20th, 2012 10:32 am

    Reading this is like being there with you and Janet. I was feeling the beauty and relaxation…and the friendship of Janet’s friends.

    Your writings always inspire me and I try to remember some of the words you write because you frame thoughts so beautifully. As an example – you begin explaining how the Swiss manage chaos and end up with an inspiring editorial on the American ‘freedom from’ vs ‘freedom to’. If you don’t mind, I’m going to save your thoughts and plagiarize them some day.

    Sam and I just returned from a mountain top experience (literally) in SE Oregon for our 20th anniversary so we’ll come celebrate your trip, our anniversary and the cafe changes! It’ll be good to see you both again, and hopefully hear more trip details.

    All the best –
    Linda Dahan

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