The smile returns: Switzerland opens up

Mpeople have mouths. You can use them to smile, also to laugh, and that even outside of your own four walls, in the fresh air, in a city, together with other people. In Germany we have forgotten this a little and forgotten because we have been making our mouths disappear in public for months in accordance with the regulations. In the long run this is not good for the mind, it makes the heart heavy because it robs people of being human. Germany takes this to heart and is therefore probably the worst-tempered country in the world. But there is still a good mood on earth, joie de vivre, everyday enjoyment, the great happiness of little freedom – in Switzerland, for example, which reopened its outdoor catering a few days ago, in Basel, in Bern, in Zurich, everywhere. We went to the Limmat and saw the unbelievable: Zurich smiles, Zurich laughs.

Personal responsibility and risk assessment

The whole city seems to have only been waiting for this moment and is now sitting closed on the terraces of the restaurants, bars and cafés: on Sechseläutenplatz in front of the opera house and on the banks of the Limmat, in the alleys of the old town and the side streets of the posh Bahnhofstrasse, on every free corner, in the tiniest of spaces, regardless of whether it is sunny or shady, improvised or permanently installed, always at a distance, never with a mask. People are already drinking wine and aperitifs at lunchtime, eating raclette or rösti, the fine gentlemen from Küsnacht and Herrliberg have dressed up, the students have taken their summer clothes out of the closet and the young families have put their offspring in their Sunday best. All age groups are represented, all kitchens anyway, and everyone seems to smile incessantly, which we can swear, because even on the street hardly anyone wears a face mask.

He has to wait a little longer before he can go back to the pots: the great two-star chef Heiko Nieder from the Hotel The Dolder Grand in Zurich.


He has to wait a little longer before he can go back to the pots: the great two-star chef Heiko Nieder from the Hotel The Dolder Grand in Zurich.
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Bild: Pablo Faccinetto

It is a strangely depressing, exhilarating feeling because these people show us what a strange world we are living in in Germany and what a much nicer world we could live in. Although the pandemic numbers in Switzerland are neither better nor worse than here, there is no paranoia, no panic, and no passer-by jumps to the side in fright when an unmasked person walks towards them. But there is also no apocalyptic plague mood, no carpe diem, there is no final fireworks display as a prelude to the dance of death. You don’t enjoy the hangman’s meal before the end of the world, but a glass of Chasselas at Bellevue, because you know that the world is not going to end – and you order another glass to celebrate the day.

Did the Swiss lose their common sense in the pandemic? Have they gone crazy because – unlike us – they don’t allow themselves to be locked up and leave immediately as soon as they are no longer locked out? Or are they just naive, careless, thoughtless? This is not how they look on the terraces of Zurich, but like people for whom freedom is a higher good than absolutist health protection, like citizens who would rather control the state than allow themselves to be controlled by it. They seem to know what personal responsibility and risk assessment are, they weigh up between realistic danger and imagined threat. That’s why they sit outside on the terraces and drink wine. That is why the bathing establishments are already open, soberly informing their visitors that “the situation is dynamic” and that they should inform themselves. That is why the Ferris wheel on Lake Zurich has long been turning again. It is a beacon: life can also go on.

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