Thorough Swiss

We are already one week into our Switzerland visit and I am amazed. This is where I grew up, this is where I have my roots. While I am Swiss at heart, I am no longer a true Swiss, the past 10 years living in NYC contribute to that, no question.

While visiting a Swiss farm I couldn’t help but notice with what diligence, care and thoroughness this farmer piled his fireplace wood. Do you see how much love went into this stack of wood? How he built a roof to protect it? There were about 5 of these on his property. Each one of them a work of art. And he is not an exception, the Swiss are thorough when it comes to how they stack their wood, or do anything, really.

The Swiss do it right or not at all. While I admire this mentality it also drives me crazy. We should be able to marry the playfulness and joy to experiment that Americans tend to have with the thoroughness of the Swiss. No?

26 Comments leave a comment below

  1. A few years ago my family spent 2 weeks in a teeny tiny village in the swiss alps. I was amazed at the wood, stacked up under the eaves around each and every home. Every available wall was stacked high with beautifully neat firewood.

    We also loved the bakery van that came every 4 days, filled to overflowing with freshly baked bread and cakes!!

  2. Possibly Ella is your own life-size contribution to that magical juxtaposition :)

  3. Tina, you should decorate it and transform it into some kind of caterpillar or snake. Alls you need is a papier-mache head.

  4. I am Argentine and I have lived in Southern Germany and visited many times Switzerland, where we have very good friends. As such, I was always amazed by the time and dedication put on this kind of order, particularly coming from a more chaotic (call it Latin) background…

    I understood better some of these appreciations by viewing a nice animation on Philip Zimbardo’s secret powers of time (I wrote a few lines about it here: http://bigital.com/english/2010/07/philip-zimbardo-secret-powers-of-time/

    Perhaps New York have some “southern of the Alps” flavor too… :)

    And yes, a mixed balance – if possible at all – could be really lovely.

  5. You may not get the playfulness and thoroughness in one person but in one family you can definitely get it.

  6. Hi, I’m from Hungary and living in Bern.
    Yes, the city is clean and tied up as hell as well, but when its come to party on friday or saturday night… the swiss people going crazy with their trash, its all over the place, you can barely walk down the street. There is now even a small billboard next every trash can in the oldtown : ” Put your trash here please”. Isn’t that strange? :-)

    (by the way, love your blog)

  7. They do this in Maine. Even the fancy cover sometimes.

    My grandmother was obsessed with having the cords of wood stack straight and to a uniform height.

  8. You can find same piece of art in almost every village of Turkey (:

  9. there are fewer wood piles in zurich, where i live lately. but the urban outcome of care and precision are obvious every recycling day. the locals fold all paper to the same size and tie the stacks with strings: http://breadbreadbread.com/?p=536

  10. So true about the Swiss, I have several friends from there, and when I was living in London they used to comment on things and say “We would never do that in Geneva.” I agree that it can get irritating at times.

    And just last night, I was talking about how Canadians always seem to confuse the Swiss and the Swedish. This mistake is incomprehensible to me, the only similarity is that they both start with an S. And… I hate to admit it, but the Swedes also have that sense of organization that the Swiss do. My Swedish in-laws are always so organized, nothing is ever left to chance. So perhaps the North Americans who can’t distinguish between Sweden and Switzerland are actually reflecting on the organization of both countries.

  11. “We should be able to marry the playfulness and joy to experiment that Americans tend to have with the thoroughness of the Swiss. No?”

    For my opinion, that’s exactly what you do …

  12. I think you can also add Germans to that list of organizers & perfectionists. As I heard many times while growing up “If you can’t do it right then don’t do it at all!” Well here I am, Swedish and German heritage and about as anal as they come. Now that I am older I have learned to enjoy playfulness too. :)

  13. Forgot to mention my happy memories piling wood with my mom and dad while growing up. Just didn’t seem like work on those chilly fall evenings……I tried to make them neat but they did not look as good as that Swiss stacked wood. I still love to stack wood. It really is an art form in itself.

  14. Your picture and post made me homesick :( Born and raised in Switzerland, living in California for over 20 years, I can relate to not-being-a-true-Swiss anymore. But it’s in my heart, and I love visiting my Swiss family and friends every year, reminding me where I came from, and why I am the way I am.

  15. well, that’s why we have you, no? ;-) enjo.y

  16. well, that’s why we have you, no? ;-) enjo.y
    p.s. just saw, marc was quicker in mentioning that, but as good swiss use to say: “dopplet hebt besser”!

  17. Hiking around old, extremely remote, mining camps in the Colorado Rockies reveals neatly stacked firewood in the oddest places. Some of them have been sitting there 100 years and I have to think if they look that tidy now how magnificent they must have been when they were freshly stacked.

  18. I love Switzerland. I would move there in a minute if I thought I could survive without the language skills.

  19. Was in Switzerland for the first time in my adult life in June. I also grew up in Germany, where this pride in workmanship is also apparent. It goes from the job to the home and its something I try hard to incorporate into my life.

  20. As an American, from Maine, who has been living in Switzerland for almost 8 years, I know this love/hate thought pattern well. The beauty of the perfection and orderliness is out of this world. For anyone who appriciates asthetics and thought of everything solutions, Switzerland is the place to be. However as an American I do pull my hair out sometimes with the lack of creativity and individualism. I am doing my best to bring the best of both worlds together in my household and Swiss community. I believe that there is always so much diversity within a single population, that you can always find a niche that share your values. I love it in Switzerland, but do just love putting my sloppily tied recycled paper out on the sidewalk every wednsday. And then I peak out my window to see how many Swiss cringe when they walk by…

    Mixing two cultures (or many more) is the secret to enjoying life!

  21. I just wonder why people connect diligence to nationality or cultural background? To me this is a delicate approach and a further channel of identification with ethnic cliché and stereotype. a half-baked statement. i wonder what the swiss farmer would say about his piece of art. nonetheless a very nice blog. thank you swissmiss.

  22. Reminds me of a beautiful Oliver Conran stool I saw recently: http://www.dailyslandered.com/?p=473

  23. Just came home from a vacation in Sweden, where I took a photograph of this 2.7 meter woodpile made by an old farmer by the name of Håkan. He’s an old man, but somehow manages to be thorough and playful at the same time ;-)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nsop/4821626951/

  24. En Suisse, on n’aime pas le cheni

  25. Oh, if you think that NYC have playfulness and joy… the Switzerland marriage with South America would be extraordinary!

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