Impressions of Zurich – Then and Now


The summer between grade 6 and grade 7 was one of my most memorable summers. During this summer my father gave me the news that he would now be working out of Zürich. Until then Zürich was to me a city where rich people from all over the world stacked their money and to hold a Swiss bank account meant that you were hiding some money from the world. But I had no clear idea of how Zürich actually was. When my father told me that I would be able to visit him some time in the near future, I was very excited about visiting this new and mysterious city. I could not wait to get there and to experience it.P1040408

My father moved to Zürich in the month of August. In a couple of months he settled down in the city really well. After a few months we could finally visit him. I first went to Zürich in the fall of 2011. My mother and I travelled together. In fact, I had to miss an exam due to this visit to Zürich. The fact that I missed an exam just for a trip felt very weird. That weird feeling actually added to the excitement of going to Zürich. I was expecting Zürich to be a big metropolitan city. Having visited London 2 years ago, I was expecting Zürich to be a similar city. Zürich in contrast turned out to be the exact opposite of a metropolitan. Zürich appeared to be a very small place. In contrast to London where you see people from almost all over the world, Zürich primarily has Swiss people. Zürich does not offer much in terms of racial and ethnic diversity. There are no streets full of malls (except Bahnhofstrasse) and shops that are open 24 hours. In fact the shops close down at 8 p.m. in the evening. Even the restaurants close at 9 p.m. Many developed cities like London and New York have an underground or a subway. Zürich has neither. Zürich has a network of trams. The trams travel at a leisurely speed but contribute to the city’s effort to preserve its tradition and history. In Switzerland, no city, however developed it might be, has a network of subways or undergrounds. All Swiss cities use the tram. As a 12 year-old, I did not think that this traditional and old city was exciting enough for me. The city had a very small population. At that time the city did not feel so alive to me. The malls and grocery stores used to remain closed on weekends. On weekends, it felt as if there was a curfew in the city. When I would look out the window I would barely see a couple of people. Except for the medical stores, all other stores also remain closed. My surroundings were very dull. The lack of activity on weekends literally drove me crazy. Having lived in India, the concept of not seeing people around you is sometimes scary. A calm and quiet city from the eyes of a twelve year old seems pretty boring and uninteresting. Since I had no friends or family, I was homesick most of the time during that visit. All the excitement turned into longing to get back home. A silver lining though was the visit to Mt. Pilatus, one of the many beautiful peaks from the Swiss Alps. After this trip though, I became desperate to go back home. My first impression of Zürich, and Switzerland in general, was that it was not a lively place. It had a few attractive, scenic tourist spots but not much to like and definitely nothing much to stay forever.

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After I finished grade 7, my mother and I travelled to Zürich again. Grade 7 was a very busy academic year. I had taken a couple of difficult extra-curricular exams. All the results were going to be declared in summer, when I was going to be in Zürich. Grade 8, in the Indian schooling system, offers a lot of tough and challenging competitions and exams to participate in. Part of my objective of visiting Zürich was to isolate myself from the rest of ‘my’ world and keep working on my priorities. Since my parents were working all throughout the week, we could go out only on the weekends. I could go to office with either of them and sit there all day working on my own. Some days I would stay home. It was during this period that I slowly started to realize the beauty of the city. The city was extremely quiet excluding a few rush hours. I could pay undivided attention to my work. The pin-drop silence during the day, which initially I had not liked, was suddenly my best friend. Living there for 2 months made me appreciate the city.

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Slowly I absorbed the way Zurich functions. The people of Zürich liked to begin their day early. Since I stayed close to the railway station, I would see loads of people walking towards their offices as early as 6 in the morning. Due to this early start time, the people of Zürich also stop work early at around 4 p.m. The workplaces in Zürich are simply phenomenal. They are very quiet and provide a very conducive environment for people to work. Most offices are equipped with excellent infrastructure to the finest level. For example the Hot Chocolate served in my dad’s office is the best one I have ever had. The workplace culture, according to my observations, values quality over quantity. The pace of work is not too great, but the quality of output is high. The Swiss like to go to bed very early as they are also up very early. So after 8 in the evening, the streets are literally deserted, irrespective of the day being a weekday or a weekend. The Swiss are also a very quiet bunch. You will never hear your neighbor’s voice. The Swiss people are very proud of their Swiss lifestyle and simply love to live by it. I started understanding the way of life in the city and in fact fell in love with it. This love for the city was further strengthened by some awesome grade 7 results and excellent preparation for my grade 8 extra-curricular examinations. This summer vacation set the tone to make Zürich my favorite spot for a vacation and studying. After every period of hard work in Zürich, I have always achieved something significant, sometimes an award in Mathematics, sometimes cracking a difficult music exam or something else. The calm and quiet environment, the systematic methodology of work, backed by the unique culture and tradition preserved for centuries may have rubbed off on me a little.

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I was more than interested in knowing all details about Zurich now. Zürich is located in the Northern part of Switzerland, close to Germany. Zürich is an hour’s drive from some of the most picturesque peaks in the Alps. Zürich occupies only 33 sq. miles compared to London’s 607 sq. miles. Located centrally and well connected to metropolitans in mainland Europe, it is one of the prime financial hubs in the entire world. The banks, the natural beauty and the Swiss engineered watches define this city. The city is full of bankers and elite people from all around the world. Right from important soccer meetings and ceremonies (and arrests), including the Ballon d’Or ceremony held each year in the Zürich Congress hall, to important meetings of banks like Credit Suisse and other private equity names, Zürich has been host to a lot of prestigious world events.

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Zurich is also a symbol of the Swiss culture. Swiss culture is a beautiful blend of peace loving people with beautiful and scenic mountains. Swiss people boast a world-renowned quality of work and life. They have throughout history, preferred a quiet and peaceful life. The city’s most famous street, Bahnhofstrasse, is one of the most beautiful places on earth. My several bike trips around Zürich made me appreciate the fabulous architecture in the city. The city has done well to preserve all the ancient architecture since the the renaissance era. The people in the city are very friendly in comparison to people in other metropolitan cities. A polite smile is like an unwritten law in the city. Whenever I have bumped into any of my neighbours in Zürich, they invariably ask me about how I am and how my day was. The Swiss people, right from the lady behind the ticket counter at the train station to the gentleman who helped us process our visas at one of the Swiss offices, believe in doing great work together, in an inclusive and collaborative way. The population of the city is very homogenous. Italian and French are also spoken in equal measure with German. The Swiss also try very hard to make everyone feel comfortable. Unlike the French, they are willing to speak in the language you are comfortable in. The Government and police are also at their friendliest best. Switzerland is one of the few nations that have a functioning direct democracy. They feel a sense of responsibility towards each and every one of their residents and citizens. Recently, when my father changed his canton from Zürich to Basel, they took utmost care of simplifying the process. Right from enjoyment activities to working hard, the quality of everything in Zürich is out of this world.

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This highly decorated city in the world is one of my favorite places. The city is quite literally a paradise. Personally, this city is literally my second home. Zürich is the exact opposite of my hometown Pune. It complements everything in India very well. This is why Zürich completes my life. Zürich has taught me that one can appreciate and enjoy life with a new perspective as well. This city also taught me not judge a book by its cover. I learnt the invaluable lesson of patience when I was proven wrong in everything that I assumed about this city. The slow process of hatred turning to love for Zürich is reflective of the process of me maturing as a person. The feeling I get when I step into my home in Zürich is simply bliss. Ich liebe Zürich sehr.

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6 Replies to “Impressions of Zurich – Then and Now”

  1. परमु,

    मस्त लिहिलंयस.. आता तू खऱ्या अर्थाने global citizen झालायस. तुझ्या अनुभव विश्वात अशीच भर पडो आणि आम्हाला असे अनेक ब्लॉग्स वाचायला मिळोत ही शुभेच्छा

    मंदार मामा

  2. Hi, Param
    I could not believe that such beautiful and descriptive musings are written by a teenage boy aspiring to become a matured thinker .Apart from the grooming by Targaonkar and mahajan family,you are now on your own without wings from others.

    Keep flying on your own .Sky is the limit for you. Keep flying ”””sky is the limit. Which parents would not be proud of their siblings achievement ?

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