a safe swiss haven?

Everyone who has visited or lived in Switzerland can be easily lulled into a sense of ‘feeling safe’. Compared to many other European countries (especially when you read the many news reports of teenagers looting and setting cars on fire), Switzerland is indeed a beautiful and peaceful country and its people are generally quite shy and reserved. This is the place where between 12 to 2 in the afternoon on weekdays and for the whole of Sunday, no vacuuming, drilling, hammering or loud rhythmic bedroom noises are tolerated because this is the time set aside for farm animals and old people to take their naps.

That is why it always comes as a surprise and great disappointment to me when I hear about incidents of house-breaking, school-bullying or any other forms of anti-social behaviors. Then again, most of such stories were passed down from a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend. Well, you get the idea.

I had my very own encounter with anti-social behavior a few weeks ago. I was on a swing on the playground near my house with my son when I saw two teenagers skate-scooting up the pedestrian walk next to the playground. They rode past a house with a big bush covered with easter decorations and started pulling the ceramic bunnies and eggs off and throwing them really hard at the house. Never in my life have I witnessed such unprovoked meanness. They then made their happy escape, laughing proudly at their misdeeds before they realized I saw everything. The skinnier boy raised his hand up at me. I couldn’t tell if he was waving at me in blatant defiance, or making a Nazi salute at me. I reciprocated with a firm middle finger. I think he was quite taken back and was not expecting any reaction from me. Anyway, both of them rode off.

Five minutes after my ‘act of bravado’, I finally had time to think like a responsible parent. What if the 2 big kids started attacking me and timmy? There was no way I could fend them off. They were armed with two big skate scooters; I had only my iphone (30% charged battery) and an innocent, snotty-faced child busy burying his toy car in the sand with not a clue in the world about what happened. I kept turning my head to make sure the 2 boys were not hiding somewhere ready to throw their skate scooters at me.

Last weekend, we saw a lot of trash like a Macdonald’s take-away bag and other plastic bags lying on the grass infront of the lake and on our front porch. My neighbor who lives 2 blocks away from us said that weekend, there were also a lot of trash found hanging on the trees!

The weather’s warming up really quickly now and a lot more people are starting to have picnics or use of the free bbq-pits infront of the lake. I have to remember to remind my husband to find somewhere less conspicious than the bins by the lake to dispose of our son’s soiled nappies, prawn shells and chicken bones. You don’t want any gooey poo dripping on you when u relax under a tree by the lake! I don’t want him to be made a scapegoat for all the trash spawned on public grounds when all we want to do is keep our balcony nappy-poo-stench-free. (read my blog about ‘the price of being green’)

Another friend who lives about 2 streets away from us said her neighbor’s huge Dodge, which was parked out in the open, was set ablaze late one night. There is still an ugly melted-in patch of tar left on the front porch where the fire took place. Who would do that? Maybe someone who doesn’t like american-brand lorries.

Most Swiss kids we’ve encountered are polite and quiet. A few years ago, my husband took my son out til close to midnight and was trying to get down the escalator at the railway station as fast as he could with the pram to catch the last train home. A teenage girl dressed in goth black got her boyfriend to 1) put down his carton of beer, 2) hold the train doors open for my husband and 3) help him carry the pram up the steps.

I always think Swiss kids, very much like Singaporean ones, are very sheltered, protected and somewhat more guilible than their european/south-east asian counterparts. Both have a well-educated and affluent population, and both countries do not have to grapple with issues of social unrest, poverty or war.

Perhaps it is due to the absence of pressures and conflicts, that the young become restless, and take it upon themselves to create armaggadons in their own little backyard.