A trip to Switzerland


Aubrey Headon and I had something in common recently.
No, it is not athleticism…she is much more talented in that area. I can’t imagine competing on a national team on any level, yet she does it with ease.
Switzerland is the commonality.
She was there competing; my wife and I were there visiting our daughter, who lives there.
Pardon me while I ramble about Switzerland.
It is beautiful. Our daughter lives in a town near Lake Geneva, and I can sit on her balcony and watch the boats on the lake with the French and Swiss Alps as a background.
It is clean. Yes, there is a lot of graffiti, or maybe I am just noticing it more, but cities are generally cleaner than what you would expect a city to be.
I was chatting with her friends about life there. We got on the topic of insurance. You must have health insurance if you live in Switzerland. The government sets the standards, but private companies provide the plans.
I asked how this was enforced. One person told me if you want a bank loan, mortgage, apartment rental, or to purchase a car, you will be asked for proof of insurance. No proof, no business.
People also have accident insurance, usually provided by the employer. The difference? If you get hit by a car, accident insurance covers that. If you have a heart attack, health insurance covers that. I was also told that if you were crossing in the middle of the street and not a crosswalk, accident insurance may not cover you.
The Swiss constitution recognizes four official languages…My daughter is in the French speaking park, my nephew is in the German speaking part, while people on the east end may speak Italian and a few in remote communities speak Romansh.
This nation of eight million has no trouble communicating. Young people may speak three or four languages, including English. I talked with a 10-year-old who speaks German at home, French in school and English with me. She flowed effortlessly from one language to another.
They have a different view of education.
School calendars have breaks in the summer, fall, winter, spring and in February for skiing. Parents will be denied permission to take children out of school at other times, unless it is a family emergency. At around sixth grade students take a test to determine if they will attend a university prep type school, or a school that will train students for a career. It’s a big deal.
Switzerland also is a major wine producer, although they do not export wine to the United States. Luckily I have a big suitcase.

Terry Dickow is a retired elementary school teacher with lots of opinions, some you will like, some you won’t. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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