Sunday, May 15, 2011

No douze points for Suisse/Schweiz/Svizzera

The Eurovision Song Contest was on last night, and this year Switzerland was in the final. While Eurovision is always kitsch and cheesy, some of the songs are quite good; really catchy. I actually liked Switzerland’s entry this year – ‘In Love for a While’, by Anna Rossinelli. But it seems nobody else in Europe did.

Switzerland came stone last with just 19 points, miles behind second-last placed Estonia with 44 points. It was also one of only three countries not to be given ‘douze points’ (twelve points, the maximum a country can give an entrant), and I think most of their 19 points came in one ‘dix points’ (10 points) haul from one country (I forget from whom, and the detailed voting results aren’t up yet).

Eurovision is always famous for its country-block voting, where the Scandavian countries all vote for each other, as do the former Soviet bloc countries. But it seems Switzerland has no friends who will vote for it. You would think three of the countries that surround it and give it three of its four official languages – France, Italy and Germany – would vote. They might have given them some votes – I don’t really remember – but I don’t think any of them they gave Switzerland the big three; ‘huit points’ (eight points), dix points or douze points.

And I wonder why. A couple of my friends on Facebook I think have summed it up; in response to my post on Switzerland coming last, my friend Julia said ‘that’s what happens when you’re neutral’ and my friend Teri said ‘no friends, no enemies, no nepotism gets you 19 points’. That has to be it; the fact Switzerland is neutral and doesn’t create waves for itself with its neighbours.

I always thought Switzerland was one of those countries in Europe that people liked, or at least respected. Maybe they do; I’m not European, so I can’t really tell, and I haven’t been here long enough to really know. But maybe the rest of Europe just doesn’t think about Switzerland. As Teri said, Switzerland has no friends and, having not been in a foreign war since 1815 (I’m not counting Afghanistan – who hasn’t been in that one?), no enemies. They’re also not part of the European Union and don’t have the euro or crippling national debt. Apart from internationally controversial and little understood laws and policies, like assisted suicide, I think Switzerland rarely makes the news.

I read a great book recently, Swiss Watching, by Diccon Bewes, an English expat now living in Bern. His book was a revelation for someone new to Switzerland, the Swiss and Swiss ways. I think it should be required reading for expats. Several times while reading the book I had a eureka moment, where he would write on something I was curious about but didn’t know the answer to. Like what’s with the little yellow signs everywhere? (They’re hiking signs, to help the Swiss find their way in their obsessive love of hiking.) And with the people canvassing in the town centre every Saturday? (They’re trying to get people to sign a petition so that a referendum can be called, the main way of laws being passed in Switzerland.)

Mr Bewes outlines in his book the parts of Switzerland’s history, over 700 years of Swiss-ness, of why the Swiss are what they are today. The cover of Swiss Watching might have the answer as to why Switzerland came last in Eurovision this year – “Switzerland may be more than 500 miles from the nearest drop of seawater, but it is an island at the centre of Europe. Welcome to the landlocked island.” Indeed.

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