From Diccon Bewes, English travel writer, Swiss Watching: Inside Europe’s Landlocked Island, 2010:
The Swiss are rich but like to hide it, reserved yet determined to introduce themselves to everyone, innovative but resistant to change, liberal enough to sanction gay partnerships but conservative enough to ban new minarets. And they invented a breakfast cereal that they eat for supper. Privacy is treasured but intrusive state control is tolerated; democracy is king, yet the majority don’t usually vote; honesty is a way of life but a difficult past is reluctantly talked about; and conformity is the norm, yet red shoes are bizarrely popular.
It is perhaps no surprise that the Swiss are contradictory, given how divided their country is. Since its earliest days Switzerland has faced geographic, linguistic, religious and political divisions that would have destroyed other countries at birth. Those divisions have been bridged, though not without bloodshed, but Switzerland remains as paradoxical as its people. While modern technology drives the economy, some fields are still harvested with scythes (all the hilly landscape’s fault); it’s a neutral nation yet it exports weapons to many other countries; it has no coastline but won sailing’s America’s Cup and has a merchant shipping fleet equal in size to Saudi Arabia’s. As for those national stereotypes, well, not all the cheese has holes, cuckoo clocks aren’t Swiss and the trains don’t always run exactly on time.