With the exception of a few days every year, Zurich is usually a calm, peaceful and serene city.
The German Swiss are often described as quiet, hardworking, punctual and discreet people, less prone to emotional outbursts than their neighbors from the South (Italian Swiss and Italians) and the West (French Swiss and French). Simply more Germanic and less Latin. In many ways, I appreciate that for it reminds me of those Prussian values my German grandparents tried to instill in their grandchildren.
When I arrived in Zurich a few years ago, I first thought the city was half asleep, miles away from the lively and flamboyant spirit of the French capital where I grew up. I know now that the people here can be just as emotional as their latin neighbors. They are simply much better at hiding it.
And today, on this Thursday 15th of January 2015, after the Swiss National Bank suddenly decided to unpeg the Swiss Franc, thus sending the Helvetic currency to soaring heights and creating havoc in various portfolios, from pension and investment funds to individual accounts, I witness a spectacle of utter disbelief and shock in the faces of my Swiss colleagues.
No hidden feelings.
Phones ringing right and left.
Customers, some of them badly hit by what happened, in a state of panic.
I remember the words of a conversation I had with a friend from Moscow, just a few weeks ago. We talked about the impact of the weakening Russian ruble.
“We are wounded, clearly, but the Russian people are used to changing winds and unstable times. Life goes on. “
These are undoubtedly unstable times for Europe and those who grew up in them, whether in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France or another country of the old continent.
To all this, and as someone who went through some even darker times, American poet Robert Frost would have probably replied:
“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life:
it goes on.”