Student Paper Two Worlds Apart The Geography of Bliss The Swiss maintain a high standard of excellence which helps them connect to their half frozen mountain habitat. In chapter two of The Geography of Bliss, Eric Weiner discovered the Swiss people are content with conformity. This society has an unparalleled standard that they have chosen to apply to their fellow countrymen. While I was conducting my “here and now” experiment, I noticed some of the trends of Switzerland being mimicked, and others being neglected. Here in America, we have our own individual standards of excellence rather than those of a society that can be found in Switzerland. The Swiss connection to their environment and faith in an orderly, dependable society attribute to the overall happiness of their civilization. In America, this faith in our civilization is replaced by the fires of industry and greed of people looking out for themselves and their interest. Switzerland is a land of cleanliness and environmentally conscious people. From roads, trains, cities, and even the Alps, Weiner was able to attribute these to the happiness of Switzerland. Upon one of his first interactions with Swiss citizens while at a meeting arranged by his friend Susan, he asked this group of people “What is the source of Swiss happiness”(30)? One person Weiner spoke with, a Swiss doctor by the name of Dieter pointed out the cleanliness found in Switzerland, stating “Have you seen our public toilets? They are very clean”(30). Weiner observed this to be true as he found that “Not only are the toilets clean in Switzerland, everything else is too”(31). Weiner must have taken Dieters recommendations and observations seriously, since he based much of his experiences off of them. When Dieter was asked about the bliss in Switzerland, he replied “We Swiss have a very deep connection with nature”(34). This observation leads Weiner and his friend Susan to travel to the town of Zermatt, an alpine town located in the Alps, which has a ban on any non-electric cars. This law is widely favored by the Swiss, “an environmental regulation that the Swiss gladly accept to protect their beloved Alps”(34).Not to suggest that toilets are a source of happiness, but rather the standard of cleanliness in all aspects of society. If a restaurant has an unsanitary restroom, a customer can ask themselves how clean the kitchen or the food they are eating is. This provides a negative environment for the customer and the employees who work there. This can be applied to everything from roads, to public transportation, even the air itself. In recent years, America has been pushing for a cleaner environment, and to preserve nature so we do not cause any further irreversible damage. It can be said that we Americans are following the trends of Switzerland, or that our connection to nature is a true source of bliss. We Americans lack the current economic power and willingness to create any major transitions in the interests ofa more in touch with nature environment and a cleaner society. It’s not to say we don’t care about our society, we simply find happiness from a much wider variety of sources. Swiss people are always watching each other, to ensure their standards are always being kept. There is an Old Russian saying “trust but verify”. This mentality is not unusual to find in an orderly, selfpolicing society such as Switzerland. While author Weiner was on his expedition to Switzerland he met a British woman who told him of a time she was up late having drinks with friends in her apartment. The next morning, she found a note attached to her door saying “No laughing after midnight” (33). This woman was not confronted directly by the complainant, but was instead contacted in a polite courteous way. Through Weiners experiment in Switzerland, he came across this self-policing life style frequently, mentioning, “Leave your car dirty in Switzerland and someone will pin a note to it” (33). It’s safe to say the people in Switzerland don’t like living in a dirty society. While Weiner was traveling to a hill top overlooking the city of Zurich, he witnessed a gentleman being confronted by an undercover warden. After Weiner observed this event, he wrote about this trust but verify mentality in chapter two, “Zurich’s public transportation works on the honor system, except that undercover wardens travel the train, too” (42). He wrote about the embarrassment of being caught as the main deterrent. The Swiss do not trust one another to maintain a standard of orderly living. Instead they practice a series of safety nets implemented by their government, and nosy neighbors. In Switzerland, it is embarrassing to be caught violating the trust their society places on themselves of maintaining a higher standard. It’s not the threat of a fine, but rather the feeling that they let their society down. Although legal punishment can be applied to any offenders of this greener, cleaner life style, the main deterrent is shame. While conducting my “here and now” experiment, I sat on a bench at Sue Biermen Park in the heart of San Francisco, with my back to the city skyline, and my front to the open park. I pondered on how we compare to Switzerland. The Swiss take care of their environment, “So appealing is the image of Switzerland as an affluent, clean, well-run society” (31). Even in a society of perfection and pride in their environment, not everything works perfectly. Weiner came to this conclusion in chapter two, saying “Sometimes, though, even the real deal falls short of its own expectations” (31). As I looked around the park I couldn’t help but notice it had been well kept. The grass was freshly cut and the fallen leaves were being gathered by a grounds keeper. The sidewalks were clean and free from stains. Traffic was congested and electric trollies moved throughout The Embarcadero of San Francisco. Vehicles were small with a high concentration of environmentally friendly cars. Homeless gentlemen were lying sporadically throughout the park. This put a taint on what would have otherwise been a good urban park. One could only wonder where they came from, how they got there, what was their story of failure that led them to make this small slice of nature their home. In a society where we place so much emphasis on a cleaner environment, it would appear that we have forgotten about those of us whom haven’t been as fortunate to be able to make cleaner life style decisions. I cannot connect people wanting to improve their connection to nature with homelessness, but how often would I run into a homeless person if I were in Switzerland? From personal experience I can say that while I was in Romania and Bulgaria I did not see one single homeless person. I saw plenty of lower income individuals, and families, but no homeless people. These second world nations can provide a safety net for their citizens, but as one of the top world superpowers, we cannot. I must ask myself what we doing differently from Switzerland, Romania, Bulgaria, or other nations throughout the world that have eliminated the lowest form of poverty. America is the land of the self-made man. Millions of people from all across the world come to America to make a successful living. Weiner was able to experience the revelation of differences in culture between America and Switzerland, as he states “how very un-Swiss I am” (43). Where Americans have a fast and now mentality, Swiss can sit around and enjoy the day. As Weiner found on a blog that a friend helped him create, one particular comment stood out to him, “Maybe happiness is this: not feeling like you should be else-where, doing something else, being someone else” (43). From over-night shipping to fast food, Americans are impatient, not wanting anything to hold us back from our next task. The Swiss, however, are patient. They can sit around and wait for the right opportunity to make the best possible decision for success. Assuming success leads to happiness, the difference of American success is one of many micro achievements, where Swiss have few larger achievements. In a view of capitalism verses socialism, capitalism promotes individual success as well as company success. Socialism is intended to promote success for everyone in the country. These are just a few examples on the difference between Swiss and American cultural pursuits of happiness. To conclude the differences in Swiss and American life styles of happiness, Switzerland is a green friendly nation; however, Americans are beginning to catch up with this environmentally friendly life style. The Swiss life style is a nosy one, where they are constantly policing each other to ensure their standards are met. Americans enjoy their privacy and independence, but it comes at a cost to the less fortunate. Weather collectively or independently, both cultures are opportunities of success in the world, leading to the potential for happiness. In the age of globalization, communication, and information, Switzerland will continue to achieve happiness through standards of excellence.