Helvetic.LA

LA's virtual Swiss neighborhood!

Report: Swiss Foreign Direct Investment in the United States

leave a comment »

Written by :+)!

March 5, 2013 at 4:07 pm

A Swiss Watching A-Z of Switzerland

with 2 comments

“Guest blogger and soon-to-be LA visitor, Bern-based Diccon Bewes, will share some of his fun observations about Switzerland through the eyes of a British expat. Diccon’s stories remind us “Auslandschweizer” about our homeland’s quirkyness – and offers a “Swissness Manual” for non-Swiss friends trying to figure out why we Swiss are sometimes… …quirky.

Save the date: on Thursday, June 23rd, Diccon will be at the Beverly Hills Hotel for an evening hosted by the Chariman and Board of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce. Come join us, have fun, and take home a signed copy of “Swiss Watching” (email SwissCenterLA@gmail.com for pre-purchase opportunity at a special price)” M:)

Thanks to the lovely people at Helvetic LA, I have a chance to introduce you to some of the many intricacies and oddities of Swiss life. And there are many. So many, in fact, that I thought I’d start with the basics – a crash course in all things Swiss, from A to Z, that was one of the most popular posts from my blog last year. Next time, I’ll get down to details. And there’s nothing the Swiss like more than attention to detail.

A is for apple. Ever since William Tell shot one off his son’s head, the humble apple has been the unofficial national fruit. Switzerland grows over 276,000 tonnes a year, more than the UK, and certainly has endless ways of cooking them.

B is for bureaucracy. Swiss red tape makes all others look pink. The Swiss love pieces of paper, which is just as well as there is a piece of paper for everything. An application for almost anything needs at least three different ones, all stamped and signed by the relevant bureaucrat.

C is for canton. Switzerland isn’t really a country; it’s 26 countries that give a good impression (to the outside world) of being a single entity. Each of the 26 cantons has its own laws, flag, parliament, taxes, number plates, and police.

D is for draughts, aka the source of every illness known to man. The Swiss hate draughts more than they hate the Austrians. Houses are hermetically sealed, train windows kept shut on even the hottest of days, and every stiff neck or cold is blamed on a draught. That famously healthy Swiss fresh air should only be enjoyed outside. With a scarf and without wet hair.

E is for Emmental, where the cheese comes from. A lush green valley near Bern, Emmental is synonymous with Swiss cheese in general, even though it’s just about the only one with holes.

F is for fondue. Switzerland’s gift to the culinary world is more than a cheese-and-wine party in a pot; it’s a national institution. Of course, most Swiss only eat fondue when there is snow on the ground but restaurants are happy to sell it to tourists all year round.

G is for Gotthard. It was control of the Gotthard Pass that gave birth to Switzerland in the 13th century. The wiggly road remains at the heart of the nation’s psyche, even if the Swiss are currently digging the world’s longest tunnel right underneath it.

H is for Heidi. It says a lot about Switzerland that it has a fictional five year-old as a national icon. Created by Johanna Spyri, the little girl from Graubünden has been delighting children and promoting Switzerland since being published in 1880.

I is for island. On a map, Switzerland may look like a landlocked country but it is in fact an island. At least it is in the minds of many Swiss: surrounded by the EU, cut off by its mountains and almost never going with the flow. Welcome to the landlocked island!

J is for Jungfraujoch, the pinnacle of the Swiss railway system. Literally. At 3454 metres up, it’s the highest railway station in Europe and has been since it opened in 1912.

K is for knives, of the Swiss Army variety. The little red penknife is a standard-bearer for Swiss design, but it’s not just for soldiers; hardly any Swiss man leaves home with his trusty tool to hand. But the knives used by the Swiss army are actually big and green.

L is for languages. Switzerland has four national ones – German (64% of the population), French (20.5%), Italian (6.5%), and Romansh (0.5%). Swiss Germans have their own spoken dialects, referred to collectively as Schweizerdeutsch, with German itself used for anything written or official.

M is for mountains. Over 70% of Swiss land area is made up of mountains, mainly the Alps but also the Jura. And with 48 peaks over 4000m, Switzerland is the Roof of Europe. All very scenic but it doesn’t leave much space for the population to live in.

N is for neutrality. Switzerland doesn’t take sides, and hasn’t done so for centuries. Instead the Swiss sit on the fence and stay out of their neighbours’ wars. Being neutral isn’t always easy but it can be easier than making a decision.

O is for on time. Late is a four-letter word in Switzerland where punctuality is a way of life not an abstract concept. Maybe it’s because of the watch industry. Never being on time wouldn’t exactly be the best advert for a country that makes some of the world’s best timepieces.

P is for politics. Switzerland is a people’s republic, thanks to direct democracy. That means a referendum every three months, the right to challenge any law, the chance to initiate new legislation – all adding up to the people having more power than politicians.

R is for Röstigraben. The imaginary line, which gets its name from Rösti a fried-potato dish more popular with Swiss Germans, is more than a linguistic divide between French and German speakers; it’s often visible in social policy, European issues, way of life and sense of humour.

S is for Swiss. In a multilingual country using the English adjective is often easier. So the national airline is called Swiss, the phone company Swisscom, the national lottery Swisslotto, and there are private companies like Swiss Life or Swiss Re.

T is for Toblerone. Cailler may be purer and Lindt pricier but there’s one brand that stands out, purely because of its shape. The triangular chunks from Bern are for many people (especially duty-free shoppers) the embodiment of Swiss chocolate.

U is for UBS. There are an awful lot of Swiss banks (328 different ones), but they rarely get a good press, what with secret accounts and black lists. Banking in Switzerland is more than the headlines, it’s about trust and stability, something which UBS is re-learning the hard way.

V is for victory, though it’s ages since the Swiss had one of those (except in skiing or tennis). But Switzerland wasn’t always so anti-war. It used to invade, kill and conquer with the best of them. Then it gave it all up for peace, and the chance to make money from letting others do the fighting.

W is for William Tell. He’s probably more myth than man but thanks to a German play and catchy bit of Italian music, Tell became a Swiss national hero for fighting the dastardly Austrians. These days he’d be called a terrorist and asked to leave the country.

X is for xenophobia. Not everyone in Switzerland is Swiss (21% of the population are foreigners) and not everyone who is Swiss is happy about that. Cue the nasty side of Swiss society: black sheep posters, minaret bans and long waits for citizenship. Luckily not all Swiss agree or vote for the SVP.

Y is for yellow. Everyone knows that Swiss trains are fab, but what about the Postbus? The ubiquitous buses have 783 routes to reach the parts the trains can’t, and a famous three-note horn taken from the Tell Overture. And they are yellow.

Z is for Zurich. Not the capital but the largest city, and the face of urban Switzerland: compact, efficient, cosmopolitan, exciting. At least that’s what its inhabitants think; the rest of Switzerland sees them as brash and arrogant. Or maybe they’re talking about the Germans who live there.

And if you’re wondering what happened to the Q, well there is no Q in Switzerland. Or more precisely no queue. For such a polite society, the Swiss can’t queue. They may shake hands at every possible opportunity but when it comes to waiting in line, the gloves are off, particularly when waiting for transport. At bus stops, train platforms and cable car stations, it’s a free-for-all. Scrum down, elbows out and every man, woman and child for themselves. Getting off a tram can be a battle against the tide of humanity getting in, even when there’s enough time and space for all. After six years in Switzerland, I’m still struggling to overcome my (very British) innate desire to form an orderly line. It’s a daily battle.

Written by swisswatching

January 15, 2013 at 9:00 am

Posted in Little Switzerland

Tagged with

Ode to Los Angeles – our Home, the Creative Capital of the World…

leave a comment »

Written by :+)!

January 11, 2013 at 7:10 am

Posted in We Love LA!

Tagged with , , ,

The Swiss Cheese Misconception

with one comment

Maybe it happened to you as well. When I arrived in Los Angeles 3 years ago, pretty much nothing resembled my home in Switzerland. But wait. There was something that did remind me of my country of origin on a regular basis: Swiss cheese.
In the states, one comes across this epitome of quality and tradition over and over again. Offered as an option in your favorite sandwich, any fairly good tasting hamburger comes stuffed with it and there is no supermarket that doesn’t carry it in its dairy section.

The famous milk product from our small Alpine country has come this far. Right? Unfortunately, not quite so glorious. Anyone who has ever enjoyed an original Swiss cheese made from tasty alpine milk, will suspiciously recognize the difference in taste. And therefore, I have taken the effort to learn more about the difference between ‘Swiss Cheese’ and ‘Cheese made in Switzerland’. And here’s what I found out:

Swiss cheese made in the U.S.

Swiss Cheese is mostly produced in large U.S. corporations using bulk operations to make Swiss-type cheese. It is made from pasteurized milk and is available already sliced and shredded in regular and low fat varieties. Due to mass production for a quick distribution it is usually matured only about 4 months and therefore, has a much milder flavor than the real thing.

Image

By the way, the size of the holes (known as ‘eyes’) in Swiss cheese is regulated by the U.S. government. In order to sell large quantities in the United States, the holes may not be greater than 3/8 of an inch. If this standard is met the cheese may be sold as Grade A. However, the reason for this law has more to do with politics than with quality. The American manufacturers had problems with their mechanical slicers when the holes were too big. Instead of developing new techniques or equipment, they went with the practice of simply lobbying the government to make laws to fix a problem.

In the U.S. the two best-selling varieties of Swiss cheese are Baby Swiss (from whole milk) and Lacy Swiss (from low fat milk). In 2010 about 152’400 metric tons of Swiss cheese were made, most of it in the state of Ohio.

Cheese made in Switzerland

Cheese made ​​in Switzerland on the other hand stands for traditional and natural production methods. Cheese-making in Switzerland dates back to the Roman Empire. To this day village dairies daily process fresh milk from the nearby region.

Image

Image: Jürg Vollmer / Aroser Zeitung

Switzerland prides itself on putting quality first, and cheese is no exception. The lush alpine meadows with flowers and herbs creates a milk that is perfect for the rich flavored cheeses. Soft, hard and semi-hard cheese, each region has its own specialties. Swiss cows eat grass in the summer, hay in winter. The milk must be at the dairy within 18 hours of milking and must not be older than 24 hours when processed into cheese. Cheese made in Switzerland is mostly made from raw milk, which requires rapid proceeding.

In the U.S., primarily 2 of the original Swiss cheeses are available: Emmental and Gruyère.

  • Emmental or Emmentaler takes its name from the Emmental Valley where it originated around 1293. This prestigious cheese is traditionally-crafted according to strict regulations. The main trademark of Emmental cheese are the large holes. It has a mild, slightly nutty, buttery, almost fruity flavor. The maturing process takes at least 4 months. This forms the characteristic holes. About 1,200 liters of fresh, raw Swiss milk are needed for an approximately 95kg loaf of cheese.
  • Gruyère, this cheese’s namesake is the valley of the same name in French-speaking western Switzerland. This raw milk cheese is made by hand in small village dairies for over 1000 years after an unchanged recipe. Each loaf receives at least 5 months to mature until its typically strong, fruity flavor has developed. And unlike Emmental, Gruyère cheese has no holes.

Cheese making is one of the great traditions of Switzerland. Every year, about 180,000 tons of cheese are produced. 1/3 the amount is exported abroad of which only about 4,750 tons come to the U.S.

Summary

The real cheese connoisseur doesn’t just ask for ‘Swiss cheese’ but rather pays close attention to the appellation ‘Made in Switzerland’.

Enjoy!

About the author
ImageRene von Gunten NTP CPT is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, the Nutritional Therapy Association and holds a diploma in Balancing Nutritional Science from the Westbrook University. He is a Los Angeles-based Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and holistic nutritionist serving clients locally and internationally via personal or phone/skype consultations. You can find him on  and his website is www.swissnutritioneer.com

Written by swissnutritioneer

January 1, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Posted in #SwissBizLA, LA+Business

Tagged with

RED WHITE & BOLD – Art & Design by Andrea Kitts-Senn

leave a comment »

Written by M:)

November 16, 2012 at 9:00 am

A Word on Genetically Modified Organisms

with one comment

The debate on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is in full swing around the world. The European nations have rejected GMO foods and crops. America has allowed many GMOs, however, resistance is growing due to the growing number of reported problems. Currently 88% of U.S. corn and 94% of U.S. soy are genetically modified.

According to the movie ‘Genetic Roulette’ by Jeffrey M. Smith, GMO technology is not a precise science! It’s more of a microscopic aiming from the hip. Take a desired gene, copy it a million times and load all of them into a pistol-like device. Then you shoot the content at millions of target cells. And then you’ll have to clone these ‘wounded’ cells. Usually it takes a virus or a portion of a virus to activate the foreign genes in these newly cloned cells. The process of cloning and bombardment creates massive lateral damage. There could be hundreds or thousands of mutations. This means unpredicted side effects.

The movie further claims that the results are gene-sequences, which do not exist in nature. Our immune system reacts to these unknown ‘intruders’ and the result is an inflammatory reaction. Many of our current disease patterns have inflammation as a common cause. Inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, chronic constipation, gastrointestinal infections, Crohn’s disease, gastroesophageal reflux. Inflammations also play a major role in allergies, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, kidney disease, thyroid disease, .. the list just doesn’t end!

To my understanding, there are no security regulations or mandatory authorization of GMO foods in the United States! The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) only reminds manufacturer’s of GMOs that it is their responsibility to ensure that foods marketed are safe, wholesome and in compliance with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements. Currently, the manufacturers can bring new CMO crops to market without reporting it to the FDA or telling it to consumers.

The conclusion: I personally try to stay away from all GMO foods as much as I possibly can.

How to avoid GMO foods in the USA

There are 4 ways to avoid GMO foods:
– Buy organic
– Products that say ‘NON-GMO’ (www.nongmoproject.org)
– Buy products that are listed in the NON-GMO shopping guide (Find the NON-GMO shopping guide for download here)
– Avoid the below mentioned at risk ingredients all together

At risk ingredients
There are 9 GMO food crops right now:
Soy, Corn (not popcorn), Cottonseed (for oil), Canola (for oil), Sugar Beets (for sugar), Papaya (Hawaiian and Chinese), Zucchini, Yellow Crookneck Squash, Alfalfa (for hay).

But their derivatives can be found in more than 70% of the foods in supermarkets, particularly the processed foods.

They include but are not limited to: canola oil, corn flour, corn masa, corn meal, corn oil, corn sugar, corn syrup, cornstarch, cottonseed oil, dextrin, dextrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), hydrolyzed vegetable protein, maltodextrin, protein isolate, soy flour, soy isolates, soy lecithin, soy milk, soy oil, soy protein, soy protein isolate, soy sauce, sugar (unless specified as cane sugar), tamari, tocopherols (vitamin E), tofu, vegetable fat, vegetable oil.

Vote Yes on Proposition 37
But wait, there is a significantly easier way to find out if there are any GMOs used in foods. Vote for the right to know what’s in your food. Please vote yes on Proposition 37 on November 6 which requires mandatory labeling for GMO ingredients.
More information: www.carighttoknow.org

GMO foods in Switzerland

Switzerland has comprehensive mandatory labeling laws for GMO foods to protect consumers against deception. And also to allow freedom of choice between conventional and genetically modified foods.

The import and sale of genetically modified foods are allowed if the corresponding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) received premarket approval. Such products have to be labeled if more than 0.9 percent of an ingredient is genetically modified. However, Swiss farmers and the major supermarket chains like Coop and Migros voluntarily reject to buy or sell GMOs.

What can you do to keep it this way?
Buy organic (aka ‘Bio-Produkte’ in Switzerland) and locally produced food. Support politicians and organisations that promote the concept of an ecologically and locally oriented agriculture.

Source: Movie ‘Genetic Roulette’ by Jeffrey M. Smith

About the author

ImageRene von Gunten NTP CPT is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, the Nutritional Therapy Association and holds a diploma in Balancing Nutritional Science from the Westbrook University. He is a Los Angeles-based Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and holistic nutritionist serving clients locally and internationally via personal or phone/skype consultations. You can find him on  and his website is www.swissnutritioneer.com

Written by swissnutritioneer

November 3, 2012 at 11:30 am

Posted in #SwissBizLA

Tagged with

#Switzerland – Helvetia’s Dream

leave a comment »

Written by M:)

October 27, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Posted in Have a Swiss Day +)!, LXforty

Tagged with

%d bloggers like this: