I can’t remember the last time I carried $300 in cash in my wallet. Usually I have a few $1s, a $20 bill maybe. In Switzerland, to carry CHF300 in your wallet is not only common practice, but for most, that is just a paltry sum to carry around in this cash cash cash culture. Without the slightest grimace or distress or annoyance any cashier in Geneva will graciously accept and change a 100 franc bill for the slightest purchase,  even just a pack of chewing gum. Unable to lose change because of the monstrous size of the 5 franc coin, people here rarely use debit cards, and in fact, standard UBS debit cards serve no purpose whatsoever other than to withdraw cash at (exclusively) UBS ATMs.

Switzerland is a land of laws both mythical and absurd, laws so peculiar that I hope they are ferociously real and enforced, for humor’s sake. I have been told, by a Swiss no less, that the cash culture is codified in law; that it is obligatory for every Swiss resident—myself included in that lot as I am on a visa—to carry at least 100 Swiss francs in cash on your person at all times, and failure to do so, if caught in the act—or lack thereof—can result in arrest for the crime of “mendicancy.” How this law is actionable without resulting in clear profiling of suspects is something I don’t attempt to answer. Cash is not the only item the Swiss are required to keep on reserve. Another of these bizarre rumored statutes is that all neighborhoods in Switzerland must have—per the national building codes—a nuclear fallout shelter within walking distance and with enough supplies (mattresses included) for local residents for at least 4 months. This law strikes me as more possibly real, as little hazmat signs topped by subtle arrows make an appearance on the occasional street corner throughout the city.

On the subject of nuclear fallout, it may strike you as odd that such shelters would be required given the bucolic and unflappably pacific nature of the Swiss, who would absolutely never tolerate nuclear goings-on within their borders. Ah yes, the ubiquitous Swiss neutrality. Neutrality is a position apparently not taken quietly, but rather earned. While yes, you may correctly attribute that red, oval multi-tool knife to the fastidious Swiss, it is the least of their sophisticated weaponry. Military service is compulsory in Switzerland, though not for the ladies. It is common, too common, to see camouflaged soldiers embracing their AK47s as they glide on and off the whispery trams in the city. Hoards of soldiers, no more than 20 years old, gather on trains on their way to any number of bases in all cantons.

I have heard truly epic stories about the efficiency and superiority of the Swiss army.  The subject of familiar, fantastic, yet suspicious claims, the army holds a strict grip on fly-zones and all geographic borders. Not unlike Voldemort, Switzerland’s military apparatus must not be mentioned, lest they be provoked from their militantly neutral slumber.

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