The other day I decided to take a spontaneous trip to Geneva with a Swiss friend – the off-season ticket prices were simply too good a deal to miss. It is a wonderfully historic and calm city, and in just a few days a felt completely rejuvenated and refreshed, as though I had dipped into a cool lake on a hot summer day.
The idyllic landscape of mountains, soft clouds and the calm lake gave the city a tranquil vibe which diffused into so many aspects of Genevan life. Even the rain pitter-pattered softly, brushing your skin gently as though not to disturb your day.
The baristas in the coffee shops were the nicest I had ever met. Not only did they genuinely smile, hand out generous chocolate tasters and point out the best cookies to get, but one of them gave music recommendations because I told him I loved the playlist in the café. I now have a collection of mellow, easy tunes perfect for a little coffee moment.
The composed atmosphere of the city made it a suitable place for the European United Nations headquarters. The fact that you could walk through the conference rooms, and look into the translation booths as you pleased reflected to me a sense of democratic, egalitarian openness the international organisation strives towards. There is something about Switzerland that makes democratic voting seem so natural and effortless, so it is no wonder Rousseau lived here, and that citizens are asked to vote for even the smallest things like construction policies.
Another thing I noticed in particular was the overwhelming culture of respect. Respect to others as strangers politely said ‘Bonjour’ to each other on the streets and in waiting rooms. Respect for nature as so many florist shops took care of their flowers with delicate attention to detail so that not one petal was sad and wilted. Respect to food and one’s body as everyone took a proper lunch break outside instead of just nibbling absent-mindedly on a store-brought panini whilst checking emails. It just felt so decent and fitting to show respect to these things we often forget or take for granted.
Simple ‘petit plaisirs’ are an inherent part of life in Switzerland, and this weekend getaway definitely made me notice just how important they are for a holistic sense of balance and peace in the midst of the daily chaos of life in general.