Friday 24 April 2009

Would you rather live in Britain or Switzerland?

None of the writers of Next Left - and perhaps only a small proportion of our readers - are today the position of wondering whether an additional 10 pence in the pound on earnings over £150,000 will tempt us to leave Blighty and take up residence overlooking Lake Geneva.

But we would like to help those that are grappling with that dilemma.

So please help us to put together reasons why (even if we were the super-rich ourselves) we would rather live in Britain.

I hope that we can make this pro-Britain rather than anti-Switzerland. It is simply that Switzerland has been most often mentioned as the probable destination, Some have been rude about the Swiss in the past, most famously Orson Welles in The Third Man:

"You know what the fellow said—in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace—and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

But no doubt there are many good things about Switzerland which are somewhat more heart-warming than its lower tax rates and opportunities for tax avoidance: the lakes, the chocolate, the skiing, and the employment opportunities in international organisations. Here's a reminder of some famous Swiss too.

But might there be even better things about Britain? If you were super-wealthy, might you just think it worth a few extra thousand pounds a year to stick around.

Your ideas please - but I'll kick this off with some quick initial thoughts.

1. Much as we love Roger Federer, we prefer to watch him at Wimbledon. The football's probably better too.

2. Its just more interesting. Especially our cities: London is where most of the top earners live. But also Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Cardiff, Birmingham, Bristol. And Oxford and Cambridge. And the countryside. And Cornwall, the Lake District and the Welsh coast. We'd miss all of that.

3. Arts and culture. Theatre. And indie pop. And telly. Heidi was a big hit here. But we would miss the comedy especially.

4. Food. We couldn't have said that thirty years ago. But now we've got one of the best restaurant scenes in Europe. Bread and cheese is great too. But could you trade in the fry-ups, curry, fish and chips and the Sunday Roast?

5. And we remain proud of the role this country played, with others, in defeating European fascism during the second world war. We continue to remember the sacrifices made to do that. And we're proud of the welfare state we all contribute to as well.

But please share your reasons you would rather live in Britain than Switzerland. Or your reasons why Switzerland would do it for you.


Rachael Jolley said...

Switzerland has great bread and cheese - very good fondue. But Britain has great Thai, Indian, French, Italian, British, Spanish restaurants. Can Switzerland compete with that choice? From memory I think not. Not much to do in Swiss cities after about 10pm either, I feel. But great chocolate - although you can buy it here.

Stuart White said...

The Swiss do have a museum in Geneva dedicated to Rousseau. Mind you, given his views on taxation, I doubt any of those fleeing from 'high' tax rates in the UK would be interested in going there.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should mention that the Swiss equivalent of the BNP usually tops the poll in elections there...

Calix said...

In Defence of Switzerland:

First of all, I must declare an interest - I am a quarter Swiss (roughly an arm) and have a Swiss name. I also have a Swiss passport obtained with much difficulty, but I could potentially flee to Switzerland and will do so when Boris Johnson becomes PM.

Politically the Swiss boast the most stable and long-standing democracy. In a strict sense of the term they are the only real democracy because every significant issue (and sometimes insignificant i.e. local parking charges) is put before the people. Women may not have had the vote until the mid 70s, but that is a problem when you are a democracy because two thirds of men had to vote for it. Other countries imposed this right, but it's more tricky if the enfranchised part of the population have to vote to halve their influence.

Switzerland has avoided civil wars and revolutions, and also cleverly kept out of the way of world wars by being neutral. This is a survival mechanism - how else could a small country of 7 million inhabitants stay intact when sandwiched between the hungry powers of France, Germany, Italy, Austria and Lichtenstein (not quite so hungry)?

As regard Sunder's other points:-

1) Roger Federer is the most stylish and perfect sportsman ever. Period.

2) Swiss cities are very nice in a sleepy way. As for the country-side, there's no comparison between our bumps and real mountains.

3) If we take culture and especially thought Switzerland has quite a heritege. Calvin, Rousseau, Jung to name three off the top of my head, and it has also been the place of choice to live for others such as Chaplin and Joyce (and many others) because it was a less judgemental society than America or Ireland.

4) Cheese with holes and creamy chocolate beats soggy chips and sausages with gristle any day.

5. See my earlier point about neutrality being the best form of self defence for a small country. It would have been suicidal for Switzerland to take the side of the allies during WW2.

Sunder, Have I convinced you?

Stuart White said...

Aw, c'mon Calix....I mean, just how many great punk bands has Switzerland produced?

Sunder Katwala said...


It was a fair defence of Switzerland, though I think punk remains one winning card for us. The main disagreement would be over who gets to decide about enfranchisement. We were a little slow on that, but at least somebody was slower.

However, Federer's influence is waning; we have some lovely sleepier cities too (like Norwich); the point about Joyce is a good historic one (Lenin too!) but of less use to a culturally-inclined banker today, should such a person exist; we might concede some territory on food.

Let's not mention the war. I may have mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it.

But you did not answer the question. I am sure many of the Swiss are proud of Switzerland. If you were one of the super-rich UK elite, would you prefer to live in Switzerland or Britain?

Calix said...

The Swiss are far too polite to produce a punk band. Having said that, the yodel is a kind of punk cry from the heart in my opinion.

I believe Swiss bankers are a more cultured lot than our ones and do appreciate philosophy and culture, so my point still stands.

I've though once or twice about living in Switzerland especially since I have citizenship, but I would have to pay a huge tax if I didn't do military service, which rather puts me off.

However, if I was extremely rich (I've taken a wrong turn in life somewhere so this will never happen) I may be tempted to have a challet in the mountains and wake up to the sound of cow-bells...and polite Swiss punk of the yodelling variety.

Anonymous said...

Do we have any Nazi gold stashed away in our bank vaults?

Rachael Jolley said...

Yodelling and cow bells are alright for holiday, but not for life!