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PIERROT ABROAD., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 0, 17 April 1909
;-.-,■ iiyiNG IN" SWITZERLAND.I suppose it is 'a commonplace that living;in the British Empire ie. an inordinately.expensive performance. ;',lf it is not a commonplace, it ought to be; for a single month in Central Europe establishes the fact as a'palpable certainty. Let mc try to indicate to you some -little ■ proofs that Switzerland is, comparatively speaking, a poor man's paradise. Now I am one of those beinga who, while capable of "roughing it" at a pinch, have not the slightest intention of submitting myself to that uncomfortable process when it can be avoided. You can rest assured, then, that for mc a "good" room is not a small room, nor a dark room, nor a cold room, nor a dirty room; that a "good" dinner -with mc is not a voluminous repast of greasy indigestibility; and that my senses are quite as acute to disadvantageous appeals as those of most others. Now, what are one's expenses?—for I feel sure the comparison will be interesting to New Zealanders. Well, then, I awake in the morning to the knock of my landlady who arrives' with my "Fruhstuek" or petit dejeuner. This consists of a cup of coffee, two highly satisfying rolls, and a huge plateful of ideal butter. This costs mc fourpence a day, and after a week's practice one comes to think it a breakfast for princes (as it is, in fact, for German princes). I say I awake to this. I awake also to the sight of an immense room, lighted by, a great French window and heated by a wonderful German stove of china, and electroplate, which on a slowcombustion principle burns for six hours or so on two or three briquettes. This room costs mc five shillings a week for Tent and service, eighteen pence for 1 continuous heating , , and only two pence half-penny (one franc a month!) for as much electricity as I choose to take. Thus I have slept and breakfasted for about one sihilling. The rest of my meals I pay for at a strictly Continental insituation known as a private pension. To all outward feeemirig this is an ordinary cafe; the only difference is that it limits its services to people who pay for their meals by the month. Now at this pension, -which is scrupulously dean, employs an excellent cook, and has the virtue of being available at any reasonable hour, I pay at the rate of something less than eighteen pence a day. My total expenditure in the first necessities of board and lodging is some seventeen ■shillings a week. Yes, you will say, but that can be done in New Zealand or in England! But how? Personally, -with my aforesaid objection to "roughing.it," I should not care to make the attempt. Indeed, my experience in both countries is that when one gets much below thirty shillings a week (twenty-five shillings with a. little luck in Auckland),.the "roughing" begins. But here one does not rough it. I live better on the seventeen shillings here than on the thirty shillings on British soil. And I have far more space—for the Swiss are par excellence prodigal of that. Nearly every room I have seen here would have to do for two or three families in the East End of London.
Neither is it only in board and , lodging that living is economical- in Switzerland. Telegraphing, for example, is a most inexpensive recreation. It is a temptation at a fifth of a penny a word to send all one's letters "by wire. And in parenthesis I w ; ill pay a compliment to the Swiss postal authorities. They are splendidly free from Ted tape —or, at least, the following incident would lead one to ■believe s6. The 6thbr day I sent a telegram by mistake to Berne instead of to Jfenchatel. Do ybii know that the officials' at Berne actually had the wisdom and the generosity to send mc a telegram informing mc of my mistake, and informing mc of the full address of the person to whom I was sending the telegram! Do you think that our tapebound British officials would do such a thing? I dare aver that one would wait a very long time in Auckland or London before one met with such an unconventional but delightM act of courtesy.
The Swiss, are nothing if not original. Last Sunday afternoon an acquaintance asked mc to accompany him up a portion of Mount Pilatus. So we trudged up a (mostly) gentle slope to a height of some three thousand feet, ■with the snow getting deeper all the time, and at last reached a broad plateau, which must have a magnificent prospect under better conditions of weather than obtained then—that is to say, without a pretty thick blanketing of mist. What was my surprisej on turning a corner, to be suddenly confronted by a crowd of a thousand people watching athletes perform feats of ski-ing to the accompaniment of a brass band. It is not in every country that people Trould stand for whole hours in deep show to watch" sports at three thousand feet above sea level! But at least it. denotes that sturdy spirit which no one having even a passing acquaintance is likely to refuse to acknowledge in the Swis3. Perhaps the most striking thing of all is the general employment of electricity, even by the poorest; I return to this subject as a dog to a well-loved boiie. For I am desperately in love with electricity, and always ~ have been; and I like to see poor people enjoying what: in other countries is the monopoly of the rich. I think I have already explained that allj or nearly all, the "houses" in Lucerne are so many flats in big buildings. Well, on every landing there is an electric switch, "which controls an automatic arrangement giving precisely three minutes' brilliant light on the staircase—enough, that is to say, to see you safely up or down stairs. And wh'en one considers that the price of a single light is a franc a month, one can well understand that thei-e -"-is not much need to be parsimonious of illumination. Of course, Switzerland is not a paradise —for no country is a paradise looked at too closely. I hsuve seen no real poverty—no ragged poverty, that is to Lucerne; but Berne and one or two Other towns are having demonstrations of Unemployed^—jusi n6w a common feature in every country of Europe. Nevertheless I hold that outside of the more distant colonies there is' nowhere a higher average; of comfort and selfrespect than in this tight little land of Central Europe:- And it";is a good sign that the Swiss are not a self-com-placent people at all. "They are patriotic to the reasonable limit, but they are full of "divine -discontent" k and the desire for something better than the much that they have already achieved? ■'■>.. ♦ --'.
PIERROT ABROAD., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 0, 17 April 1909
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