the Swiss Embassy fence

Today, December 8th 2018 the Residence representing the Consulate General’s Home of Switzerland in Los Angeles closed its doors for good. With the flag at half-mast and a very shabby “Estate Sale” a three-decade long history for us Angelino-Schweizer ended. This last rummaging in useless items was about as sad and odd as the political decision to transfer the Consular affairs of California’s Confederate representation to San Francisco.

A decision that’s disliked by every Swiss  living in the LA basin. Who cares? It’s not like anyone in the history of the Mission actually listened and implemented what most of us expats expected from our Consulate. Even getting a passport renewed was an unnecessary ordeal that now is extremely complicated for us: We are expected to fly to San Francisco to consult with our embassy. We ponder how this could have happened?

The Swiss Embassy made many feeble attempts generating cultural outreach, well – mostly laughable, rather embarrassing ideas about how to bridge Swiss values with a very lax California culture. Our Consulate has utterly missed the point of generating an understanding of how to boost qualities that would enhance tourism to flock to our country of cheese, mountains, chocolate & watches. With the generous opportunities provided, the honorable people selected to take a job in California have a duty to show-off Switzerland’s best values. (it’s a privilege to be named Ambassador to LA – or you “know” someone in politics that owes you big time). Well, most of these characters failed to advertise to Americans that the Swiss precision mechanical and electrical engineering is amongst world leading businesses; That the Swiss produce most turbines used in Aviation. We are leading Europe in hydroelectricity, and about half of all quartz-crystal watches are fashioned in this tiny Nation of 7 million, yet unknown by most everyone. Uh, yes – most Americans still think we speak Swedish and are confused about the Life-Guards uniform or the American Red Cross connection… In California none of my friends seems to understand there is no snow in Locarno, although it looks just like LA (…without the mountains). NOT!

The Estate Sale just showed one last time – that besides tons of cheap glassware and antique Roschti shredders (yup, you call it a hash-brown-grater…) – the beautiful Spanish-style home lacked modernity and a sense for contemporary flair. The paint was peeling off the kitchen ceiling! Instead, I remember attending lame weekend movie gatherings, invited for screenings of stories with German subtitles; because the selection was in a dialect most Swiss can’t even understand themselves. My American guests were left clueless for two hours (no english subtitles…) and resorted to sipping the cheapest Oregon white wine served; the simple glassware seemed more valuable. Not even Swiss chocolates?

I offered to cook for special events – never heard back from the Embassy; Clearly, a qualified chef with Hollywood connections was to far stretched for the imagination of any Bünzli… (That’s a Swiss prescriptive word for a hick, limited to simple thoughts, incapable of comprehending a world beyond what he chooses to hold truth…) Instead, some foods prepared for Gala events really left me infuriated about the quality of Kroger shelf food, served to foreign guests, poorly representing the Nation that educates the worlds leading culinary talents and Hoteliers!

Don’t be fooled, the lack of cultural connectivity has moved with the same lame characters to San Francisco… you can change the facade but hardly the people that hold these assignments; oh Switzerland, why do you send us the worst of luddite to represent an amazing culture…?

These “efforts” perfectly represented the overall narrow-mindedness of people in charge ofSwiss international affairs that come here and dislike the “difference” and surely promoted relocating the Embassy based on reasons that were absurd. The notion that Los Angeles with over 106 world respected Consulate Residences is lesser central in comparison with the demographics of San Francisco/Sacramento with merely 30 National Embassies’, is not sufficient an explanation why to abandon Hollywood. The truth is that people with zero understanding of how to adapt to the California mentality were in charge (still are) – or felt important to pretend to be in charge – and decided to purchase an overpriced new location on the edge of California. It would have been totally within the budget to hold on to the perfectly located Residency in Hollywood. I’ll gladly point out where Swiss money is squandered elsewhere in the world… Just ask! My Buddhist heart is tormented.

To understand why we Swiss folks in greater Los Angeles are numb about this “transfer”, one needs a little education in how different the mentalities are of people raised and heeded in a nation where etiquette, decorum and title are a basic doctrine. Growing up in this little nation tugged away between Germany, Austria, French and Italy we pride ourselves for punctuality, cleanliness and regulation (yes, there is a tiny speck called Lichtenstein, (sorry – I’ve nearly forgotten you…). For anyone brought up with “narrow Swiss views” arriving in America for the first time, they immediately feel a sense of insult; having to adapt to the personal form of “You”, the lack of acknowledging inherited or the absence of married-into title: As a wife of a doctor, you would be bespoken to as Frau Doctor (Mrs. doctor) at home… People here in the US don’t care much about your education (unless you can name drop a respected university). Americans are commonly unpunctual, unapologetically underdressed for any event and seemingly toy) blunt about money (one has, or you could have), inappropriate gestures or violate unknowingly your expected modesty. Get used to: “nice place, how much do you pay for it…”

It’s Hollywood. It’s about who you know (and why), what car you drive, how much money you make and how much you’re going to invest to make me feel equal. “What can I do for you…”

To be Swiss in America already sets the standard high. We have a reputation for being orderly, born rich and privileged. No “Ami” really knows why – they just like everything Swiss! We are alpine-exotic and liked by most, assumed to have inherited neutrality, blessed with wisdom and protected with free health insurance. That our Constitution is directly adapted from the US implemented doctrine seems to be unknown to even my Swiss friends.

Even our trains run on time! What a perfect preface to build relations from! Sending us a team of Consular mops that can’t relate with these expectations is about as useless as serving Maggie Soups (an over salted powder soup/sauce loaded with MSG, produced by Nestle) and claiming it to be French Cuisine. Don’t expecting a Swiss Embassy employee to smile! This hereditaryworld-view is not the result of Swiss efforts to advance our appearance; it is the direct result of us, the expats balancing pride and our need to escape that home-grown narrow-mindedness (to freely smile and shine).

In reverse; after living for over thirty years in Los Angeles I find Swiss people prejudiced about everything different, stiff and opinionated. (Yes, I realize the hypocritical perspective while writing this blog…) From the Consulate General to the secretaries that are send here through Bern, they all seem disconnected from the culture and lifestyle needed to invite, impress and promote some of the best Switzerland has to offer. Their apparent modesty is actually counter-productive. Who is responsible for sending us these clueless characters? They are not needed in Los Angeles nor helping in Sacramento! It’s not working for the last twenty years!

Whomever signed off on closing the Swiss Residency in Hancock Park a year after moving the Embassy to Northern California made a big mistake. Stop trying to convince us that cultural outreach is better in San Francisco or Sacramento. Hollywood is the place to be! The Swiss could have at least kept this Home here. With the upcoming Olympics it is painfully clear to us that you in Bern really lost your marbles. It’s a shameful attest to the naiveté of people in administrative power to lack vision and comprehending what is needed in representing the 150’000 Swiss-American souls trying for decades to be heard. Gosh, some of these boring Consular peeps are now relocating to San Francisco like the lackluster pieces of furniture that were not sold during the garage sale…You have failed here; wherever you go, there you are!

Being a dual-citizen puts me in a complex reality; I should not speak up as an educated and “norm oriented” Swiss, but my “American-mind” can’t just sit in silence either… I’m fully aware of this dilemma. I feel as if a part of my Heimat-pride is ripped away in Los Angeles; what little there was of an assembly – although never fully utilizing a perfect representation – now left us abandoned. A classical Swiss maneuver; when administration fails, pack up and disappear. Unqualified to even amend the Wikipedia pages, or updating the meta-tag search engine info on the Swiss Embassy pages: The first twenty internet searches about “Switzerland in California” pull up outdated information claiming the Consulate General’s home is in Los Angeles and the “Swiss events in the US”-page never had an activity… Yup, most of the people I’ve met throughout the last thirty years representing my interests here, demonstrated no understanding in how to utilize today’s internet (or their cellphones; luddites). I’m sure their resumes are excellent…

That I am a first TCM chef, fusing Classical Cuisine (studied in Switzerland) and within could bridge a really effective culinary connection is besides my egoistic quarrel… I did offer.

Good Bye. My Swiss friends gossip secretly how terrible this decision is. Our Swiss Consulate has missed many opportunities in the past; unable to entertain on the level of Hollywood, incapable of reaching across nations. Failed to align traditions with US holidays. So we plead: Switzerland please, send people to the US that helm our foreign relations with fascinating personalities who actually understand and care about living abroad. Include us Angelinos; we know a thing or two about living in California. Don’t have bureaucrats deciding on our behalf – they don’t have a clue what’s needed here. Give us your best; we deserve it!

If any of the Swiss consulate peeps read this and feel its unkind; I challenge you… Please proof me wrong! Show me you are better: Just smile!

We all have/need a driver license; ’cause LA is big! …the minimum we expect from our Consulate General (Yes, our last Consulate proudly explained he doesn’t drive… he should be working on Phi Phi Island, there are no streets and cars). Send us enthusiasts that embrace the differences and enjoy ethnic fusion. People that are gregarious, truly curious, that speak English & Spanish, that love to entertain, whom respect cultural ponders, who enjoy delicious Swiss/Mexican/American foods; happy folks who embrace a world beyond Swiss-Boundries and foremost – souls that relate to the issues that are important to our International community, comfortably adapting with a sense of promoting modern Swiss culture. Our Embassy must compete with ideas that make us Helvetics proud. Send us motivated leaders that will further build upon thirty years of established relationships… not the current staff! (still valid 08/2021)

Shoot – (I lost my thread on reality for a minute…) – it’s far too late for that last hope, I guess – now that you sold our last piece of Swiss-land! What a waste!

I need a Kirsch! (ask for Rene)

chef Raphael