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From time to time you may hear about the so-called Roestigraben, that is, the “Trench of the sautéed potatoes,” a hypothetical cultural divide that is supposed to separate the Swiss German-speaking part of Switzerland from its Latin parts.
This sociological myth is usually told as follows: “All the power, both politically and economically, is held by the Swiss German-speaking majority. This makes the Latin (Italian- and French-speaking) parts jealous and bitter because of their powerlessness.”
You may hear this story from a tourist guide striving to make a smart observation, or even from some of the Swiss themselves. In reality, when sociologists ask people in a careful and systematic way, they find that by and large, the Swiss population tends to consider its counterparts from other cantons nice neighbors and have very little to say about how they live or what they think. Of course, you can hear people making fun of Swiss German, which sounds like a “throat cancer,” or of the people in Lucerne who “will not let a pedestrian cross a road at a red light even if there’s no traffic in sight,” but there’s neither hate nor resentment on any sizable scale. Pity then that the press blows poll results up out of proportion when the different parts of the country have divided opinions on various topics. This is exactly why the deeply federalist Swiss political institutions have been put in place—to respect regional opinions. And this system has been acclaimed the world over as the solution to minorities’ problems—even in former Yugoslavia. To boot, most Swiss are proud of their system even if they don’t like it when their canton looses in federal polls. Let’s be clear here: most multicultural countries in the world would be happy to see their respective communities get along as the various makes of Swiss do.
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