< SWITCH ME >

Once there were six long-time friends who had the idea that it would be fun to do a road-trip through their home country, Switzerland - because why should one roam forever if good things lie so near? And money is chronically short anyway. So the decision was made and the starting point was chosen, namely the geographical centre of Switzerland, located at Älggi-Alp in the municipality of Sachseln, Obwalden. The voyage would continue from there, with each stage of the route determined by the flip of a coin. And what better day on which to start their trip than the national day?

august
Image: Andrea Buchschacher
Sometimes the most traditional settings can hold surprises...

Their vehicle, which was the same age as them, a beige, 27-year-old VW-Bus called Egon, brought them safely to picture-postcard scenery. They spent a lovely day among mountains, cows and flowers. The six friends congratulated themselves on their beautiful country and vowed to get away more often from Zurich (which is probably the most urban place in Switzerland). As I mentioned earlier, it was the Swiss national day and since they were in very traditional surroundings, it was clear that this year the national day would be celebrated. This was something all of them had last done when they were about 12, after which it had stopped being that fascinating to light firecrackers. None of them had been to a real, formal celebration anyway. After they had parked Egon close to a farmer's shed and prepared for a night out, the excitement was growing. Would the local people look at them oddly? Would it be obvious that they were from the "big city"? And if so, would the cute farm girls and boys still be interested in them, if there were any?

Maybe I should describe our six friends a bit better. I already said that they were from Zurich and that they had known each other for a long time. So we have three girls - a teacher, a project manager and a philosophy student - and three boys - a lawyer, an architect and a history student. I can assure you that they are all extremely hot and good-looking. Five of them are straight and one of them is gay. And as it happens, all five of the singles, including the one who is gay, are in their prime and looking for someone who will steal their hearts or at least their body on some nights.

Let's get back to the heart of Switzerland. The six friends made their way to the venue, where a small choir of schoolchildren were singing wonderful traditional songs. With wine and cheese in their mouths, the six friends checked out if there was anyone that would fit in their predator-prey system. To be precise, only four of them did, because one is not single and another is gay, and he is used to the fact that when we all go out together... well, let's just say the chances of finding another gay person are slim. And that evening we were in the middle of nowhere, so he was comfortably indulging in the beverages (which all the others did as well).

After the conservative speeches about security, the military and Switzerland had finally ended, a crooner in a half-sexy, half-prudish outfit entered the stage.

After the conservative speeches about security, the military and Switzerland had finally ended, a crooner in a half-sexy, half-prudish outfit entered the stage. She sang any kind of hit song you could think of and the six urban friends readily sang along. The night grew longer and our friends merrier. Still none of the four straight single ones had found a local to "dance with". But what they had found was the "only gay in the village". Together with him and his work colleagues, they climbed on stage and the party went on. As always when the five friends found someone gay, they were eager to set him up with their gay friend. (This is in fact just stupid. It's the same as if you have red t-shirt on and find someone else with a red shirt and conclude that the two of you must be destined for each other.) The six partied on like it was '99, with the result that an official of the municipality came over to thank them for creating such a celebratory atmosphere. After the last drink had been served and the last song played, the friends went back to Egon - already complaining about having no shower and such a hard place to sleep. But not all of them... One of them had a very good, comfortable night, and greeted his five hungover friends with a big grin on this face the next morning.

This is an example of the fact that things never turn out the way you plan them, but it is also an example of how prejudices, no matter how strong they are, are not always right. Our gay friend never expected to score in that place and the others expected to be treated like outsiders - none of which held true. It is proof that traditional does not mean "not gay" or "opposed to anything different." The old townspeople saw the two gay people dancing and kissing in the spotlight of the stage. Yes, they looked, and yes, they did not cheer and shout "Woohoo!", but nor did they pick up their pitchforks to scare them and the others away, or even make them feel uncomfortable. This national day showed that there can be a sense of unity among city and village people, among gay and straight people. These are the moments when I can say "I am Swiss" without adding "but...". Very rare moments.

Teaser photo: Wouter Hagens (CC-SA)

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