68: Swiss Fish

This fish must be depressed.

If there is something the Swiss like more than rules, it is making sure that everyone adheres to them, and this is why our hotel staff dare not put a fish in the large glass bowl that adorns the hotel’s front desk.

Pet fish can only be kept in aquariums with corners as it is deemed cruel to consign fish to a life of endless circles with no beginning and no end. I suppose corners might prevent the fish from falling into some kind of existentialist funk, but really? No fishbowls allowed at all? It seems a bit extreme, so I suggested to the staff that they put a fish in the bowl anyway (with water, of course).

It turns out that little rebellion against authority is a no-go. Someone could call the Fish Help-Line (I made that name up) and there would be officers at the desk to the rescue the fish and apply penalties.

Ah, there is nothing so refreshing as living in a society of efficient informers. It reminds me of  Victoria, British Columbia where neighbours are encouraged to tattle on one another to the local government for the slightest thing (using the wrong pesticide or any pesticide at all, watering the lawn outside of the regulated hours or with a non-approved nozzle) and feel quite self-righteous about it.

It is a show of bureaucracy gone overboard, which is one of Europe’s biggest drawbacks. A German friend, for example, migrated to Canada partly because she tired of applying for permits for the simplest activities, such as painting her front door. Apparently, she would have to get her chosen colour approved beforehand. Here in Switzerland, foreigners bringing in pets have to present them to a veterinarian for inspection and register them in the country’s pet database within 10 days.

It’s a little odd for a landlocked country full of farmland where loose dogs could roam over the border in massive rabid packs before anyone would take notice. It is not as if this is Australia or England.

I could be wrong about this, but when local government concerns itself with the shape of aquariums or regulates twist versus spring-lever nozzles, it is a sign of municipal mental meltdown.

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