Delays, death, mix-ups, and career advice: some of the experiences Indian student Gaurav had on Swiss trains.
Switzerland is a very beautiful country and to enjoy its beauty you must travel on its public transport system. The country spends a lot on infrastructure and its public transport is one of the most reliable in the world. Indeed, to enjoy such reliable services people have to part with a lot of money. Hence, many residents prefer to travel by car. I use public transport as most of it is subsidised for students.
But even most reliable public transport system can disappoint sometimes. When you are used to punctual trains or buses, even few minutes delay can make travellers annoyed. I have seen many people at a bus stop start complaining if the bus is late by one minute. Certainly, this is not the case in India where I was used to delays. But after living in Switzerland for more than three years I have witnessed instances when a train is delayed for 10-15 minutes and sometimes even more.
Once, I had to give a presentation in Lausanne, a city which is about 45 minutes from Neuchâtel where I live. The presentation was part of my university curriculum and I was travelling with other classmates. The presentation was scheduled at two in the afternoon but we decided to take catch a train at noon in order to ensure we reached the venue on time. It turned out to be a bad decision. After 15 minutes, our train came to a halt and did not move for next four hours. The reason for this delay was an unfortunate circumstance. After two hours stuck in the train, we found out that someone had committed suicide causing our train to stop until further instructions. The train staff provided us a voucher worth CHF10 (about $10) but during those four hours we lost all interest in our presentations.
I’ve also had some very nice experiences on Swiss trains. For instance, while travelling to Zurich I came across a family of Indian tourists who were lost. They needed to go Lucerne, a city in the German-speaking part of Switzerland but ended up in the French-speaking city of Lausanne instead. I was able to clear their confusion and provided them with directions on which train to take to reach Lucerne.
On another occasion, I was sitting in a train and a lady came and sat opposite me. Usually, Swiss people are very reluctant to chat but this lady start speaking to me in German. She switched to English, when she realised I didn’t speak the language and asked if I was Indian or Sri Lankan. She told me that her ex-husband was also from India. We had a pleasant conversation and she told me about her unsuccessful attempts at learning Indian languages like Hindi or Kannada. Another time I was coming back to Neuchâtel from Zurich when I met a gentleman who was working at the multinational firm Johnson & Johnson. This time too, the man started a conversation about my native language. We discussed finance and he told me about the job market in Switzerland.
Like in India you can also meet very interesting people on Swiss trains. You just need to be open minded and be friendly. Wishing people good morning or just saying hello in their language can start an interesting conversation.
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