The Swiss who ‘love that dirty water’

Courtesy of Swiss Society of Boston

Members of the Swiss Society of Boston have traded the Aare, Emme and Rhine for the Charles – which is far more enjoyable than it used to be, thanks in part to a Swiss woman.

This content was published on July 13, 2019 - 00:38
Susan Misicka in Boston

Founded as the "Swiss Benevolent Society" in 1865, the SSOB now has 318 active families – many of whom represent second- or third-generation Swiss living all over New England, which borders the Atlantic Ocean and Canada. Some of its current members came to SSOB events as children, and now bring their own children along. Others join the club for shorter periods before returning to Switzerland.

SWI on tour

How do Swiss citizens living abroad view the political debate in their home country? What is important to the expat Swiss community when they vote?

To tap into the mood of the expatriate Swiss community during this general election year, is visiting clubs in Europe as well as the Americas.

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“Although the members of the SSOB are very diverse in age, our common interest in Switzerland and the importance of passing along Swiss culture to our children is what makes us a large and active community,” explains John Willis, the society’s president. Typical events include celebrating August 1st, a visit from “Samichlaus”, fondue and raclette dinners, Jass evenings, skiing, hiking, kayaking or marksmanship.

Courtesy of Swiss Society of Boston

Swiss educational values

The SSOB holds an annual essay contest with scholarship money as the prize. The most recent essay topic was: Would Massachusetts benefit from adopting an apprenticeship system similar to the Swiss model? The society has even sat down with the Massachusetts Department of Labor to discuss adopting the Swiss apprenticeship model.

The membership includes graduates from Swiss federal technology institute ETH Zurich as well as graduate students at Harvard, MIT, and other universities.

swissnex Boston, SwissLinkBoston, Friends of Switzerland, and swissbäkers work with the Swiss Society of Boston, make life interesting and fun here, and help keep us connected with Switzerland,” says Willis, who also points out that board member Jean-Pierre Mittaz is a key link to the home country thanks to his role as the New England representative of the Council of the Swiss Abroad.

And what about that “dirty water”? It’s a reference both to a song about Boston by The Standells, and also to Renata von Tscharner, the Swiss architect who founded the Charles River Conservancy.

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