Pierre-Yves Donzé: from a ‘cosmopolitan nation’ to Japan

Pierre-Yves Donzé

He comes from La Chaux-de-Fonds and became a professor of economic history in Osaka. Pierre-Yves Donzé now teaches industrial history from a transnational and global perspective, the history of multinational companies, and the history of technology. His specialty is the watch industry.

This content was published on May 15, 2017 - 11:00

SWI Why are you a Swiss abroad? How long have you lived in Japan?

Pierre-Yves Donzé: I came to Kyoto University, to my wife’s country, for postdoctoral study in 2006 after I completed my doctorate in Neuchâtel. I have now been living in Japan for more than ten years.

SWI Your area of expertise is the Swiss watch industry. What do the Japanese think of this?

P.-Y.D.: The Japanese are very interested in Swiss brands, but they find the products far too expensive. They do not think that such high prices are justified.

SWI What do the Japanese think about the Swiss economy?

P.-Y.D.: The Japanese do not normally have the slightest clue about the Swiss economy, apart from being able to list some vague stereotypes such as neutrality, banking secrecy or high prices. Most don’t know that Swiss people do not all live in the Alps and that Swiss companies successfully hold their own in the global market.

SWI What reactions do you get when you mention that you are from Switzerland?

P.-Y.D.: Switzerland has an excellent image in Japan, but this is almost exclusively formed of clichés (Heidi, neutrality, banks, watches, etc.).

SWI Do you participate in Swiss elections and votes?

P.-Y.D.: I normally do not vote in Switzerland. After over ten years in Japan, I would like to have a say here on a local level, but voting rights for foreigners are absolutely unthinkable here.

SWI Is Japanese a difficult language?

P.-Y.D.: It is not difficult but it requires a lot of time.

SWI What do you love about Japan?

P.-Y.D.: There are three things that I particularly like: the safety (Japan is the safest country in the world), the quality of the local cuisine (western cuisine too) and the elegance of the people.

Professor Pierre-Yves Donzé (right) during an excursion with students from the University of Osaka. pd

SWI Do you miss Switzerland?

P.-Y.D.: Since I am able to travel to Switzerland for work and holidays five to six times a year, I do not suffer from homesickness at all. I would actually find living in Switzerland all year round boring.

SWI What do you miss the most about Switzerland?

P.-Y.D.: Switzerland is a cosmopolitan country. That is something that you do not necessarily notice when you live in Switzerland because lots of people are narrow-minded. However, the Swiss abroad are often liberal-minded. I have begun to be proud of my Swiss nationality – coming from a cosmopolitan country and living abroad.


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