What is it about the filthy rich that makes us mortals want to spit and grovel all at the same time? Money seems to bring out all seven of the deadly sins at once, and there was plenty of greed, envy, wrath and vainglory on display in the media today, as it was revealed that one in ten of the world’s billionaires lives in Switzerland. We’re stinking rich here, you know. If you live in Switzerland, then the definition of ‘filthy rich’ isn’t just a paltry ‘millionaire’, as it used to be in the good old poor days. According to a book published by a Basel University sociology professor this week, to be even considered rich in this richest of rich countries, you have to be rich to the tune of at least CHF30m – that’s more than £20m/$30m.
Personally, I have a simpler measure: lake view. If your flat has got a lake view, then you’re rich. If your house has got a lake view, then you’re seriously rich. If your house has got a lake, then you’re filthy rich. The problem for the rest of the 97% of the Swiss population that is not considered rich by the authors of How the Rich Think and Act, is that we have to live alongside these buggers, in the madly wealth-orientated society that they leave in their petal-strewn, Chanel-scented, Bally-footprinted wake.
There are many ways that Switzerland is just too damn rich: a Big Mac costs more here than anywhere else in the world; the cost of subsidising three cows is the same as sending one child to primary school for a year; and shoe shops give away free socks, just to try on the shoes. Here are five other ways that I’ve noticed that Switzerland puts the CH in rich:
- there are no DIY shops. Well, there are, but they’re rubbish and tiny. No-one here Does It Themself – they pay someone else to Do It For Them. - menial workers do not come from poor countries. When we employed muscular men to tear down parts of our house, they didn’t come from the places I would expect, like Poland or Slovakia. They came from Germany. That scared me, financially speaking. - no-one pays tips to waiters and waitresses. It’s not because the customers are all stingy, but because the staff are already well paid. So much so, that half the time they can’t be bothered to serve you, but that’s another story. - there is no crime. Now I don’t have sufficient training in the fields of sociology, criminology, economics, political science, law and what have you to insist on an ironclad link between GDP and crime, but an informal study of my various travel destinations shows me that the rich ones (Switzerland, Singapore) were safe, while the poor ones (Cameroon, Chad) were really dodgy. - winter cars. We have a special set of winter tyres for our car, and I find it oddly profligate that we own four perfectly good wheels that sit in the garage for half the year waiting to come back into fashion. But that’s nothing: a large number of people here own entire winter cars. They park up the soft-tops in specially rented underground parking spaces during the winter months, when they drive four-by-fours instead, and then they bring out the sporty numbers in the spring after the last frost has passed, in much the same way I dig out my old sandals from the back of the wardrobe.
So there it is: Switzerland, home to one in ten billionaires and a few million less minted mortals, all jostling for a glimpse of that lake view – from the train. In second class.