The United States—An Old-Fashioned Country?
The United States—An Old-Fashioned Country?
A European immigrant's impressions of his new home country
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An economist, retired from his executive banking position in a mortgage and business loan department in Switzerland, arrives in the United States in 2010 to settle with his American wife in Colorado. He has a wealth of information to share and contributions to make in his new home country. Will he be heard? This book is a collection of unmasked impressions of a Swiss immigrant. He sees the United States as politically divided into two solid camps. Congress is paralyzed and not willing or able to compromise to find a win-win solution. Each political party is insisting on using its own methods. The author is at times shocked and at times amused at the government’s handling of the many unresolved problems and issues and the unending political discussions that surround them. Swiss citizens have extensive democratic rights and the privilege to elect government officials and to vote according to federal, canton/state, and community laws. Votes are held for new tax laws that will approve investments of highways, railway projects, and other building investments or building codes; votes also approve laws about health care or retirement plans. As an active Swiss citizen interested in the political and economic well-being of Switzerland, the author is well informed about health insurance plans, retirement, pension plans, the law, social structure, the economy, and politics. The democracies of the United States and Switzerland have much in common but are nevertheless quite different when it comes to details. Many issues still open in American politics have found a solution in Switzerland during the last few decades. A critical thinker, the author compares economies and social structures in these two countries and shares stories of his new life in the United States, his views on the American history, and the role of Americans abroad with shocking truth.

My immigrant profile is atypical in the U.S. today. I relocated from Switzerland to the U.S. a few days after retirement so that I could be near my American wife who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and had been hospitalized in a nursing home in Colorado. It gave me the opportunity to live in an attractive and foreign country.

One needs to know that Switzerland is a very small country in the heart of Europe located between France, Germany and Italy. It is not a member of the European Union and has its own currency, the Swiss franc. The level of democracy is very high, and Swiss citizens vote on propositions concerning their community, canton (state) and country several times a year apart from electing their representatives and judges on various political levels. Switzerland is committed to its neutrality. It lives by the rule that its armed forces only serve to defend the borders and will never leave the country. Five-hundred years ago Niklaus von Fl e, national Saint and moral authority, reminded the Swiss to keep out of foreign quarrels. This worked very well over the centuries and Switzerland was not sucked into World War I or II. This extended period of a state of peace is surely one reason for the wealth of a country that only disposes of water, rocks and salt. The citizens’ industriousness and the country’s beauty are further contributors to its current standing as one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

It is inevitable that throughout my writing, I will touch on the two countries U.S. and Switzerland (or Europe), will compare and contrast them, find differences and similarities. Despite their respective sizes, they are alike in many ways. This ranges from their institutional organizations to the configuration of social security all the way to the inner values of successful democracies. However, it is surprising to note, that there are also many laws and rules that are very different as are the populations’ reactions. This newcomer to the U.S. is sometimes perplexed and astounded by many of these aspects.

When I made my good-byes to my family and friends in Switzerland and told them that I was moving to the U.S., there was surprise all around. How can somebody emigrate to the realm of the likes of President Bush? Or, how is it possible to want to move to an impoverished, partially wasted country, leaving well-ordered Europe behind? It is true that in Switzerland a blend of individual arguments and impressions had merged into a negative attitude. Barak Obama was President. The devastation of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans had affected only a small area of the vast and beautiful country. Basically, it was a listing of negative points about the U.S. prevalent in European minds. Yet, all of the points were true, not one of them was construed or malicious. It was merely the powers of recollection of my fellow Swiss that were misty; and the proportions had been grossly distorted.

Only a few years ago, the U.S. were a respected country and for many the object of dreams, work or vacation. Over the last few years, the mood has changed from a respected and enviable country to a nation with little sympathies and no prospects. In Europe, streaks of open hatred are discernible when the subject turns to the U.S. Only people who know the U.S. either from travel or work assignments are more lenient. Why this obvious change?

Werner Neff has a master’s degree (licentiate) in economics from St. Gall University (Switzerland) and a PhD in political science from Freie Universität Berlin (Germany). Neff served for nearly twenty-five years in the successful mortgage and loan division of a large Swiss bank. After years in Paris and Berlin, he settled in Zurich with his family where he participated in the many votes and elections of Swiss public life. In 2010, weeks after his retirement, he moved to the United States as a green-card holder to join his American wife. Interested in the daily life and daily problems of his new fellow citizens, his thinking and reasoning are always colored by his opinion of his home country.

Neff lives in Colorado where he appreciates the liberty to continue his own studies in economics and philosophy. He enjoys outdoor sports, especially skiing, and many cultural activities, especially the concerts of the Aspen Music Festival and School.


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