Friday, April 26, 2013

Buying a Car

There are three types of cars in Switzerland: black cars, white cars, and grey cars.  Why?

Even a brief trip in Switzerland affords a motoring-minded observer the chance to note that Swiss cars are almost entirely monochromatic while the rest of the world has gone KodaChrome.  This is not because colours are verboten; rather, it springs from Swissness. 

At the core of Swiss motoring is the complicated relationship the Swiss have with their own (considerable) wealth.  The Swiss are not particularly ashamed of being one of the wealthiest peoples on earth; however, they eschew the bedazzled wardrobe of the Russian oligarch and the rococo masonry of the Italian nouveau-riche.  The Swiss are every bit as consumerist as any other wealthy nation, but their watchword is always discretion.  So it is that the keen-eyed anthropologist sometimes notices that the plain-looking gentleman sitting opposite her on the bus is wearing a $30 000 wristwatch. 

Therefore, the car presents a dilemma for the wealthy Zurich banker: clearly an expensive car is called for (and readily affordable), but how can one buy a fabulously expensive vehicle which does not, as Eco says, “narrate its own vanity?” 

Well, for starters, you don’t buy a red one.

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