No-smile zones

A place is neither good or bad of itself. 

It is our perceptions of that place that give it its reputation. 

Some places naturally excel due to their inherant beauty, like Venice, Bruges or Florence.

Other places may not leap to mind immediately as tourist destinations, but the warmth and intimacy of their people make the places seem magical, like Saskatchewan or Newfoundland.

Then there are places that are damnably difficult to love, because the people are not exactly welcoming.  Excluding war zones or disaster areas where a cold reception is understandable, there are places you inevitably encounter in your travels where everyone seems unfriendly no matter how polite and forthcoming you yourself try to be.

I call these places: no-smile zones.

Every Monday evening I enter a no-smile zone called Weinfelden, to teach English to a private student at his place of employment.

I like my student, who is not native to Weinfelden, but the town itself tests my tolerance for unfriendly, rude service.

The train station and its kiosk are clearly unhappy to serve you and make your exchanges there rather uncomfortable.

Jack´s Bar would prefer to throw you out rather than bring drinks to you.

La Stazione cafe personnel get annoyed when customers want drinks, coffee and to pay their bills.

Gleis 1, the Turkish kebab restaurant, are bothered by customers who disturb their conversations wanting attention and food.

On the streets of Weinfelden, unlike most Swiss towns, passers-by won´t respond to your “Gruetzi”(“Greetings” in Swiss German) no matter how friendly it was proferred.

So, being the sensitive soul I am, I try to understand why.

Is it because Weinfelden is a hockey town?

If hockey was the reason for sour behaviour, then Canada would be a sour country indeed, which it isn´t.

Too crowded?

No, the town has only 10, 000 people and its streets rarely feel congested.

Too many foreigners?

20% only.

Not enough members of the opposite gender?

No, it´s evenly balanced between male and female.

Too many old folks?

Only 22% over the age of 60.

Rent too high?

No, it is average compared to the rest of the country.

Not enough jobs?

No, only 1% of the population is unemployed.

Religious tensions?

Most Weinfelders are Catholic.

Bad weather?

No worse, no better, than the rest of Switzerland.


No, 70% of the population have had higher education.

Too isolated from the rest of the world?

No, it is a transportation hub between Konstanz and Zürich.

Bad history?

No.  It started out as a Roman town and it was one of the first Swiss towns demanding a liberal constitution for its residents.

So, why are Weinfelders so unfriendly?

Maybe, it´s because life there is too good?

Maybe, it´s because I only see Weinfelden on Mondays?

Maybe, it´s because I am not as loveable as I think I am?

(Nah! I´m a big ol´teddy bear!)

Whatever the reason Weinfelden is the way it is, I choose to ignore its behaviour and interact only when necessary.

Still it´s a shame…a town with every advantage and yet so miserable to others.

Is this what stagnation feels like?



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