Finding Your Bomb Shelter in Zurich

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There are many interesting incidents I remember when I moved to Zurich for a year of studying computer science at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). I believe the Swiss invented a whole series of initiation rituals for the foreigners, just to prepare them for the tough life in the harsh Swiss environment.

After surviving the interviews at the "foreigner police" I was ready to search for a room close to the University or the ETH. Lucky as I was I followed an ad on the bulletin board at the Institute, leading me to a great, renovated house with high ceilings, with a large room with a view onto Zurich and the lake, and the whole nine yards. The landlord/owner of the house rented out a large apartment to students that he himself selected.

So, no "Wohngemeinschaft" or other German nonsense. Actually, that worked a lot to my advantage, because the main question he asked me was "are you a student of the University or of the Federal Institute of Technology?" The correct answer, of course, being "Institute" (---you know, at the University the students have long hair, are communists, they are dirty and they sleep all day and they have parties in their rooms...; whereas the "Techies" are working all the time, they will make money, and therefore they make great son-in-laws). So I had the room.

I got a long briefing on the laundry room... (another story on this website talks about this Swiss icon in length)...and then, at the end of the tour the landlord literally said: "And now I will show you your place in the public nuclear bomb shelter nearby....(and after a short pause)...oh, no, you don't need that, you're a foreigner".

Tom Schulz, Zurich 1983

Copyright (©) 2007 Dirk Riehle. Some rights reserved. (Creative Commons License BY-NC-SA.) Original Web Location: