Important Lessons from a Swiss juridique Konferenz

September 11th and 12th found me sitting in a breathtakingly gorgeous room in St. Gallen, Switzerland attending a legal conference the presentations of which were in two languages which were both foreign to me a mere 6 years ago.

Yep. Same girl that wrote that book you all love. Now, I’m attending legal conferences. Go figure.

Regardless of my green status, I held my own.

Well, maybe not on day one. My brain didn’t trust itself. I translated everything that was said into English and wrote my notes in English, as well. I left with chicken scratch about most of the presentations (thankfully not the one given by my new professor, who was amazing and thankfully did not speak at the speed of a Texas bullet) and a gigantic headache.

I wasn’t sure if there was a point in attending day two. At three o’clock that morning, it hit me – let go. Listen to the words and write your notes in German.

I tried it and it worked. Thank God because one of the presentations yesterday changed the way I will approach my thesis (if it gets approved). Thanks to the Swiss guy who sounds like he’s from Luzern, but is actually from Solothurn/Cambridge, Mass…go mighty Crimson…moving on.

Swiss people do something by nature that continues to astonish me. They easily flow from one language to another. They can, and do, seemingly seamlessly answer a question posed in French with an answer formulated in German (and vis versa). Above that rests a familiarity and comfort with English that blows my mind given how complex this language is (for example, I can say, “The money I had had had had little worth in the end,” and this sentence is a perfectly acceptable sentence utilizing double past perfect. It’s also a perfectly acceptable reason to drink Vodka shots. Moving on…). Anyway, the ease of linguistics was my first lesson this weekend: keep my languages (specifically words and thoughts) flexible.

The second lesson was something I’ve seen in both conferences this summer (the other being the remarkable conference on Internet Jurisdiction, hosted by the University of Geneva in June). The Swiss rarely dig their heels in and, instead, will find a way to say “perhaps, I’m not sure, it’s possible that, well have you considered” in the most flowery way and end it with “you might be wrong?” We all will be at one point and time! Second lesson: keep my “feet” nimble and ready to move. Not easy for a Texas girl, no matter how liberal she has always been.

What I’m learning about these two particular “Swiss” approaches is how crucial both are to moving forward. We can no longer (especially in the area of law in the digital age) continue to sit still, review data, and “write legislation.” The majority of legislation in this field, for the foreseeable future, has the lifespan of a fruit fly. It needs almost constant reworking, rewording, amending, reviewing, re-creating, etc. The moment after it is accepted as law and applied, chances are good it will already be obsolete or facing obscurity. Let me put it this way for all you Torah/Bible folks out there:

Each of us owns a tablet, but the age of stone tablets is over.

Don’t dig my heels in. Stay agile. It’s common for me to be dewy-eyed and optimistic, but I remain optimistic about my thesis and what it might add to the landscape. I learned many things this weekend that will help me a great deal.

This country continues to teach me life lessons.

Why I am in love with SBB, CFF, and FFS (which does not stand for “for f***’s sake”)

Literally, the only relationship I have had for the past few years that never disappoints me is my relationship with the public transportation system in Switzerland.

Not kidding. It is a love affair. I am truly in love and it will never go away. Okay, maybe we will fight? I hope not. If we fought and I won, I would like to have the tilting train removed from my trips to the Romandie. If we fought and I lost, I would  agree to sit in the kids’ wagon for a month and babysit.

Here’s are 3 things I noticed on Sunday.

The train station in Zurich is AMAZING. They renovated it. Same in Geneva. This is only a good thing. It brings more businesses into the train station, which gives the majority of shop owners a break on Sundays (train stations are open, but 99.999999% of stores are not). It makes the train stations a place of commerce, instead of a place to (sorry) take a potty break. Sometimes on the ground (I’m looking at you, Grand Central Station where I saw a man go number 2!!).

Luzern recently redirected traffic leading into its train station. One lane is reserved for buses, taxis, etc. That is making major traffic for the cars in other lane. Hey, guess what? Don’t take your car. Take the bus or, gasp, WALK. Luzern, win-win from y’all! And, they’re renovating their train station, too. Amazing.

The last thing is crucial. The people employed by SBB (for the most part and I mean EVERYONE I’ve encountered and I take/arrange public transportation more than most) speak multiple languages, attempt to be friendly, and willingly engage in conversation with customers. There is a premium on customer service with SBB/CFF/FFS and the regional service providers.  That’s not so common these days. Non-natives like me appreciate knowing more about the best route from Bubikon to Wankdorf (not joking). It’s nice to chat about this with Beat, who comes from Riffelberg, speaks about 20 languages, and can tell me everything about the route, including how many dairy cows I will see. Bravo employees of the public transportation system in Switzerland. Seriously.

Look, I am someone without tons of money. I still invest in my yearly SBB pass (called a “GA” say it outloud and laugh, please. It’s a general pass for all the trains, trams, buses, ships, donkeys, elephants, etc. Why? Because They make my life infinitely easier and more pleasant. Traveling by train, even in the Kinderwagon, is civilized (for God’s sake, you can drink! ON THE TRAIN!), easy, dependable, and keeps another car off the road.

I’m in love. It’s funny because my “first train” ride in Zurich was my move. The train came from Munich. It was a horrible storm (this is not a joke) and the train hit a fallen tree, derailed, and we had to walk to the nearest bus, in the rain. The journey usually takes about 3 hours, I think. It took me 10 hours to get to Zurich.

But, it was a DB. Not SBB. 😉

I love you, SBB. I just wish I could tweet my love. Fix your Tweeter feed!!

(PS- Can you please talk to ZVV and have them make my train orange again? It goes better with my book. Thanks.)