I’ve been reading ‘Swiss Watching by Dicca Bewes’, lent me by my daughter in law, Sarah, and was horrified to learn that (according to him) it is the custom in Switzerland if you attend, say, a party, to introduce yourself immediately by name to each and every person in the room, not stopping to chat while doing so. Worse, on departure, you are supposed to say good-bye to every person, using the name you were given in the opening introduction. These may be old fashioned manners. Neither Sarah nor I had encountered this custom, but then neither of us moved in such circles (she was part of the international school community, and the family I briefly lived with was German.) I suspect this etiquette is as a result of Switzerland’s famous neutrality, which when you reflect on it is an unenviable role and one very difficult to maintain. Presumably if you were participating in a negotiation you would want to know at once who was there and where they were from.

But as a social custom it fills me with horror.

I am not at all shy. I have no problems meeting new people – never did – and I don’t find small talk – or even big talk – difficult in any way. But introducing yourself on arrival to everyone in the room? What ever for? Why should you exert yourself trailing around a room announcing yourself to people who after all are just someone else’s guest? If you see anyone you know, or notice someone you fancy speaking to; of course – no problem. But otherwise, people who want to talk to you are welcome to come up and do so. You’ll receive them with every courtesy.

But I’m not at all keen on surrendering my name. People might use it! I jest of course, but only partly. When people shoot out their hand and announce, John Smith, I don’t at all have a favourable reaction. Did I want to know their name? Maybe after ten minutes of interesting conversation I might do – but then I could ask for it. As for giving mine, I don’t know at that stage if I’m going to want to see them again, and frankly I’d prefer to reserve my position. From time to time I have taken complete strangers to my heart, escorted them past the guards and barriers and given them access to my inner chamber, on which intimate footing they’ve remained forever. I’ve never regretted any of these impulses. Occasionally people have declined the invitation. Not many, but a few. That’s OK; that’s their choice. I like there to be choice.

And it’s not especially that I crave formality. I don’t require to be addressed as Madam, Mrs -. Miss -, or Anne. I don’t really care about one over the other. I’d rather a stranger didn’t use any appellation at all.

Finally, there’s no possibility whatsoever that I would remember someone’s name from a collection of persons I’ve recently met in a room. I probably will remember their psychic imprint for decades to come, but it won’t be labelled. Anyway, perhaps they’re people like me and don’t want to hear their name carelessly employed!

So if I ask you your name, I hope you’ll give me it, for I don’t ask very often. And should you ask mine, of course I will give it, and I doubt if you’d ever guess what I thought. No doubt the fault is mine.


About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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