Lausanne: The Nearly Perfect City

A combination of geography, weather, and peaceful sanity make Lausanne hard to beat

Allan Milne Lees

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Image credit: the author

For some people, life seems to pass quite tranquilly. For others, life can be a roller-coaster. My life has tended toward the roller-coaster side of things, with some amazing highs and some painful lows. When life gets difficult, I like to remind myself that there are good things out there and so I often return to happy memories in order to help get through difficult patches. And so it was that I recently found myself thinking back on the twenty months I spent living in Lausanne.

For those unfamiliar with the city, Lausanne is in the Swiss canton of Vaud. Geneve (Geneva) is a short train ride to the west and Montreux is a short train ride to the east. Like both the aforementioned cities, Lausanne sits on the edge of Lac Leman. It’s not a big city — which is good, because I loathe big cities — but with a population of around 150,000 it’s just big enough to have some culture (music festivals, art festivals, a museum, etc.) and because around 40% of the inhabitants come from elsewhere, Lausanne has a far more cosmopolitan feel than similar-sized cities like Bern, and arguably more than even larger cities like Geneve and Zurich.

I’ve known a lot of cities in my life (Cape Town, Rome, London, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, Boston, Paris, Barcelona, Prague, Amsterdam, Bruxelles, Sankt-Piterburg, Moscow, Kyiv, Delhi, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Newcastle, Manchester, Oxford, Cambridge, Chicago, Lyon, Marseilles, Montpellier, Geneve, Athens, and Istanbul — to name only a few) and so I think I have some modest perspective by means of which to evaluate Lausanne.

But before I begin to wax lyrical over the many charms Lausanne possesses, let me begin by listing the downsides of living in Switzerland. Nowhere is perfect, and so it would be duplicitous of me only to list the many good things about life in Lausanne.

The Swiss live up to their reputation of being “coconut people” — hard on the outside, soft on the inside. This basically means that most Swiss people will be surprised when you greet them with a hearty Bonjour (Lausanne is in the French-speaking part of Switzerland) and will often fail to return your salutation…

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Allan Milne Lees

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.