When I first started writing back in 2004, I wrote a lot of articles for Style Weekly, Richmond, Virginia’s alternative newspaper. These articles involved interviewing everyone from Doc Severinsen, the former music director of The Tonight Show, to Cristina Nassif, soprano. While some of the interviews were more fun than others—they all had one thing in common: enthusiastic subjects who were excited about being in the spotlight.
Fast-forward a few years to Switzerland. Interviewing people on this side of the pond is a much different experience. First off, there’s the language thing. I didn’t realize how easy I used to have it when the only option was English. In Switzerland, I’ve done interviews in English, German, and various combinations of the two. But the main difference I’ve come across here, is that people are more leery of the media, of the press, and of being in the spotlight. While most Americans can’t wait to have their five minutes of fame, most Swiss would rather not be bothered at all. And while they usually can’t wait to read the latest about Paris Hilton and Brangelina in the local daily paper, when they’re asked about something themselves, they’d rather be anonymous.
I respect this. There’s something to be said for a private, reserved and media-suspicious culture. But it certainly isn’t making my job easier. Any other writers living abroad find differences in the culture influencing their work?