Peter York On Ads: In the land of money, your lover is a laptop


How wonderful to be Swiss. The Swiss, I once read, spent more on the state subsidy for just one of their three rail networks for their 7 million population than we did on the whole of our system. And it shows. If you count down the leaving time of a Swiss train on your Swiss watch you'll see it leaving to the second. Not just from the terminus but from every subsequent station.

And clean! You could eat your dinner off the floor of a Swiss train. They've started cleaning it before it's got there. Trains, and chronology, cantons and cowbells, Switzerland is the most glorious retirement home imaginable. Forget Bridport or Bideford - lovely as they are - if elegant bourgeois inactivity is what you want, you can't beat Switzerland.

Wander up into Zurich's better end residential bit - and it's not as if the rough end's exactly festering slums - and you start hyperventilating from the smell of money. The apartment blocks are piled-up blocks of High Net Worthness. The madam shops are full of stuff for Nancy Reagan and Betsy Bloomingdale types and there's no one on the street. They're all in silver German cars with drivers.

The Swiss are strange, no question. In Europe, yet not really of it. French and German, yet non-partisan and convenient for Italy (at what precise point does the lakeland start to feel Italian?) - good at pharmaceuticals, and packaged foods, not exactly an outgoing, seafaring nation.

But they've known mild sorrow. They've had drug problems in the big cities for 20 years. (It's extra shocking to see graffiti in Switzerland). And they're not sure how long it can all go on - the money, the independence and the all-round 1970s weirdness of it all. Switzerland is above all a banking place, a private banking place, a place for valetudinarian money, money that doesn't want to go anywhere too exotic on its own, money that would rather go Swan Hellenic. Think High Net Worth - the banking word for people from comfortable to loaded - in its twilight years and you've got Switzerland. Think lakeland villas bought with the returns from selling your family's German Mittelstand business, and you've got it.

UBS - Union Bank of Switzerland - is known for its profound Swissness, its lovely crossed-keys logo. The country's the brand. They're there to help if you're about to cash out, sell up and be portfolio- managed for the rest of your life (don't Roger Moore, Julie Andrews and Petula Clark all live in Switzerland?). The new UBS commercial makes the world look lovely and fantastically clean - Japanese monorail trains, bright glass wall-climber lifts going up in the dark, a huge Modernist atrium with an internal bridge. A Lutheran-looking church, a pier, a smart new poolside with Eames chairs in the foreground, a glamorous New York canyon and some red sunsets. It's utterly irresistible and, by current standards, terribly untricksy; no more than a little slomo. Everywhere they go in this gloriously safe and wonderfully under-populated tour d'horizon, there are people in pairs.

Just the two of us. At a certain point in life you absolutely know who your significant other is, the one you daydream about, write little notes to then tear them up. It's your Financial Adviser, of course. The sleek person - they're often women now, reassuring for all the widows and divorcees - who comes to the villa and tells you about the Special Situations, the New China Fund and whether you should buy more gold.

There are only two locations that matter to UBS, they're saying - it's everywhere and anytime. They're there for you. You're looking good after the work in the Geneva clinic, Dr Zwingli does a lovely job, so you're refreshed rather than wind-tunnel stretched, you've got the best dental implants money can buy and you're off to Barbados to show it all off soon - exchanging a warm poolside for your cool one. You need your darling dream visitor with his/her lovely laptop full of figures - they're about sectors and businesses and places you don't recognise - to make sure you can keep turning left on those re-branded Swiss planes for ever.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam