My Swiss Story is a series that looks at life in Switzerland.
Lynn Denton is a volunteer. She volunteers for Be My Guide, showing visitors around her adopted home of Montreux, she volunteers for the Association pour le français à Clarens to help people with their French, she volunteers annually for Carton du Coeur Riviera, and was a refugee host in Montreux for EVAM. Originally from Austin, Texas, where she worked in mental health, public health and higher education, Denton was also one of the volunteer organizers of last year’s Women’s March in Geneva. And somehow, between all this volunteering, she has a full-time job as a communications specialist with the humanitarian organization, Medair.
What brought you to Switzerland?
My position with Medair. This is my number one passion. We help the most vulnerable people in the world who are suffering because of natural disasters or who are displaced because of conflicts.
What do you like most about your life here?
Gosh, where to begin? The French language! Swiss thermal baths! The excellent government and a political system with so many parties. Also, the real efforts of communes, especially Montreux, to be environmentally responsible. And my friends at the International Women’s Club of Lausanne. And the great natural beauty, especially having the Gorges de Chauderon as my backyard!
What was your greatest challenge after arriving in Switzerland?
The lack of privacy working in a HUGE open space with about 30 other people with their desks shoved right up next to mine. Also, how expensive this place is!
How has Switzerland surprised you?
I’d never been a train commuter before – always cars in Texas. So when I became a train commuter, I was surprised how you could see the same people day after day, year after year, and never say a word to them. That feels strange to a Texan, coming from a place where people greet strangers and smile and nod to everyone. Also, having to pay for TV, even when I had no time to watch it, though now I do watch Swiss TV news in the morning. And now I understand that we might lose state TV/radio because of the initiative coming up. That scares me to death! If that happened we might end up with only private, for-profit media – the Fox News outlets of the world.
What do you miss from your life before?
Besides being with family and friends I’ve known for years and years, good affordable Tex-Mex restaurants!
What would you miss if you left Switzerland?
I would miss Montreux. I find it extraordinary that such a relatively small community could have such a large cultural and historical footprint. Out of around 26,000 residents, the town has nearly 150 nationalities1, including more Chinese nationals than any city in Switzerland2. Think of notables with roots here, from Nabokov and Stravinski to Freddie Mercury and others. And Smoke on the Water was over OUR water! It was also thrilling a few years ago to watch from my apartment as international diplomats helicoptered in for the Syrian peace talks. On top of all that, we have a microclimate with milder and sunnier weather than just about anywhere in Switzerland. Living here is bliss and a privilege.
Interview edited by Bill Harby
1 In 2016 there were 148 different nationalities residing in Montreux according to data from Switzerland’s Federal Statistical Office.
2 Le News has not verified this statistic however the number of Chinese residents in Montreux is certainly high. According to data at Switzerland’s Federal Statistical Office there were close to 986 Chinese citizens living in the commune in 2016. This is 7.8% of the population. Across Switzerland the percentage in 0.3%, which makes Montreux’s percentage around 25 times the Swiss average.