In an attempt not to drown you, or myself, in existentialist notions, this post is simply about initial observations living abroad. Speaking from limited experience, and not in concrete truths... Here's what I see, so far...
Mostly, I am reminded that Basel has had much more practice being a city (e.g. the University of Basel was founded in 1460, enough said). Coming from a country with a haiku-length history comparatively, my immediate realization being here is how this way of life is directly related to the phrase "tried and true." You can see it in everything, from how the Swiss-dialects are passed down and preserved aurally, to the city's fairytale-like infrastructure.
Here in the land of Swatches, I notice a different relationship with time. The trams abide by a strict code of punctuality, which the people in turn become accustomed to. The city is one huge clock, where the trams, bikes, and pedestrians all weave around each other, perfectly timed, like finely tuned cogs. Noticing people sitting out at cafés, I see that time to enjoy life is also taken seriously. Not to say the Swiss don't work hard or experience stress, but overall it feels that there's a different emphasis put on leisure. There's a sanctity to enjoyment and a realization of repose here, and time is taken for them to fit neatly into the order of the day.
Walking the streets as a foreigner, it is hard to ignore the sheer volume of bakeries here. Bread and baked goods are a way of Swiss life- one that I am very quick and willing to take part in. Being here somehow makes me feel much more in touch with the line "Butcher, Baker, and Candlestick Maker." Life is straightforward, simple, and steeped in both tradition and function. Everything is carried out in a very matter-of-fact way, without people putting on a show for higher tips.
Next to every bakery seems to be a flower shop, a café, and a boutique for baby clothes; and they're always connected by cobblestone walkways, adorned with busy bike racks. It's all an intricate system, one with much prettier window displays and attention to detail than in the United States.
The city's general fashion sense is equally as pristine. Even T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers are worn with an air that says, "I don't know the meaning of 'miss-matched' or 'thrift store'." It might have something to do with the fact that Switzerland is the most expensive country in Europe, but quality is something that is never compromised. From cheese, to chocolate, to watches, to tennis players (i.e. Roger Federer)- the Swiss are very persnickety when it comes to the term 'Swiss-made'.
Being Swiss-made myself, I can't help but feel a little pressure to live up to the name. I often imagine how my life would be different had I grown up here... What languages would I speak? What would my worldview be? Would I have the same passions and pursuits? I suppose these questions aren't that important, cause I'm here now, with my own unique historical background, and a beat up Timex watch. The real question now, is what to do with my time...