Tung’s Travel Journal #7: Chinese car enthusiasts flaunt wealth in Switzerland

Sophomore Manson Tung, who spent March 25-April 2 in Switzerland and Germany on the school’s trip, contributed these travel blogs. 

Switzerland has a reputation for unimaginable wealth. It’s one of the richest countries around the world (the wealthiest by per capita GDP if you exclude all oil-producing countries).

It has also been the priciest place we have visited (My lunch set me back 38 CHF francs—$43 USD!). I saw plenty of Audis, BMW’s, Mercedes Benzes, Bentleys, Ferraris and Porsches and was more than prepared to see wealth on another level.

As we passed the Schweizerhof hotel in Lucerne, I noticed two very long trains of luxury cars. I was surprised at first, thinking that the Swiss would enjoy their wealth a bit more secretly given their reputation.

But when I saw the first driver, I was a bit surprised. There was a Chinese person stepping out in a baby-blue suede blazer.

Interesting I thought, given the lack of Chinese-based Swiss I had seen. (While there have been seas of Chinese here, they are clearly tourists.) Before long the man in the blazer was joined by others, one in a tuxedo, others wearing ascot ties.

It became clear that this was not a group of locals, but rather an extravagant parade of Mainland Chinese people in Switzerland. Specifically, as their cars later alerted me to, they are members of SCC or Sports Car Club.

I had heard about the SCC before (fun fact: to join you have to have a Porsche 911 or better), but I couldn’t believe my eyes when Bentley after Bentley, Ferrari after Ferrari, Rolls Royces and Maseratis rolled past. It was loud, vulgar and maddening.

Even the locals were awestruck by the sheer obscene show of wealth, taking photos of the cars before continuing their regular Sunday routine.

While I was describing what was happening to trip leader Sandy Lyon and seventh-grader Lucca Procida, I realized just how much stereotyping this group opened itself up to.

“You see, those with musclier cars (less flashy, more about the motor) and white hair? They tend to make their own money,” I explained. “Do you see those with the convertibles and the flashiest, newest cars that look like they just came out of university? They are what we call fu er dai or wealthy second generation. They spend Mommy and Daddy’s money all day long.”

If the drivers had been Swiss, that would be one thing. There are no starving Swiss, and it would be their country. In fact, I didn’t see a single homeless person during my seven-hour city excursion. But these drivers came halfway around the world to flaunt their cash. And they come from a country where many people are still impoverished.

Later in the day, I saw other nice cars—this time being driven by what appeared to be locals. The difference in attitude was palpable. The locals popped the roofs of their convertible Rolls Royces to enjoy the Lake Lucerne view. The tourists did it to display their millions and make passersby jealous.

At the end of the day, it was the Swiss with their carefree attitude that really made me envious, not the vulgar internationally traveled nouveau riche.

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