Max, the Canadian Country Store Canuck
Max Wohlwend from Jonen, Swiss canton Aargau
Max sells Canada to the Swiss.
I don’t mean that he sells chunks of land. Think more of iconic products like smoked salmon, maple syrup, Canadian beef, beer (of course!), wine, peanut butter – you name it.
His store in the Swiss village of Merenschwand is full of that Canuck stuff.
He even has a Canadian canoe in there, 9.5 metres long, painted by Haida First Nation people. It’s not for sale, though. But you can rent it for tours on Swiss lakes.
A partner of Max had had sent the canoe over from Canada in a shipping container. But his greatest assets are Canadian flags: “Just hang out the Maple Leaf and Swiss people will come running. It is a real eye catcher.”
(Note from the editor: And it is easy on the eye: red and white like the Swiss flag.)
That is what he also tells Swiss restaurants that offer Canada themed culinary weeks. They buy products from Max’s store Country Seasons.
This is his store’s website: www.countryseasons.ch.
Max also supplies Canadian wine to the Hotel Park Hyatt in Zurich and several other high-end restaurants.
If you don’t want to spend your money in this high-end place, you can visit Max’s bar in his store and drink beer from the Granville Island Brewery. Or Canadian Wine if you go for these kind of things.
That is what Max (52) always wanted to have, a Canadian country store. He opened one in 2004 and it has grown ever since. His clients come from all over Switzerland.
They are Swiss people who had been in Canada or love the Canucks, or who know Canadians or are married to one. Or Canadians living in Switzerland: “Some have tears in their eyes when they see familiar products from their home country in my store”, Max says.
British Columbia is the number one destination for his clients, followed by Alberta and Nova Scotia.
“B.C. is like Switzerland, only a few sizes bigger and with way less people”, Max says.
Sometimes, Max feels nostalgic for Canada. He and his Swiss wife Silvia had lived in Kamloops in British Columbia for 7 years. They emigrated in 1996 and went back to Switzerland in 2003.
It is not that they did not like Canada. But you know, the Swiss really know how to keep their people in their thrall. Max and Silvia got job offers in Switzerland that they simply could not reject.
Max worked in maintenance for the airline Swissair. And Silvia got a job in the medical field. She would not have been able to do this in Canada.
In Kamloops, Max had a company named “West Canada Travel” that specialised on accommodations that you could not find in the big catalogues.
The pair started to have stalls at travel shows in Switzerland every year. Until they realised, it was better for them to stay in Switzerland permanently.
After seven years in Canada, they noticed that they had changed when they settled in Switzerland. They did not take the Swiss – nor anything for that matter – so seriously anymore. “Swiss people are more tight-lipped, not so chatty”, Max says, “Canadians are more open.” He had become more open, too.
But he also realised that the younger generation in Switzerland is more open-minded. “In the city of Zurich, for instance, years back, one used to see way more dark suits”, May says. “Today, everything has become more relaxed.”
The downside to it? ”Littering”, Max says. “Vancouver is cleaner than Zurich!”
It was a new start for the Wohlwends in Switzerland. They moved to a new place and made new friends. “They are people who have traveled, who had been in countries like Canada, who had different experiences abroad and adapted their views accordingly.”
“Our old friends are still in the same place where we left them in 1996”, Max says. “They still talk about the same stuff and complain about the same things. We were a little bored with them.”
There is a certain luxury in Switzerland, Max concedes. In Canada, people dare to say: “I cannot afford this.” But in Switzerland, according to Max, people want to keep up appearances.
He and his wife still travel to Canada twice every year.
His final statement: “Switzerland is the best country and Canada is the most beautiful country!”
Here is the Can-Swiss Quiz with Max Wohlwend:
– What gift do you bring home from Canada (or Switzerland)?
To Canada, I bring Raclette cheese and Swiss chocolate; to Switzerland, I bring CDs with country music, boots, jeans
– What product(s) do you miss most in Canada (or in Switzerland)?
In Switzerland I miss most Canadian beef, in Canada we missed some Swiss cheeses.
– Which are the 3 qualities you cherish most in Swiss men or women?
They can cook from scratch, work hard, they like it clean.
– Which are the 3 qualities you cherish most in Canadian men or women?
They love to party, love to laugh, are not that serious about themselves.
– What triggered a culture shock for you in Canada (in one sentence, please)?
They take one thing at the time and stay in a cue and wait.
– Which Canadian or Swiss personality fascinates you?
Canadian: Open minded and friendly.
Swiss: on time, reliable.
P.S. If you would like to fill in a Can-Swiss Quiz yourself, please send it to info@Swiss100Canada.com