SHARE
COPY LINK

RACISM

Tourist body ‘fuming’ over Oprah ‘racism’

Swiss tourism officials have expressed dismay over an upmarket Zurich store's refusal to sell celebrity US talk-show host Oprah Winfrey a handbag, in what she describes as a racist incident during her visit last month to attend Tina Turner’s wedding.

Tourist body 'fuming' over Oprah 'racism’
Oprah Winfrey is one of the world's wealthiest women. Photo: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images North America/AFP

Winfrey told the Entertainment Tonight programme on CBS an assistant in a luxury boutique had refused to show her a black "lizard or alligator skin" handbag she had asked to see.

"We are fuming – this person acted terribly wrong. We are sorry this happened to Oprah," Switzerland Tourism said in a Tweet.

Spokeswoman Daniela Bär told the Blick newspaper the incident was damaging for Switzerland's image but was a one-off that wouldn't have a lasting impact on the country's popularity with tourists.

However, she called on the store owner to make a full apology.

Winfrey said the store assistant had told her the bag would be too expensive for her and offered to show her others instead.

The celebrity is one of the wealthiest women in the world with a fortune estimated at 2.5 billion dollars.

Having been refused the bag, Winfrey says she left the shop without buying anything.

She said she rarely experienced racism – possibly because she was so well known.

Blick said the incident occurred in the chic Trois Pommes store whose owner Trudie Götz was also a guest at Turner’s wedding.

She apologized for her assistant’s behaviour, saying there had been “a misunderstanding between her and Oprah”.

The bag cost 35,000 francs and was placed behind a security panel, the paper said.

“We don’t have any facial recognition here,” Blick quoted Götz as saying.

The assistant's conduct was "completely unacceptable", Markus Hünig, president of the Zurich Bahnhofstrasse Association, told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper.

Hünig said he had never heard of anything like it.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

QUALITY OF LIFE

Why are Geneva and Zurich high among world’s ‘most liveable’ cities?

Zurich and Geneva have been ranked once again in the top 10 best cities to live in but not everything is so rosy about life in Switzerland's two big cities.

Why are Geneva and Zurich high among world’s ‘most liveable’ cities?

Switzerland is the only country in Europe to have two entries in the top 10 in the new Global Liveability Index: Zurich is in the third place and Geneva in the sixth.

The study, carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit rates living conditions in 172 cities based on more than 30 factors. These are grouped into five categories: stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. 

Both cities score high across all categories, with highest marks given for heath care (100), followed by infrastructure (96.4), and stability (95).

The difference, though minimal, between the two cities, lies in the culture and environment category, were Zurich scored 96.3 and Geneva 94.9.

The lowest score both got, 91.7, is for education, which is surprising, as Zurich’s Federal Polytechnic Institute (ETH) has been named the best university in continental Europe for several years running, including in 2022.

READ MORE: Swiss universities still highly ranked but slip in ratings

The overall result, however, is not exactly a surprise, because the two cities (and sometimes also Basel, Bern, and Lausanne) frequently rank in the Top 10 places to live in the world.

Paradoxically, Switzerland’s two largest cities also routinely take top spots as the most expensive places to live in. For instance, both were ranked among the costliest for international residents in a survey published on June 14th.

So the obvious question is, how can two most expensive cities also be among most ‘liveable’?

At least part of the answer may lie in different criteria used to measure the quality of life versus costs.

The concept of quality of life defined by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which was also adapted in Switzerland, includes categories such as  health, education, environmental quality, personal security, civic engagement, and work-life balance.

Swiss cities (and Switzerland in general) scores high in all these categories, which explains the overall top rankings.

The cost of living, on the other hand, is determined by calculating prices of goods and services that are essential parts of individual or household spending.

These prices are totalled and averaged, and indexes are created to help compare costs of living in different locations.

As prices for basic necessities such as housing, health insurance, food, and public transportation, are much higher in Switzerland than in most of Europe, the country always ranks among the most expensive in the world.

However, as The Local explained in a recent article, in order to get a more accurate assessment of the cost of living, prices should be looked at in the context of purchasing power parity (PPP) — that is, the financial ability of a person or a household to buy products and services with their wages.

An in depth analysis by a digital employment platform Glassdoor concluded that in Switzerland (along with Denmark, and Germany) the average city-based worker can afford to buy 60 percent or more goods and services with his or her salary than residents of New York.

READ MORE : EXPLAINED: Why Switzerland’s cost of living isn’t as high as you think

And there’s more to the equation…

Most, if not all, participants in the global quality / standard of living indexes are international residents in each surveyed country — people who are typically high earners and have sufficient income to live well. That skews the results somewhat.

For instance, the Quality of Living Ranking conducted annually by asset management firm Mercer, bases its findings on responses by expatriate employees — people who work in high-level, well-paid executive positions — rather than those in lower-level jobs, like in retail or restaurant sector.

 READ MORE: What is the average salary for (almost) every job in Switzerland?
 
 

SHOW COMMENTS