As everyone knows, snobbery is nothing but bad manners passing itself off as good taste. Past American society dames were terrible snobs, until they met their French and British counterparts, who put them in their place. I’m not going to mention any names because most of them are dead, but looking around me up here in the Alps I’ve seen some new horrors, money snobs who promise to make the older type look like nuns.
Mind you, I’m quite snobby myself when it comes to nouveaux riches with bad manners. As Yogi Berra remarked: ‘You can observe a lot just by watching.’ What I see here in Gstaad is a classless society, where the locals are proud to be called peasants while new arrivals feel confused at the lack of an upside-down social structure. This is good old Helvetia, where a farmer is more appreciated than a banker, and I particularly like it in the summer when the wife cuts the grass while the hubby rides the tractor. The richest local is a friend of mine, and he got started as a ski instructor. He also conquered Everest, but has remained the same – unassuming as hell and as pleasant as he was when he was teaching spoiled brats how to turn around a mogul.
He also got me out of a jam when, 30 years ago, I decided to build the largest chalet in the region and had the architects drill a hole on a mountainside that could fit the village of Gstaad inside it. But I didn’t like the location, 15 klicks west of Gstaad, which meant 30 kilometres in the morning to lunch at the Eagle, and another 30 at night to go drinking at the GreenGo. After I’d changed my mind, the mess I had created was given a name, Taki’s Hole, and people would actually visit the place and say terrible things about it.