Sirenentest: this very important day takes place in Switzerland every first Wednesday of February.
This happens to be the annually recurring day when Switzerland tests its emergency sirens. These warning sirens are in place for instances when a nationwide alert needs to be cast.
Ahead of the testing day, the Swiss government displays signs and posters all around. They also talk about it on the radio and on the evening news. But in the end, many of us forget about the tests until they really do take place. We find ourselves startled and a little bit scared by this sudden, scary noise from the streets.
The first year I was living in Switzerland, I got a double scare. Living in Lugano, I had to endure both the regular sirens, as well as the "lake water level is rising, run for your life" siren.
Yes, they have a siren for that, too.
To a person coming from Italy, the idea of a perfectly organized system of sirens and alerts is totally cool yet scary. You feel protected, and yet you feel a little bit threatened, too. Kind of like during the Cold War.
Do not miss the official TV spot about the National Siren Testing Day, a seriously funny and self-ironic display of the siren system as a very complex clockwork machine made of all the things that make Switzerland unique: Army knives, cheese, bells, and, of course, money!
This year's day of siren testing has made me realize one thing, though: if nations were TV characters, Switzerland would definitely be Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory.
(Photograph copyright by Keystone)