09 November 2012

Searching for a Soft Swiss Tissue

I've just returned to Switzerland after a month in the U.S., and so I'm especially aware of the little contrasts between daily life in the New vs. Old World. Any of you who travel back and forth will instantly think of the most important difference: toilet paper.

The Honolulu friends with whom I stayed for several nights, and who have always openly displayed their avid interest in Number Two, use toilet tissue that is so soft and pleasantly scented that it would serve well sticking out of the breast pocket of James Bond's tuxedo. Even my California friends, a household of two practical parents and 9-year-old rampaging twin girls, use toilet paper (recycled, I'm sure) that's so soft it feels like what Catherine Deneuve must use to remove her makeup.

At our beloved home in Volcano village, which we run as a vacation cottage when we're not there, we use a bulk-priced recycled brand. Yet even this cheap stuff is soft enough to wipe a tear whenever we cry with joy.

By contrast, here in Europe, the toilet paper is only slightly softer than the handfuls of leaves and twigs the Troglodytes used for their ablutions. The recycled rolls we buy for home are so heavy and stiff you can use them to make a full-size origami outhouse.

As a freeloading freelancer, I have been a guest at a few ritzy hotels around Switzerland. A room at these establishments costs more per night than my monthly mortgage; and, as you would expect, the bathrooms boast polished marble sinks and baths with multiple shower heads. Yet, the toilet paper feels almost like newsprint. (And in fact, in some French cafés with the old squat toilets the paper is newsprint.)

What does this mean, that America insists on poofy tissue while Europe is just fine with paper that feels like it was made with oatmeal? Could it be that this is the real reason the pilgrims sailed to America?

Instead of the gifts I brought for Swiss friends and family -- Hawaiian coffee and passionfruit jam -- maybe I should have brought them something they'd really appreciate.

1 comment:

  1. This winter I spent a week skiing in Switzerland and was pleasantly rewarded wtith toilet paper that held up to the rigors of cleaning properly without my fingers passing through to finish the job. We would love buy some here in the states. Soft is nice, however, many brands cary this too far. Often the job needs a little more muscle.