F is for fine

train station outside the Kambly Cookie Factory
In the fall I headed to the local zoo with a fellow expat. Rather than dragging my purse with me I threw everything into my backpack. Or should I say, the backpack the husband was given by Malaysian Post as a thank you gift when he was there for work that I have now stolen. I grabbed everything I needed. Well almost everything. This was the day I realized how similar my Canadian passport and my train pass looked.

Both are little blue books about the same size. One identifies me as a Canadian citizen, the other identifies me as someone who is allowed to ride all trains, buses and trams within zone 100 and 101 without needing to pay a fare. Both very necessary documents for me to have on my person. Unfortunately they can't be used interchangeably. There is one stop between our local train station and the main train station in Bern. At the one and only stop for whatever reason I decided to look in my backpack and check if I had my train pass. Lo and behold I didn't. Cue internal panic.

It's not often for you to be asked to show your pass. You're not asked by the driver of the train, tram or bus. No, you're asked by roving gangs of transportation inspectors. They can appear at any minute. At any stop and they work in packs of two and three. Of course the day I realize my pass is not in my bag, on of these motley crews gets on my train and bursts through the door causing everyone to rifle through their belongings.

I dug through my bag like a mad woman whilst the inspector waited patiently. In that moment I forget every single German word I had ever learned. Please remember at that point I had been speaking German for 27 years!!!! I explained to the nice man as best I could I didn't have my pass. I couldn't find it and I genuinely thought I had it. Oh and there is no talking your way out of these fines. They don't really care. I had a lovely conversation with this gentleman about Canada whilst he wrote out my ticket. Apparently he had traveled Alberta extensively with his wife previously and found it to be quite pretty. We talked about how I ended up in Switzerland and then I showed him my Swiss Identification card. "oh your husband is a diplomat." I corrected him and said no, he just worked for the UPU. All this whilst still writing out my ticket on his little palm pilot looking thing.

By the way, it took him longer to write the ticket than it took for us to get to the Bern train station.

His palm pilot thing spit out my ticket and he directed me where to go to pay it. He recommended I pay it in the next 7 days or the price would go up. He also warned me that now my information was in the system as being without my pass on the train that could mean an 80 franc fine if it happens again. A third infraction could mean loss of pass privileges and a criminal record. Eeep.

My fine? 5 francs. I genuinely think the guy took pity on me. A befuddled Canadian just trying to go to the zoo. I paid the fine within minutes and then bought myself a 9 hour travel pass for our zones.

I got to looking after the incident to see what else would garner you a fine on public transportation here in Switzerland. A lot of these hold an 80 franc price tag Here is a list I compiled.

- Not having a ticket for your dog.
- Not having a ticket for your bike.
- Not having a ticket for your stroller with or without a kid in it. If you have a kid in it that kid needs a ticket too.
- Being a seat squatter aka who put their bags on the seat next to them. The logic here is you paid for one seat not two therefore your bag can ride in your lap, in the overhead bin or on the floor.
- Not having an after hours ticket aka if you need a different ticket after certain hours.
- Not validating your ticket
- Being outside of your zone
- Not having your discount card on you.
- Sitting in first class when you have a second class ticket

This may seem nutty but they make purchasing tickets really easy. There are machines at bus stops, tram stops, train stations and hell there are even some ON buses themselves.

I'm personally waiting for the fine for having your feet on the seat.


  1. What your "policeman" didn't know is that he could have got a job on the C-Train while visiting beautiful Alberta!! Ask Sean about his train police experiences next Hammell get-together. Really enjoying the ABCs of Tatiana
    Happy Easter


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