Marjan Osvald, Universal Postal Union

In 2021, he was elected Deputy Director General of the Universal Postal Union (UPU). Learn more about the second-oldest international organization in the world and how Marjan Osvald compares Switzerland with his home country on the sunny side of the Alps.

Article published in the info letter April 2023.

Marjan Osvald ...

... comes from Maribor, Slovenia's second largest city.

... came to Bern at the end of 2021 to take up his mandate as Deputy Director General of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) on 1 January 2022.

Before coming to Bern, Marjan Osvald was responsible for the international postal operations and relations of Slovenia’s national postal operator – Pošta Slovenije. He first visited the city of Bern in 1997 to attend a meeting of the UPU. Since then, he has been coming to Bern regularly, at least twice a year.

10 questions to Marjan Osvald

What are you responsible for?

Together with Mr Masahiko Metoki, Director General of the UPU, we manage UPU’s International Bureau which employs 260 people. My regular day is full of meetings and visits from people around the world. It makes me extremely happy and proud to be able to help and contribute to improving communication between people and facilitating the flow of goods. UPU is a United Nations specialized agency that regulates and facilitates international postal exchanges around the globe.

Which projects are you most excited about right now?

There are currently quite a few projects that are of vital importance to the UPU. If I have to choose one, I would pick the UPU Extraordinary Congress that will take place in October in Saudi Arabia. The event will gather 800 participants from 192 member states who will decide how and to what extent the organization will open up to wider sector postal players.

When you arrived in Bern, what were you most surprised by?

We had to complete out a series of formalities, but the greatest surprise were the agreements for the use of the washing machine, not to mention the agreements regarding the shared areas. We had to sign quite a few similarly unusual contracts.

Furthermore, I discovered that when you work in Switzerland full time and have small children, getting through the day is an art.

One of his most important encounters was in 2022, with the then President of the Swiss Confederation, Ignazio Cassis (Photo: December 2022)

What do you appreciate about Bern?

A lot of things. At first glance, life seems rather slow, almost boring. However, everything is very efficient and perfectly organized. Responsibilities are clearly defined. People may seem more reserved, but they are very friendly. The excellent communication of the local authorities with the residents is something I admire very much.

I enjoy traveling by train and I like how cars are pushed out of the city. I believe that Bern can serve as a good example of sustainable urban mobility for the rest of the world. At the same time, I am amazed how drivers follow the road regulations to protect pedestrians and cyclists. I often ride my bike that has a special bike trailer for children and I am impressed by the cycling network in Bern.

Tell us about your favourite place in Bern.

Whenever I can I go to the terrace of our building at Weltpoststrasse 4, from where we have, so they say, the most beautiful view of the mountains and the surroundings of Bern. My family and I love to spend time on the Gurten. Our sons adore the mini railway, and my wife and I enjoy the beautiful views and tranquility of the place.

What is the difference and/or the commonality with your culture and the culture in Bern?

We equally share a love of nature, mountains and rivers. In May, you can ski in the morning and swim in the Adriatic Sea in the afternoon. We have an excellent mountain infrastructure, well-marked walking trails and exceptionally beautiful mountain huts. We like to stress that Slovenia is "a country on the sunny side of the Alps".

Both nations are ski fans. Vreni Schneider, for example, is a real icon in my city of Maribor where next year we will celebrate 60 years of women's ski competitions for the World Cup, also known as "Golden Fox" competitions. Both Switzerland and Slovenia are very clean and safe countries.

Slovenia is very similar to Switzerland. Perhaps in Slovenia, life is a bit "louder" and people seem to have more fun. Slovenia is a country renowned for its excellent wines, so people tend to drink more wine than here. When my friends and I meet in a restaurant, we often "fight" because there is always someone who wants to pay. Simply put, we prefer to spend, while Swiss people prefer to save.

What is still on your to-do list?

First, of course, is the descent of the Aare River and I would like to take a swim in all those Swiss lakes. When our sons are older, we will explore the rest of Switzerland by train during the weekends.

Any advice to newcomers in Bern?

Do not push and take it easy.

Albert Einstein or Paul Klee?

Albert Einstein was and is no doubt the most influential physicist of all time. Interestingly, he was born in Germany, became famous in Switzerland and died in the USA. Paul Klee was born in Switzerland, lived in Germany and died in Switzerland but did not have Swiss citizenship. However, as a big fan of Bauhaus, I would opt for Paul Klee.

Have you tried to learn Swiss German and if yes, which is your favourite word?

As a child, I first learned German at school, and only later English. I love the German language very much, but to be honest I prefer to leave Swiss German to my two sons who have almost mastered Swiss German in the past year.

Who would you like to hear from next?

Hissa Alotaiba, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates.