According to Minister Rim El Memmi, the term "coolattitude" best reflects Bern's lifestyle. The women's strike in 2019, however, has left her anything but "cool", and by declaring "colour has taken possession of me", she refers not only to Paul Klee, but also to the different colours of the Aare River which fascinate her so much.
Article published in the info letter February 2022.
Rim El Memmi…
… is from Tunis, the capital of Tunisia. Her family comes from a Berber village, Tazoghrane, located in Cap Bon in the north-east of Tunisia.
... holds the position of Minister and is responsible for political, cultural and press affairs.
… before being posted to Switzerland, she was the Deputy Director at the Directorate-General for Relations with Europe and the European Union at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tunis.
Rim El Memmi loves to read and she just discovered the beautiful book “Winter in Sokcho” by Swiss author Elisa Shua Dusapin. Hiking is also one of her favourite activities. The Bantiger appears so near – except when you start climbing it.
After a full day at work, she walks home by following the schoolchildren's route along the banks of the Aare river. She may contemplate the picturesque banks of the Aare, admiring the swirling current and the different colours that the water can reflect depending on the weather and the time.
10 Questions to Rim El Memmi
What does a normal working day look like?
My days are busy and varied. I may find myself responding to requests from the Tunisian administration or undertaking initiatives with colleagues in the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. At times I am called upon to represent the ambassador, as I did recently at the ceremony to present the New Year’s greetings from the diplomatic corps to the President of the Confederation.
What do you appreciate about Bern?
I was born in a country that has a coastline measuring 1300 km, meaning that water is an intrinsic part of my roots. Therefore, I was delighted to see that water plays such a central role in Bern. Bern is nestled in a curving bend of the Aare, and some buildings, especially in the Matte district, are literally standing in the water like in Venice; streams of water gush from jets at Bundesplatz (Parliament Square), and fountains with cold, pure water can be found all over the city of Bern.
Tell us about your favourite place in Bern.
I frequently walk along the esplanade (Münsterplattform), which is so close to my flat that I consider it a bit like my garden. Often, if I feel like a combination of exercise and art, I will visit the splendid city of Thun and its magnificent panorama, full of striking genre scenes, or I head to the no-less-magnificent Abegg-Stiftung and its museum.
When you arrived in Bern, what were you most surprised by?
I was quite astonished when I discovered the practice of urban swimming in Bern. The first time I went for a walk along the Aare, I didn't know that people swam in it. I left the office wearing a suit and high heels and wondered why everyone around me was walking around in a bathing suit.
How would you describe the "Bernese attitude to life"?
The key word is ‘coolattitude’. Bern has none of the stuffiness, pretension or arrogance of other capital cities.
Is there anything you would change about Bern?
Honestly, I wouldn't change anything. Its incomparable quality of life, remarkable architectural harmony, and proximity to nature make Bern a unique city, and this uniqueness needs to be preserved.
Cheese or chocolate? Albert Einstein or Paul Klee? Bear or beer? Hiking or skiing?
Paul Klee – and not only because of Klee’s trip to Tunisia in April 1914, which was a decisive moment in his artistic career, since it was during this trip that he declared: "Die Farbe hat mich" (colour has taken possession of me), but also for the chance to visit this splendid museum that is so well integrated into its natural surroundings. In fact, the current Gabriele Münter retrospective at the Zentrum Paul Klee documents her trip to Tunisia, which is also a source of inspiration.
Which was one of the most significant encounters during your stay in Switzerland?
I had an unforgettable moment in Bern as a I witnessed the extraordinary atmosphere at Parliament Square during the women's strike on 14 June 2019, which was a tremendous rally for women's rights and equality.
What is still on your “to-do list”?
The legendary trains: the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express or the old-fashioned charm of the Montreux-Oberland railway (Golden Pass Panoramic Line).
Who would you like to hear from in the next info letter?
Ambassador Doris Frick, Embassy of Liechtenstein
Doris Frick, Embassy of the Principality of LiechtensteinDoris Frick has been Liechtenstein's Ambassador in Bern for many years and manages over 110 agreements between her country and Switzerland. Find out why she is particularly looking forward to 2023 and what she is keen to experience in Bern for a second time.Doris Frick, Embassy of the Principality of LiechtensteinMore