Swiss dating service
(Britain is an island nation, whose people don’t always say what they mean, are obsessed with football and not all like the Royal family, students learn.) It is this ability to modernise that has kept the school in business when all of the others in Switzerland have closed, says Néri, who speaks five languages.
Masako, 33, from Adelaide, is a commercial associate in a technology transfer company and has taken six weeks’ personal leave to attend the course.I discover that the smaller the bubbles, the better the quality of your champagne (oenology), that Scandinavians drink the most coffee in the world (Western coffee history and traditions) and that the Mc Donald’s Happy Meal was invented in Guatemala (international savoir-vivre: Guatemala) – just don’t mention the civil war, we are breezily informed.'Whenever we talk about conversation, we mean conversation with people you don’t know,’ Néri explains.Welcome to 'table service’ at the Swiss finishing-school Institut Villa Pierrefeu (IVP). 'I always say there are lots of MBAs in the world, but very few people have this extra knowledge that can make the difference.Today an English girl is playing the part of a businessman launching an organic restaurant, hence her blue sash. 'We’re not training them to be good wives, but to be people who can communicate, whether it’s with their husband, with customers or with family, in a polite and meaningful manner.’ After gently admonishing me for carrying a take-out coffee cup, Néri ushers me into an elegant drawing-room, designed to mimic the houses the students will eventually run.'They called us two days later and said, “Oh Madame, it was so useful, because we just had to receive Princess Victoria of Sweden and we felt so much more comfortable because we knew more about her customs and her background and we dressed for the camera, like you told us.”’ There is no such thing as a typical student.
Néri has had young and old, pregnant students and women with children and nannies.
High in the hills above Lake Geneva, a group of ladies are lunching. Ninety-five per cent of the time.’ Swiss finishing-schools were once the place to send well-connected girls who wanted to brush up on their French and mark time before settling down – famously, Diana, Princess of Wales, attended Institut Alpin Videmanette and the Duchess of Cornwall went to Mon Fertile.
The food is real – Tuscan-style roast veal, mashed potatoes and peperonata – but almost everything else is fake. Perhaps because her neighbour has assumed the role of an astronaut, conversation is a little stilted. But today’s students would rather deploy their good manners to land a business contract than an eligible husband, according to the school principal Viviane Néri, immaculate in a skirt suit and Alice band.
'You need to go clockwise, my dear, whenever you can.
'Yes it would.’) Another student, acting as one of the staff and wearing a frilly apron and white gloves, carefully pours out apple juice in lieu of champagne as the tutor, Rosemary Mc Callum, a trained Cordon Bleu chef and etiquette expert, hovers nearby.
If they’re dealing with a lot of foreign clients, they felt, “If I know more about their customs I can feel more comfortable and have better communication with them.”’ For those who can’t make it to Switzerland, Néri will embark on what she terms 'missions’.