«A little bit of Africa does Switzerland a hell of a lot of good»

20-minute reader Karin Keil swapped her office desk for a stand in Zurich’s Christmas Village during the Advent season.

In December, readers from the 20-minute community tell about their special Advent. One person who responded to our call is Karin Keil. She can be found daily in her little house in the Christmas Village at Zurich’s Bellevue until December 24.

Mrs Keil, this is the first time you have had a stand at a Christmas market for a longer period of time. What were the first challenges?
Other market drivers come prepared and know immediately where everything goes. I stood there first and needed much more time for the whole setup and decoration of the stand. But I did not mind that. Now I’m here every day from 11am to 10pm, until Christmas Eve. That is a lot of time, but it gives me pleasure.

What are you selling?
Fair trade sauces and spices from Cape Town. Everything is produced there – so we can support the local population. In 2014, the proceeds will enable 164 children in Cape Town to receive a school education.

Are South African spices suitable for a Christmas market?
Of course! But the Swiss often need a brugli to get involved in something like this. That’s why, for example, I made a combination of spices for raclette. The sauces are also very good for fondue chinoise. That’s how it works out great.

Zurich’s Bellevue surely has many tourists as well.
This place is full of nuances! I actually speak English half the time. The tourists also tend to be more open-minded than the Swiss customers. They always need some time and are mostly anxious to critical. But when you approach them, they are interested.

What is the best experience you have had on the market so far?
Just 15 minutes ago Peter Maffay walked through here!

Do you enjoy life as a market driver? You usually work in an office.
I find it very casual and I absolutely love it here. I really don’t care how cold it is or whether it’s stormy. Besides, the cohesion between the market drivers is enormous. I hadn’t expected that, and I don’t know that from the business world either. We are like a family; help and support each other.

How did you even come to work with these products?
I always had them at home myself. My kitchen is nothing without these sauces and spices. One day I wanted to buy them again and they were no longer available because the owner at that time had stopped. I didn’t think about it for long and said to her: “If you stop, then I’ll start! I only realized later that I had actually taken over a company.

That was 2011. What do you think about the decision today?
It’s a story of the heart. This connection with Africa makes me happy, because I am in contact with the people there almost daily.

It’s Advent, you get one wish. What do you wish for?
That the Afro-Pfingsten-Festival in Winterthur will continue to take place. This festival is lived integration and many market riders live to a good part from the income there. It is incomprehensible and irresponsible for me not to hold the Afro-Pfingsten any more. Because a little bit of Africa does Switzerland a hell of a lot of good!

Link: 20min