Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Shop Switzerland!

Dear Yodelers,

It’s that time of year again. The one of two times a year that the rules of Swiss economics need not apply and The Frau goes shopping.

Running shoes for less than the
price of a mortgage payment?
Yes, Switzerland can. 
Yes. There are two sides to every “I just got Switzerlanded” story and they are called January and July. The Frau brings this up because, well, it’s July. And July will be over soon.

So hurry and get your Swiss watches for half the price, your clothing for 70% off (in otherwise, jeans at normal American prices), and that set of wine glasses you’ve been putting off which are now being offered new for less than they're selling for at the Swiss flea market. What's more, you'll also be able to buy a pair of running shoes for less than the price of a mortgage payment and when else is that possible in this country?

Yodelers, it’s time not only to hunt. But to gather. And if you miss the deals, don’t worry, the travel agency across the street is advertising shopping vacations in New York City. See you there when desperation strikes in mid-November.

The Frau

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Line at Tibits

Yodelers, as some of you vegetarian lovers may know, Tibits is a zoo at noon. Especially at noon on a rainy day. Like yesterday. So imagine The Frau’s surprise when she saw a line at the buffet.

Yes. You read that right. A line.

A line? In Switzerland? The Frau didn’t know what to do. Wait in it with the rest of the foreigners while the Swiss helped themselves to the food? It seemed rude to cut in such a well-formed line, but The Frau has been in Switzerland eight years and that's long enough to have no patience for lines since only foreigners who have been here three years or less stand in them.

As The Frau stood there debating what to do, a Swiss woman grabbed a plate and started lecturing everyone in line that here you don’t do things like that. You just grab a plate and go. Then she demonstrated, grabbing a plate and elbowing her way into the middle of the crowded buffet. The Frau, relieved, followed her, leaving the other foreigners standing in their pointless but polite line.

Unfortunately, The Frau is feeling a little American guilt about the whole situation today. So like the good American she no longer is, she’ll try to make amends now by saying sorry for cutting in front of all her foreigner friends.

Like reading about Swiss Life? Then you may also like The Frau's book, Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I'd Known. Just a friendly tip from an author who has decided to embrace shameless self-promotion. 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Eight Things to Love about Switzerland, Part II

The Frau celebrated eight years in Switzerland two weeks ago. In honor of that milestone, she’s put together a list of eight things she loves about Switzerland. Today she’ll conclude with the last four. To read the first four, click here.

Baden, Switzerland
Photo by Brian Opyd
Five: Health insurance is not tied to employment. And it’s mandatory.

What happens when health insurance is tied to employment? Well, apparently if you’re in the US and work for a company like Hobby Lobby, they can deny you your legal right to contraception in their health policy because of their personal religious beliefs. Would this ever happen in Switzerland? No way. Health insurance is private; it has nothing to do with your employer, and everyone is required to have it whether they like it or not. This does a lot for costs savings and equality, since unlike in America, the people who pay for health insurance aren’t also paying for those who forgo it even though everyone has health issues. And it also means you don’t have job stress. Swiss people often quit their jobs to travel or reevaluate their lives or start a business. All while keeping their health insurance. Which brings The Frau back to point one: Freedom.

Six: Punctuality is valued.

You never have to wonder whether someone will come on time or not in Switzerland. Ten seconds late is late. Why is this great? When time is valued, you don’t tend to waste it. The Swiss are a productive country for a reason.

Seven: It’s clean. No really, it’s clean.

Switzerland is the only country The Frau knows of where she’d actually take a shower in a parking garage. Or let Toddler M continue to eat the apple she dropped on the floor of a bus. Or find a sparkling clean bathroom in the middle of nowhere. Clean is nice. And also too easy to take for granted sometimes, especially after you’ve been living here awhile.

Eight: Towns and cities are built for walkers.

Cars are required by law to stop for pedestrians at zebra crossings. Lights are timed to make driving suck as much as possible in Swiss cities. And parking costs are high. Why? Switzerland isn’t a driving country; it’s a walking one. If the laws and hiking signs aren’t proof, then the example set by The Frau is. 

The Frau walks to buy groceries. The Frau walks to buy clothes. The Frau walks to buy electronics. The Frau walks to the train. To the bus. To the library. To the post office. To the pool. There’s almost nothing she needs that is not within walking distance. Not only are all of these walkable Swiss cities and towns pleasant to live in, but when a city is walkable, it cuts down on car pollution, congestion, and noise too.

What else do you love about Switzerland?

Oh, by the way, if you love reading about Switzerland you might also like The Frau’s book, Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known. Just a totally unsubtle hint.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Eight Things to Love about Switzerland, Part I

The Frau is celebrating eight years in Switzerland today. In honor of that milestone, she’s put together a list of eight things she loves about Switzerland. Today she’ll begin with the first four.

One: Freedom

This may sound strange coming from someone who hails from a country that bills itself as “The Land of the Free,” but the Swiss people are much freer on many accounts than Americans. As one of the world's oldest democracies, Switzerland can teach the rest of the world a bit about how to do democracy well. Number one tip? Don't allow only money to talk. The Swiss people have power no matter how much or little they earn because they have the freedom to propose a law themselves and force a national vote on it, as long as they can collect 100,000 signatures. 

Number two tip? Don't let lawyers rule the world. When this happens, as sadly is the case in the United States, it has huge implications for freedom on all levels of society. But when lawsuits aren't allowed to run rampant, it means healthcare costs are controlled (because doctors don’t need expensive insurance for sue-happy people), it means children learn personal responsibility young (two-year olds carry candles in parades in Switzerland and it’s no big deal), it means dogs can hang out in restaurants and public transport, and it means people can decide for themselves whether to dive into a swimming pool or walk into a construction site. When a society takes responsibility for its own actions instead of being allowed to blame someone else for them, true freedom reigns.

Two: Public Transport

The train connects to the bus that connects to the cable car that brings you to the middle of nowhere in time for lunch. But the broader result of a transport system that works is a less-stressed society. When you are 99% certain that your transport will be reliable, dependable, and hassle-free every day–even on days you need to work late–then you have less stress in your overall life. An easy, traffic-free commute has huge implications on quality of life.

Three: Vacation Time

Time off is sacred in Switzerland. You do not mess with someone’s vacation time here. You do not expect someone to work on Christmas Day. Or the week after Christmas, for that matter. And employers are required by law to provide a minimum of four weeks off for everyone. Crazy? Actually it’s more sane. Because here’s what The Frau has learned: A society that can relax and recharge properly is a more productive and happy one.

Four: Cities and Nature Together

You’re never far from a hiking trail, a lake to swim in, or a bike path in Switzerland, even in the center of Zurich. Cities and nature are not separate concepts in Switzerland. There are no such things as forest preserves. Just forests. And that is something else to love.

What do you love about Switzerland?

Achtung. Shameless self-promotion part. Do you enjoy reading about Swiss life? Then you might like The Frau’s new book, Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known. Available at fine online retailers and on Zurich’s most famous shopping street too (Bahnhofstrasse 70).

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Here's why you should see the Knie

It didn’t sound like a good idea last night. Sit in a tent with hundreds of sweaty people and stinky animals on one of the hottest days of the year? Swimming sounded like a much better idea.

But The Frau had already bought tickets so The Frau went to the Knie Circus anyway. Too bad it took her eight years to go see it. Because Switzerland’s National Circus is fantastic. And that is no joke.

It comes down to this: One family. Eight generations of circus magic. The Knie Circus has stood the test of time—and for good reason. Be like The Frau and sit down with a bag of popcorn or an ice cream cone and you’ll be treated to a show that is both magical and personal as well as daring and sweet (it’s hard not to fall in love with three-year-old Chanel Marie Knie and her tiny white pony).

Part of what makes the Knie Circus special is the intimate family feeling it provides—several generations of the family are involved in the show, often performing as a nuclear family (for example, The Franco Knie family does the elephant show). The tent is also small by American standards contributing to the small-town feel and making even the back row a good seat.

While the circus is local and intimate, international acts add exotic flavor, like the Chinese Diabolo Girls.  This year’s clown, David Larible, provides non-stop fun and laughter—without needing any of Switzerland’s four official languages to communicate. His gestures, facial expressions, timing, and musicianship are superb.

The Knie Circus is the perfect show for both young and old and for Swiss and foreigners alike. It travels around the country throughout the year, performing at over 40 locations, including the hotspot of Wettingen, where The Frau went to see it. She highly recommends it.

Achtung. Shameless self-promotion part. Did you enjoy reading about Swiss life? Then you might enjoy The Frau’s new book, Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known, since her entire expat experience could practically be summed up as a circus. Available at fine online retailers and on Zurich’s most famous shopping street too (Bahnhofstrasse 70).

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Frau can read Swiss German

Attention, yodelers. Here is something The Frau had lost hope for…and yet, guess what? The Frau is reading...and getting the double guessed it...a Swiss German magazine headline! Not bad, since Swiss German isn’t even supposed to be a written language.

A South African colleague at her office in Zurich once reassured The Frau that she would start understanding Swiss German once she had kids. He was right.

This is proof.

Because here, yodelers, in the Via Magazine (freebie magazine available on Swiss trains), is a headline, “Schiffli fahre uf em See.” The Frau recognized it immediately—not only could she understand its meaning, but she also knew it was the title of a very popular Swiss children’s nursery song about a boat (all Swiss kids seem to sing it–even non-Swiss kids like Toddler M). 

Needless to say, The Frau was very proud of her comprehension. In fact, she was so proud that she must have looked ridiculous, grinning and gloating over such a simple headline.

It was definitely an Erfahren. Appropriate, since that was the title of the magazine section.

Achtung. Shameless self-promotion part. Did you enjoy reading about Swiss life? Then you might enjoy The Frau’s new book, Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known. It even has a section on language. Available at fine online retailers and on Zurich’s most famous shopping street too (Bahnhofstrasse 70).


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