Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sexism in Switzerland

Switzerland may think it's neutral, but my experiences and facts prove otherwise.

Here are some facts:

1. Swiss women are paid 20% on average less than male counterparts. (
2. Swiss women did not get the right to vote until 1971.
3. Swiss women that do work and are married are taxed at a higher rate.

Here are some personal experiences:

1. Being taken to a strip club for a meeting while the top boss laughs because he can't wait to see my reaction.
2. Having a top manager consistently say "hi" in a different tone of voice than is used with male colleagues.
3. Having a boss saying he was excited about employing a new female worker because she was "hot"
4. Watching as a top manager gives a stripper his business card so he can hire her as the new secretary.
5. Having a boss show me an "inspiring" movie clip on YouTube that is scantilly clad women dancing.
6. There are no Swiss women employed in anything other than secretarial positions in my office. All women in higher positions are foreign like me.

My husband has also seen poor behavior among men towards women in his office and other female friends who have worked here have similar experiences. Not that this kind of thing doesn't happen in the US, but because sexual harassement are grounds for dismissal, I just don't think it's as prevelant although I have some personal incidents from the U.S. as well. I'll save those for another time.

Don't Take My Groceries!

I had lunch today with a former German colleague. He always has lots of stories about the US to compare to my strange Swiss experiences.

The first time he shopped in a US grocery store he was in NYC. As he was checking out, he became very flustered when an African-American man started taking his groceries and putting them in a bag. He yelled at him, "Hey what are you doing, those are my groceries," before noticing that this man had a supermarket shirt on and actually worked for the store and was merely providing a service Europeans have never even considered--free bags and free packing services.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Cooking

This year, we are actually attempting to cook a Thanksgiving meal. Never mind that we are doing it on Saturday instead of Thursday and that all the conversation during the acutal dinner, since we've invited our Swiss neighbor, will be in German. It will still be nice. I even got an orange pointsetta for the table.

So far, the cooking is actually going well despite a few desperate internet translations for strange German cooking words, figuring how much 200 grams of sugar really is, and doing the usual conversion of cups to grams to buy ingredients.

I am so advanced in my European cooking at this point that I don't even have to convert 400 degrees F to C because I already know the conversions. So right now as I write, the second of at least three pumpkin pies is baking in our microscopic oven at a well converted temperature.

Yes, at least 3 pumpkin pies will be made out of what is ingredients for one US pumpkin pie. This is because the Swiss don't eat pies, they only have tarts. So the only ready made crust I could find after looking in 4 stores is really a shallow crust meant for what else, to cook cheese in. So we'll see how it goes. My husband ran out to buy another shallow crust after I put in the second pie. We can't waste the precious US pumpkin mix!

Oh, and I can only cook one thin pie at a time due to the small oven. So baking what should be one pumpkin pie is a three-four hour process here as each pie takes about an hour. Thank goodness I made the cornbread yesterday.

Yesterday was actually the most difficult part--trying to find things like a ready-made pie crust and whipped cream. But I've learned to never expect to find what you are looking for in the packaging you expect it nor the place in the store you'd expect it. For example, the ready made crust can only be found in one store (Migros) out of the four I checked. And it's not in the freezer section (because the freezer section is actually a joke), it's refridgerated and near all the vegetables. And it's got a photo of cheese on it.

The whipped cream caused a lot of unnecessary pacing in an entirely different store (Coop). It was not with the chilled dairy products nor the butter, but near the bread section, high above a few boxes of warm milk. I had almost given up and bought a yogurt size container of double cream when I finally spotted it. Whew. It was a very tiring shopping experience yesterday--2 stores, 1 cart, 1 purse, 1 plant for the table, and me--with two hands! Not to mention I had to drag it all up two flights of stairs since our buildling isn't exactly handicapped accesible! No wonder the Swiss don't do actual gym work-outs, just shopping is more exercise than anyone should have to do in a day.

Anyhow, hopefully all will be worth it. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Like Any Other Day

My Swiss friend Tom thinks there could be potential for Thanksgiving in Switzerland. After all, 10 years ago there was no Halloween here and now there's a few pumpkins here and there as well as a few crazy people that dress up and go to parties besides expats.

But for some reason, I just don't think Thanksgiving will work. There's not enough money to be made since Thanksgiving is all about eating. But then again I saw that the Marriot here in Zurich will cook a turkey for you for a mere 208 CHF. So who knows, stranger things have happened.

But for that price, I will be settling on eating raclette tonight. After I get home from work, of course.

Happy Thanksgiving.


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