Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Country Without Stuff

Today I realized once again how schlecht it is to want to buy anything in Switzerland other than Rivella and a grammar book. This country just does not have stuff.

For instance, today at work, we needed the books, "Bad Hair" and "Big Hair" for an advertising campaign we we were working on. But needless to say, neither book was available anywhere in Switzerland but readily available for $.01 on in the United States.

Later in the day, we tried to get a hold of another item for a project--a DVD about animals--again, not available in Switzerland although available in Germany for 35 EUR on and available for $9.99 on

As my German and Swiss colleagues became more and more agitated over not being able to buy anything to help either of our projects, I just kind of shrugged my shoulders, not surprised in the least. There's a reason I always bring empty suitcases on my trips to the U.S.

It also made me think back to a blog I read, Expat Experience, where the American writer living in Switzerland complained about not being able to buy baby formula for her lactose intolerant baby except in a tiny can for CHF 35 from the Swiss pharmacy. Instead of going broke, she had to resort to bringing it across the border illegally. But why, Switzerland? Why do you make these kinds of things so ridiculous and time consuming?

But I forgot, we're talking about a country where even throwing out trash is a major ordeal that requires a yearly novel to figure out what to do with it all.

Needless to say, this poor new mother on the Expat Experience blog also had major trama getting any kind of baby rocker--something also apparently "rare" and "difficult to acquire" in Switzerland. When she finally did get it, not only did she have to assemble it herself, but they forgot to include the screws, which took another 3 weeks (and no apologies) to arrive.

Maybe I'm just a spoiled materialist American. But gosh, even if I wanted to go get a magazine to read tonight, never mind if it's actually available. Nope, silly me, it's after 7 p.m. Shopping isn't even an option--the stores are closed. Talk about schlecht. This American is going to have to get her kicks reading one of the 30 pounds of books she brought back with her at Christmas time. Yep. When she arrived back in the country in January, the inventory of books in Switzerland jumped about 200%. But who's keeping track.


Kylie said...

big/bad hair are personal favourites of mine. whenever im having a bad hair day, just a glance in that book makes me feel a whole lot better!

JuanitaTortilla said...

Oh don't I hear you at all.
Does Orell Füsli help?

Chantal said...

We called them. They had neither book in stock!!

Jessica said...

ooh I love it that you are fired up. That fires me up too!!! I get all my books from or it is just crazy here.

Chantal said...

Another good website that I use is Shipping is free, so you can order your stuff separately to come in small packages and avoid customs taxes. It's generally cheaper than amazon too.

Young Traveler said...

Seriously, don't I know it. I'm going home tomorrow and with a HUGE list of things to buy.

I get all my books online here. Even the German books.

Seriously schlecht.

Thanks so much for your email, by the way. I do have a blog called Young Traveler Reinvented, which you can see by clicking my name, I think.



Chantal said...

Oh, shopping back home! Have fun being surrounded by all that stuff!

Leigh said...

Yikes, we're here in part to see if we want to live here. You already hit a few cons on my list. The shopping thing is so strange. One store I want to go to doesn't open till 4 and is open till 7. Another one, I've been to twice because I can't read the handwriting for the open times, and neither time was it open (in the late afternoon). How do these people make a living and buy their expensive eggs?! PS. Our baby won't take a bottle anymore so I was looking for formula to mix with her cereal since she just started eating solid food. In the states you can buy a small bottle of formula for about $6. Here they only have the powdered kind in big cans for SFr 29, at least every placed I've checked doesn't have the liquid kind for infants in a small bottle. Oh well.

Chantal said...

Yeah, shopping is a definite downside. Stores are closed when I get home from work and groceries mold and spoil much faster too so it's hard to even plan ahead much. Plus shopping is so expensive, it really takes the fun out of browsing when I know I can get the exact same thing in another country for half the price. And with better customer service too.


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