Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Balloon Festival in Toggenburg

I will never be as cool as my younger sister. Because I do things like get up at 6.30 am on a Saturday to go see cows. But give me a break. I’m in Switzerland. That’s what people do here.

Despite the whole sister stigma, I actually enjoyed the Alpabzug in Urnaesch two weekends ago. And I’d get up at 6.30 am for a bunch of dressed-up cows again. I think a few Swiss bloggers that I saw there would agree with me, right?

Anyhow, as we talk once a week, my sister couldn’t wait to hear what stupid thing I did in Switzerland this last weekend. So I told her it was the Balloon Festival in Toggenburg. The highlight of this balloon festival is the Night Glow where the hot air balloons sit along a lake in the middle of the Alps and light up to music. This was a bit cooler in her opinion. So maybe I’m not a total loser. Yet.

A lot of other people thought a balloon fest in the middle of nowhere was cool too, as evidenced by the hundreds of people I had to fight, up to an hour and a half ahead of time, to get a prime spot along the lake for photo taking.

Twelve balloons “danced” to everything from the theme to the Lion King to live yodeling to Johann Strauss. That combination alone in one 45-minute interval was something to experience. Personally, I found that the Strauss worked the best because of the upbeat rhythm, but the live yodeling was definitely more unique. Problem is, yodeling doesn’t have such a defined beat, and a rhythm sort of helps when you’re trying to light up balloons to music. But decide for yourself. Because what do I know? I'm the kind of person that gets up way too early to see cows.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Phone Phobia

I admit it. When my phone rings in Switzerland, I get scared. Do I say a friendly English "hello?" Do I bark my last name into the phone like I'm pissed? Do I brace for Swiss German and prepare to ask if the caller speaks High German? Will all this worry be pointless because the caller is actually my mom?

If you have ever lived in a country where phone etiquette--not to mention the local language--is just a little bit different, read on. Maybe, just maybe, you'll be able to relate to my column in October's Swiss News .

And if you have a humiliating phone story, please leave a comment. It just might make me feel better.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Death and Taxes

Guest Post by Kristi from the blog A to Z.

Someone once said death and taxes were the only two things one could be certain of. This person obviously didn't visit Switzerland.

You can also be certain that Switzerland is frackin expensive. I am not going to bore you with how expensive, it is a popular topic that you can simply read up on by googling "Switzerland" or "Swiss" or "most expensive but beautiful place in the world". No higher pay, lower tax economics lesson will save you from the sticker shock (which will result in you curling up in a corner while violently shaking. You revert to an old thumb sucking habit you kicked at age eight and ironically, shock treatment is what it takes to snap out of it). You can arm yourself though with knowledge, and everyone knows knowledge is power.

So let's talk food shopping. Yes, I was all dramatic so we could talk about how to save time and money while food shopping. You are either intrigued or let down, but either way you want to read what is next as a result, don't you?

Tips for Saving Time:

1. Get to know your food store or stores: Become familiar with the aisles, the product placement, opening/closing hours, and general feel. I would do this before you plan to shop - just walk in and check things out. I went to a different store last Sunday and it easily doubled my shopping time because I couldn't find the canned beans.

2. Check out your staples and take notes: On the same mapping expedition, take notes with particular focus on your staples. What is the German word for milk, where are the eggs located (if you are American, this may shock you), how are things packaged (cute pics of animals on packaging identifies your meat), you learn that you are responsible for labeling and barcoding produce, etc. You will find yourself gawking at all the yogurt options and marvel at how few options you have for chips (paprika anyone?). If you are lucky, someone may mistake you for taking inventory and ask you where the cheddar cheese is. You can just point "thatta way" then shamelessly giggle when they still can't find it, trust's fun.

3. Plan your attack: I make menu plans once a week and stick to them. This may or may not keep you out of the store multiple times per week, but I am convinced it is why I can shop once or twice a week, never needing to go that third time. My menu plans consist of one pot meals that last two days or the recycling of ingredients into different dishes.

4. Learn how to convert to grams: You stare at the package of chicken, you wonder if 12 chf is reasonable for .206 kg of go home and Google it and you find out you have been had. The sooner you figure out how to convert to kg or g, the less time you will spend looking at a package of meat while scratching your head. Rule of thumb, one kg = 2ish lbs.

Tips for Saving Money:

1. Shop an hour before closing time: You will find many items drastically discounted at closing time. This is great if you are a meat eater - as many times you can find certain proteins discounted up to 50%. Be sure to either freeze or use this deeply discounted meat immediately as it is likely discounted for a reason, like death if you consume it tomorrow.

2. Check out the items sold in bulk: There is nothing better than discovering the 500g produce deals, 1.20 chf for 10 cloves of garlic...hell yeah! 12 chf for .890kg of chicken breast, pinch me...I must be dreaming. Buying in bulk can definitely bring about a good deal, you just have to look for it.

3. Produce is good AND cheap: The produce is so amazing compared to what I had back home and I can't believe I am about to say this, cheap! I want to pet it sometimes because it is so pretty and colorful and cheap. I try to make produce heavy dinners at least twice a week. I have also learned what turns quickly so I can make sure I use that particular item in the beginning of the week, saving the produce that doesn't turn immediately for the end of the week.

4. Store brands are your friend: The food stores here carry a discount store brand for many items and I have found most to be of high quality. While I can't say they are "cheap", they are less expensive than your branded items.

5. Use re-useable bags: Unlike in the States where bags are free at check out, they charge you 30 rappen (30 cents) per grocery bag. They are actually quite lovely bags, but you are still wasting money and spitting in Mother Earth's face. I brought three over from the States and am quite happy I did so, they have served me well.

6. Choose your organics wisely: I find the regular items to be of such high standard that I buy very little organic (labeled Bio or Biological here). This is a very personal decision though so I won't tell you what to do. The more organic you buy, the more you spend so choose wisely. I am comforted by the fact that the Swiss are known to treat their animals well and the cow I just ate probably had a Swiss massage before it kicked it (no Swedish massage here, they like to protect Swiss jobs...I Kid!)

I want to leave you with this one last tip, SURRENDER. Surrender to the fact that food shopping here is different. Different is why you came here though so the earlier you let go of that 50-foot chip aisle, the quicker you will adjust and maybe even enjoy the experience. The Swiss do enjoy some Pringles so while they do not carry 12 varieties of Doritos, you can crack open a can of freeze dried potato snacks. A little familiarity never hurt an expat...

So do you have a food shopping tip or an embarrassing story? Can anyone spot the Pringles can?

For more by Kristi, visit her blog, From A to Z

Thursday, September 24, 2009

12 Great Resources for Expats in CH, Part Two

Part Two of this series, 12 Great Resources for Expats in CH, you can find over at ACC by clicking here. For Part One, click here.

Have any other tips for expats that I forgot? Leave a comment.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Yellow Knickers, Live On!

On Saturday, I was transported to another world. A world where guys wear yellow knickers and don't rush home to take them off. A world where cows have the right away on roads. And a world where men young and old yodel with themselves--even when no one else is around. On Saturday, I went to the Alpabzug in Urnaesch.

Yes, it was exciting seeing the procession of cows and people come down from the mountains and yodel through town while all the tourists took photos of them like they were some kind of show. But the impressive thing is, it wasn't a show. It was just what these guys do.

My husband and I ended up following a group of them all the way back to their farm. We were the only foreigners for miles by this point (because no one else would be brave enough to endure so much cow poop), but the men continued on their way yodeling and and marching like they were doing it for a crowd. When they got home, they stood in the driveway of their farm in a circle and yodeled amongst themselves. They didn't rush inside to put on something more comfortable. They didn't change demenour when away from the tourists. They were just themselves. What the tourists saw in Urnaesch was really who these guys are.

I don't know about you, but I find this refreshing and somewhat amazing. It seems like so many things listed on tourist calendars these days are shows put on especially for tourists without having any real meaning behind them anymore. But the Appenzell area of Switzerland has really retained its authenticity--even if the rest of Switzerland tends to make fun of the traditional farmers from this area. But instead of making fun of them, we should congratulate them for keeping their traditions alive in a world that slowly seems to becoming the same.

Below you'll find a video of these guys at home, yodeling. It was taken from across a field as to not be too intrusive, but you can still hear their yodeling and get a sense that these guys are the real deal.

For some other great stories and photos of this event visit:
Twissted Swisster
Swiss Story
Swiss Family Mac
Peterthals in Zurich

Do you have a post on Alpabzug too? Let me know and I'll add you to the list!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Excuse Me, What Country am I in?

I've had some unique experiences while living in Switzerland, but I don't think anything tops yesterday's experience biking in Basel's Slow Up event. Slow Up, as I've talked about before, is a collection of motor-free Sundays in Switzerland. I knew that Basel's Slow Up was 60k and went through three countries, and I was looking forward to snacking in each one, but somehow, I thought the border crossings would be more obvious.

After my husband and I locked our bikes to a tree after biking the first 10k or so, we headed to a food tent in the middle of a field, set up just for Slow Up participants.

"Wow, the prices are so cheap!" I exclaimed to my husband, pointing to a sign that said a half-chicken was only 4.50.

"Yeah, that's a great deal!" he said.

"And look, the sandwiches are only 2.50!"

We got to the cashier at the back of the food tent with our half-chickens and I got out my 10 Franc bill.

"Nine Euros, please," she said.

"Euros? Where the heck am I?" I thought.

"Uh, do you take Francs?" I asked.

She did. So I pulled out a 50. Whew.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Day in the Life of an Expat

Expat Mad Lib (remember those?) written by Traveler for Good from The Pursuit.
(Nouns, Verbs, and other word requests provided by me. Here's the result...)

Your alarm goes off! You fight and look out the window. Instead of seeing green grass and your neighbor walking his cow, you see raclette. What will the day bring?

You jump in the shower, remembering halfway through your shampoo that the 10C water only lasts for 5 minutes. On to breakfast. Your grab your favorite breakfast cereal of Schlect Wheat, grab an apple and drink some warm boxed espresso.

You leave the house and realize you didn’t get the memo. Everyone is wearing blue lederhosen and you are wearing pink. No time to change, you’ve already been down 13 flights of stairs and have walked to the cable car station.

You’re on your way to Zermatt in order to buy zwetschgen and to see the fog. You’re practicing in your head how the conversation will go in another language. “Gruezi, can you help me find the dictionary?” “Gibt es ein?”, and “that’s too schoen!”

It’s always hard to guess how others will respond. Will they take pity and speak to you in Swiss German? Will they pretend that they don’t understand? Will they teach you the right words?

It took you a while to explain what you were looking for at the shop in Zermatt, but you finally found it, successfully made your purchase without having to hand over the biggest Franc you had (which is what you do when you don’t understand numbers yet). A small victory, but a rainy victory nonetheless.

Now off to the fog. Your co-workers told you it was not to be chopped and they were right! It’s the biggest Alphorn in the whole country. School kids come on field trips and retired couples come to stroll along the pickup truck. They even sell cervalet! At Christmas time, you’ve been told, they even decorate the American Flag with purple lights.

On your way back to the cable car station, you pass a park where kids are playing Jass. You’ve never tried it and you’re really tempted to speak if you can play, because it will be a great milk for your friends back home.

As an expat, every day is a “Choose Your Own Adventure”… you stay and play or go back home to make Knoblibrot for dinner? It’s up to you!

For more from Traveler for Good, visit The Pursuit.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

12 Great Resources for Expats in CH

Ok, I admit it. I mainly went to the Expat Expo in Zurich because of the promise of freebies. After living in Switzerland for three years, I didn't so much need information as I needed confirmation that people still really do give things away for free.

Anyhow, I wasn't let down. The event was free. I got a free issue of Inside Switzerland magazine, a free issue of Swiss News, a copy of the International Herald Tribune, a cool reusable bag from Swiss Info, and a Jolly Rancher. One cherry jolly rancher may not seem significant, but if you had been craving this sour candy like I had for the last month, it would have been worth the trip alone (thanks to xpatxchange for that).

But I also got to do a few other things too. Like listen to people speak nothing but English. Like remember how fun eavesdropping can be. I also got to meet some of the folks at World Radio Switzerland, who I had talked to in recording studios but never in person. I tasted various kinds of cheddar cheese (talk about heaven). And get this, I also learned about some resources I didn't know about. Imagine that. So in a two post series for, I'm going to share some great stuff about Switzerland (some that I knew about, some that I didn't) that I think you'll enjoy.

Print publications written for the English speaker by Swiss presses:

1. Swiss News is a great monthly magazine to read for, well, news. But it also covers politics, travel & culture, and has a great calendar of events.

2. Inside Switzerland is a quarterly magazine covering fashions and trends in Switzerland. It also has reviews of new products and places.

3. Hello Switzerland is free (what else is there to love) and all its content is written by its readers and editors as opposed to professional journalists although it does have a few reputable writers.

Web Resources

4. AngloInfo This site includes information for Zurich, Basel, Bern, Lucerne & Zug. It's got a list of businesses that serve the international community, a what's on guide, a cinema guide, classifieds and more.

5. Swiss Info A news and interactive multimedia website in nine languages, including English. For accurate news on Switzerland, this is one of my favorite sites. They also have a great blog called Write On. The discussions can get pretty heated here, so be sure to check out the comments.

6. Expat Marketplace A resource for buying, selling, and renting in Switzerland and beyond. Haven't tried it yet, but it looks promising.

For more, visit Part Two, which I'll post next week on ACC. Find out about an online magazine for international moms in Switzerland, an English bookstore and publisher in Basel (as well as a coupon code that will get you 10% off your online order), and when the next expo events are happening near you so you can get your share of what's free in Switzerland.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Weekend in Venice, Part 1

Guest Post by Tejal at wideeyedgypsy.

Venice unfolded in front of me like a beautifully illustrated fairy tale. The setting sun provided the perfect light as I struggled to cope with visual delight of sights all around me.

After a long train ride to Venice, my travel partner P and I had just enough time to deposit our bags at our hotel before rushing to take the water taxi to Lido, where one of the last screenings of the Venice Film Festival was taking place. By the time we got off the water taxi, we were seriously evaluating whether we should bother to spend a couple of hours watching a film at all, and instead head back to the main island – there seemed to be so much to see.

We had tickets however, so we rushed to the Biennale, where A Single Man, the debut film by designer Tom Ford, was being screened. I’ll hit the highlights – gay film, gorgeous men, great suits, beautiful photography, protagonist trying to kill himself, depressing and unsettling. Lead actor Colin Firth was announced best actor at the festival for this performance. (Refer to Shane Danielsen’s column for the professional review).

The overall movie-going experience was made even more enjoyable by the silent glares P gave me every time there was an on screen kiss or a gratuitous butt shot (this happened a lot). I never thought that I would actually be thankful that he was carrying his Blackberry and could therefore occupy himself with email.

Lido has a relaxed, chilled out vibe (somewhat like a Goa (India)). It was late after the movie, so we hoped we could find someplace open to eat (Geneva living has taken its toll). We hit jackpot however, as we discovered possibly the best pizza we’ve ever eaten. If you are in Venice, head to the S Lucia railway station. The area around the station is called Canareggio, (home to the Jewish ghetto). This is a great place to head to after a late night out (think streets of Bangkok at night). On Lista di Spagna, we found places that served sit-down dinners and snack bars that made fresh pizzas late in the night. We loved the one next to Gino’s, (you can’t miss it, it also has a shawarma spit and a gelateria). With two new gelato flavours to top up a midnight snack, we couldn’t wait for the next day to begin.

This is Part One of a three-part series. You can catch the parts two and the wrap-up on Tejal's blog wideeyedgypsy

Tejal is an aspiring writer and dreamer. The few hours she spends writing every day are an outlet for frustration and a source of joy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

Guest Post by Deb from the blog Peterthals in Zurich

When we first arrived, our new Swiss German world was quite intimidating. New language, new rules, and even new signs. The signage used around Switzerland cracks me up. There was a lot of time and energy put into each of these signs. Making sure each picture perfectly illustrates its meaning. However, I don't think they were expecting my "fresh off the boat" American interpretations.

This one is my favorite:

Rule 1: Do not generate a smoky cloud over the person in front of you.

Rule 2: Always have money. Nothing here is cheap.

Rule 3: Do not start a band on the tram.

Rule 4: Avoid sawing off the seat next to you.

Rule 5: Do not use razor-bottomed shoes to saw the seat in front of you, either.

Caution: Children fleeing.

People and bikes may cross the bridge. No horses!

Beware: Hidden booby-trap ahead.

Dogs may not poop near Adliswil.

When all you have are pictures to go off of until you learn the language, my advice is to just be yourself. I think the Swiss expect us to make mistakes and look like silly Americans. It is just our nature. I wouldn't want to disappoint.

For more by Deb, visit Peterthals in Zurich.

Friday, September 11, 2009

8 Places to find English Books in Zurich, Part 2

Part Two of Eight Places to find English Books in Zurich is up over on Check it out to learn about a few more places to buy and borrow those elusive English books in Zurich, including my favorite travel book shop. To read Part One, click here.

Photo by Brian Opyd.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Deutsch Lernen

Guest Post by Kathy from TwoFools in Zurich Blog

I love studying languages. Some people collect stamps, some build model trains. I study languages. I have even put this down as a hobby on my resume, in a joking, self-deprecating way. I studied Russian, French, Spanish, and Latin in (American) public schools. Slightly extending the gap year(s) before university meant starting over with Spanish and Russian.  In the past five years, I've started studying French again, took some Italian classes. And now German.

You might think, How wonderful to speak so many languages! I think so too and wish I did. I made it to a reasonable level of fluency only with Russian (what with that being the language of my field of study in grad school I pretty much had to).

And now German. Here I am in the Alemannic world with my love of language study, lots of free time and a desperate need to communicate outside of my cozy little anglophone world. I am in charge of household stuff, and that means using German with movers, repairmen, shopkeepers, dry cleaners, receptionists, Kreis officials, and so on. But more than this, here is my chance to really, finally become fluent in another language. I am feeling very motivated.

Ready, set, go. A few weeks after arriving I started intensive classes at a nearby school (starts with L, ends with I). At first I was a little dismayed. This was clearly the instructor's day job, a little too beneath him to be troubled to learn to be a teacher. Or perhaps he just lacked the gift.  No matter, he was just filling in for the regular instructor. Also, the core group of students was a particularly congenial and motivated group of English speakers.

The regular instructor was amazing. He was able to seamlessly introduce the new vocabulary into whatever topic he was covering so that our listening comprehension really grew along with the necessary but tedious effort of memorizing new words. He was great at grammar explanation, relentless in making the students speak in class. So what if the school kept dumping additional students with varying levels of ability into the class, sometimes exceeding the maximum number of students specified in their promotional literature. So what if the the construction site outside made it a little hard to hear with the window open. The teacher was gifted and the core group motivated. I learned a lot in those first two months, and really felt I was on that first upward curve of a learning peak.

Language learning is not a straight-line process, even if classes are. There are peaks and valleys and plateaus. Being on the rising curve of a peak is one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of language learning. Suddenly  you're reading an article in the paper. Without realizing it, you've gotten into  conversation and you understand what the other person is saying. Wow. And there is always another peak ahead. That makes it a little easier to take the plateaus and valleys.

I'm in a valley now. Here's what happened. I had to go back home for a month for a family medical emergency. (I should say here that I am very grateful that I was able to do this and am happy to report all is well at home now.) I came back to the same class but was hopelessly behind. After a few days I asked to be moved to another class that had just started an earlier the chapter.

Like the first temporary instructor and one other substitute teacher we'd had for my first class, this instructor was just useless at grammar explanation and not at all in charge of the class. In her defense, the students were quite a lot to handle. A princeling from some small oil-producing kingdom, a sulky Columbian Lolita, a high-energy Brazilian woman who enjoyed taunting the princeling into rages, two Turks mostly in their own world. They were all young, loud, and entitled. They also all shared an amazingly poor grasp of the vocabulary and grammar, making it almost impossible to get any benefit from the class. I got out.

A month (mostly) of travel and now home in Zürich a month, I have already forgotten some vocabulary and barely made a start on moving ahead on grammar on my own. Unlike some others, I lack the iron self-discipline it takes to study language on my own, at least not in the beginning stages. I need the structure of a class to keep me going.

I already knew this about myself of course.  We factored the cost of classes into the "What will it take to move to Switzerland?" planning. (My husband gets some free classes and some others reimbursed through his job. Lucky sod.)

So now the search for a new school starts again. Rather than just picking a place a random, which I did last time, I'm trying to be little smarter this time. There are a lot of language schools in Zürich, ranging from the Kantonal school to Migros Klubschule to dozens of pricier choices. (I found a pretty useful list here.) The competition hasn't really done much to ensure quality and it varies pretty widely. Apparently, schools here stay in the black by paying low wages to teachers and by continually slotting new students into open classes. (Schools in my home town don't do this, but they're going broke now.)

My new search rules.
  • Know what you want in a school and try to find one that fits your criteria. Small classes? Professional teachers? Close to your house? Cost?

  • Ask for advice and opinions about quality of schools. One school has been pretty frequently criticized by friends and in online forums, so I'm passing on that one.

  • A school should offer you the opportunity to at least sit in on a couple of classes at no charge before registering.

  • Make sure you understand the fees and refunds offered in case of cancellation (yours and the school's) and closures. My previous school canceled a class for a week because "too few students" were able to attend. They didn't offer a refund and only offered make up classes when pressed for this. They also didn't offer refunds or make up classes for holiday closures.

  • If the school has promised a benefit it doesn't deliver, complain to the Chef (director). My previous school offered excursions as an included benefit, but these somehow never happened.

  • To get a sense of what's out there in terms of quality, I checked out English Forum threads on language schools. Next I started eliminating schools that are too far away (that ruled out two lower priced options: Migros and EB Zürich). I also called and did a phone screening at a few places. I got a pretty negative vibe off of Alemania and a good one from Bellingua.

    Bellingua offers a 2-week, money-back trial period and promises lots of other good stuff. I'm going Monday for my assessment test and to get started on my free trial. I'm pretty excited about it.

    So excited in fact that I've pulled out all my study aids. Study aids are essential part of a language-study hobby, of course, ensuring that the maximum dollars are spent to ensure the osmotic language learning process is fully engaged. I have grammar books, text books, self-teaching books and CDs, dictionaries, vocabulary builders, and on and on.

    But my favorite study aid is actually free (if you don't count the cost of the phone). It's an iPhone/Blackberry app called gFlash. Instead of making all those flashcards, hundreds of them, just create spreadsheets in Google docs and then upload them to the app on your phone. Bingo, presto. The sheets are formatted into flash cards. You also get nifty quizzes that help motivate you to get through yet another vocab list.

    That's the thing, of course. In the end, you have to commit lots of words to memory and learn the grammar. You have to listen and speak and read. The classes and study aids are really just a good way to trick yourself into doing this hard work.  Never surrender, never give up.

    To read more from Kathy, visit her Blog, TwoFools in Zurich.

    Monday, September 07, 2009

    One Big Yodel. Now with Yodeling.

    It's about time that One Big Yodel really yodeled. And since I was trained as a singer (maybe you'll hear the opera overtones but I did my best to keep them minimal!) before I became a writer, I figure it is high time to combine the two. So instead of just writing about expat life today, here's a little blogging Karaoke. The words to the song are below in case you'd like to sing along. Maybe you'll recognize the melody. It's from The King and I.

    Hello, Young Expats

    When I think of expat life
    I think about a time
    When I ate a lot of cheese
    And I drank a lot of wine

    And the constant fog cloud
    Was always overhead
    And the bells clanged loud
    While I laid in bed.

    There are new expats now
    Living in Switzerland
    Looking hard for cheddar cheese

    But I know that they’ll find it pre-packed at the Migros.
    Thanks to expat bloggers who tell all. Like you. And me.

    Hello, young expats, whoever you are
    I hope your trash fines are few.
    Tie your paper in bundles with string.
    I’ve lived in Switzerland like you.

    Be brave young expats and barge in the “line”
    Be brave and ruthless and rude.
    Fight to the front with Swiss attitude.
    I’ve lived in Switzerland like you.

    I know how it feels to be fast on your wheels
    And to bike up the Alps easily.
    But as you ascend and turn round the bend
    You are passed by a retiree.

    Don’t cry, young expats, whatever you do.
    Don’t cry because you seem slow.

    All of my memories are happy tonight.
    I passed a Swiss on a hike.
    I passed a Swiss on a hike, truth be told,
    I passed a Swiss 5-year-old!

    If you have a request for a song topic, please let me know and I'll do my best to create it on a future karaoke blog. If you're having trouble listening, let me know.

    Thursday, September 03, 2009

    8 Places to find English Books in Zurich

    It allures you with its title. It makes you pick it up to admire it. As you hold it in your hands, you feel a slight rush like you can’t believe your luck.

    It’s the English-titled book.

    But then you open it. And all your hopes are dashed when you see the German text. Time and time again you fall for this.

    It seems like a cruel joke to title something in English when it is in German. Granted, many of these books were originally written in English but this is no excuse for getting the hopes of a book-thirsty English-speaking expat soaring. Unfortunately, in Switzerland, you literally can’t judge a book by its cover. Because you’ll only end up disappointed.

    That's where this post comes in. Written on behalf of, this is a two-part series on where to borrow and buy English books in Zurich. Real English books.

    1. Orell Füssli. Bahnhofstrasse 70, 8001 Zurich. The largest selection of English books I have found in Zurich. Three tempting floors selling everything from fiction to travel to DVDs at not so tempting prices. (A paperback for CHF 30?) Oh yeah, despite being blissfully surrounded by stories you can understand, you check the price and realize you haven't really escaped Switzerland after all. But be sure to check their website from time to time for author appearances. I saw David Sedaris do a reading last year and it was wonderful.

    2. Zuercher Brockenhaus Neugasse 11, 8031 Zurich. Decent selection of second-hand books on the second floor. Paperbacks are usually CHF 3 and hardcovers CHF 8. It can be hit or miss, but there's fun to be had in the hunt.

    3. The American Women's Club of Zurich library. Schoentalstrasse 8, 8004 Zurich. Members can use this 5,000 book library for free, but non-members can use the library for a yearly fee of CHF 75 (that's like three paperbacks at Orell Fuessli...). The club also organizes book sales from time to time. Check their online calendar for more information. There's a sale coming up on the 17th.

    4. The best part about this website is it offers free shipping anywhere in the world. The prices are competitive with amazon, but the free shipping (no matter the size of your order) usually makes the prices cheaper if you're ordering small quantities.

    Stay tuned next week for Part Two on where to find English books in Zurich. And please leave a tip if I haven't covered a great place you know of, or can comment on other parts of Switzerland or know of other great websites. Thanks in advance and happy reading!

    Wednesday, September 02, 2009

    Looking for a few Guest Bloggers

    Because I can only type with my left hand at the moment (more on that another time...), I'd like to take the opportunity to do something I've been meaning to do for awhile: invite a few good bloggers to write a guest post for One Big Yodel. If you're interested, please leave a comment or send me an email with your topic and we'll go from there. If you leave a comment, make sure I have your contact details in some way. Looking forward to hearing your stories and helping to promote your blogs and your writing!


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