Thursday, October 29, 2009

Scary Halloween Costume Idea: Migros Uniform

Ok, no offense to the good people who were probably forced to have their photo taken in kindergarten class style for this grocery store advertorial. But shame on the person that designed the uniforms.

Maybe this is unfair. For one reason or the other, grocery store uniforms seem to be created to be ugly on purpose. I can see no other reason to combine polyester, the color orange, and the purposeless, confusingly angled arm stripes. But why are ugly grocery store uniforms such a universal, worldwide phenomenon? Shouldn't the uniforms reflect the brand image? Do all supermarkets see themselves as lame? If I had to describe Migros on basis on uniform alone, I think I'd say, Happy Halloween (which at least, is appropriate for me to say today. But do you want to be saying that on say, Christmas?).

Yep, there's no doubt about it in my mind, Migros uniforms take the prize for being Switzerland's scariest grocery store outfits.

But I'm willing to discuss otherwise. Anyone got a good reason why the Coop uniforms are the worst? What do you think of the grocery store fashions in Switzerland? Or in whatever country you happen to be in? But more importantly, would you dress up as a Migros cashier for Halloween?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Entertainment in Switzerland: Housing Ads

I like reading the housing ads in Switzerland for three reasons:

1. The prices are so outrageous it's kind of entertaining. (4.5 room apartment in the middle of nowhere Aargau for SFr 844,000? Oh and that doesn't include a garage...that's an extra SFr 25,000).

2. I can understand most of the text.

3. You come across gems like this:

Come on, really. Who can resist a Geak Apero...Not to mention the art direction on this ad really matches my English translation of such a thing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Life of an Expat, Part 2

Last week (thanks everyone!) we had a great discussion about the expatriate phenomenon of the whole "life on hold" concept.

This week, over on ACC, I discuss The Life of an Expat, Part 2: The curse of loving two countries. The question of where home is. And how instead of feeling more international and educated from living abroad, most of the time, I just feel more confused. Do you? Join the discussion here.

And don't forget your chance to win a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family: 101 Incredible Stories about our Funny, Quirky, Lovable & "Dysfunctional" Families complete with essays by yours truly. Click here to enter your crazy family story in the comments for a chance to win.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Trailing Spouse, Moi?

Yesterday I was interviewed over at Beyond the Gray, which is a fabulous blog about living your most inspired life. I highly recommend checking it out if at some point in your life (at home or abroad) you found yourself struggling to achieve or to redefine your dreams. Maybe you'll relate to my story.

As a trailing spouse, identity can be a tough thing (because if you're like me, that last thing you want to be called is a "trailing spouse"). But if the career you had before isn't going to work out abroad (or you lose yours via a layoff like me), maybe there's something else you'd love to do and try. Maybe, in fact, this is your big opportunity for that something you used to put on hold.

A good example of someone who reinvented herself abroad is Toma Haines, who used to work in marketing in the U.S., but has since lived in three European countries and created a business that fits her lifestyle and her love--antique shopping. This month, her business, The Antiques Diva, was featured in Travel & Leisure. Talk about a success story.

So. It can be done. Just takes some dreaming. (And possibly some insert country here bureaucracy). So check out Beyond the Gray. And don't forget to take a moment to win a book complete with a few essays by yours truly.

And in the meantime, did you feel like you lost your identity by moving abroad or losing a job?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Shameless Self Promotion Day

Hello and welcome to Shameless Self Promotion Day. It's just a brief departure from our discussion of Switzerland to let you know that I'm excited (well who am I kidding, I'm practically peeing my pants) that not just one, but two of my essays are out in bookstores across the United States today in one of the best-selling Chicken Soup anthologies, Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family: 101 Incredible Stories about our Funny, Quirky, Lovable & "Dysfunctional" Families.

I don't know what having multiple essays in a book about dysfunctional families says about my family, but I want to take a moment to thank them for providing endless inspiration.

The first story (which is actually the first one in the book--you can read it by clicking on the "see inside this book" button) is about how my father wraps everything (including plastic lawn chairs) in plastic (oh, and happy birthday today, know what you're getting for the big day).

The second essay is about the DNA I've inherited from multiple family members that just makes me want to steal those butter packets from the table at Denny's (and also the DNA that makes living in Switzerland so difficult because of the lack of these kind of things to take.)

To make Shameless Self-Promotion Day slightly less shameful, I'm giving away a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family: 101 Incredible Stories about our Funny, Quirky, Lovable & "Dysfunctional" Families. All you have to do to win is leave a comment on this post about something crazy your family does from now until November 3. Craziest family story (in my opinion, of course) wins. You'll get the book and your story will be posted on my blog in a future post along with a link to your blog or website. Please keep stories to 150 words or less.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Swiss Skimpiness and Skinniness

"You must have lived in Switzerland for awhile now," said a Swiss colleague to me over lunch one day.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because you're not fat anymore," he said.
Clearly, as an American, I must have been fat in a former life.

Which brings me to point #2. Breakfast at Manor.

When it comes right down to it, maybe the Swiss aren't fat because they can't afford to be. After all, that extra butter packet doesn't come free. And neither does that extra pad of jam. 

This ad, for breakfast at Manor (which is actually a great deal at CHF 6 when you consider one sip of orange juice can cost that alone) is telling of Swiss culture by the description of what's included in this deal:

1 cup of coffee or espresso
1 dl orange juice 
1 croissant
1 slice of bread
1 small roll
1 butter packet
1 jelly packet

I can just hear my Swiss neighbor,

"We have to go to Manor, because one pad of butter is free there!" 

Earth shattering for the typical Swiss.

Anyhow, besides the fact that your one dl of orange juice will be strictly observed with a line on the glass (not to mention this amount is equivalent to one American sip), I find the whole one butter packet and one jelly packet reflective of the whole culture of Swiss stinginess and restraint. But maybe if American restaurants charged their customers for things like butter, we'd have less waste and smaller waistlines? (Or maybe just smaller purses, if you're the type that pockets these things from American diners like my grandmother did).

Something to think about as I ponder my former fat self.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Life of an Expat, Part 1

Being an expat is wonderful sometimes. You can pick up and head off to Paris for the weekend. You can take advantage of benefits like housing allowances and expensed train tickets. And you can experience a part of the world most people never will.

But then there's the life on hold concept.

“Hey honey, can we get a dog?” I’ve asked many times upon seeing some adorable Bernese mountain dog sitting next to my table at a Swiss restaurant.

“Sure, when we move back,” my husband will answer.

When we move back. This was supposed to be last May, as my husband was on a three-year contract, but as you can see, we are still here. I know expats that have come to Switzerland for one year and stayed for forty. It’s a strange life to live, when you don’t know where in the world you’ll be living the following year. But it’s starting to get old.

Because I want a dog. I want a piano. I’m an American and I have a lot of wants that don’t quite fit with the Swiss apartment lifestyle.

So the next time we had the “I want a dog,” conversation, I told my husband, no fair about the “move back” statement. I want a date. A thing where time matters, but not place.

Shaking his head, he finally said, “Ok, you can get a dog next summer.”

And I’m going to hold him to that. Wherever in the world we might be.

This series, The Life of an Expat, was written on behalf of . But don’t worry, it’s 100% my opinion. Stay tuned next week for The Life of an Expat, Part 2, over on ACC.

But in the meantime, what do you think? If you’re an expat, does your life feel like it’s on hold sometimes? What do you love and what do you dislike about expat life?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How I Learned to Love a Swiss Sausage

When I first moved to Switzerland, I was not a sausage eater. I didn't eat hot dogs, I didn't eat corn dogs. I didn't need to be a consumer of all things pig. In America, there was something called variety. So I could survive on things like hamburgers at picnics or popcorn at the ballpark.

But in Switzerland, it's sausage or starvation. There's no hamburger option. There's cervelat or wurst.

To avoid starvation, I started slow. I'd take one bite of my husband's cervelat at a festival and ponder if I could really learn to eat more than that. Eventually I'd take two bites, then three, and then one day last year at Christmas time, I actually took part in the community sausage grilling a marshmallow.

While little Swiss children pointed and stared, I proudly grilled my marshmallow, but it looked weak and sad among the meaty sausage sticks surrounding it. So I stuffed my American Jet-Puffed marshmallows into my backpack after roasting just one and stared at all the little kids holding three-foot long burning sausage skewers, thinking, if this was America, this little Christmas sausage gathering would turn into a lawsuit.

So imagine my own surprise, when I suggested to my husband that we go have a Broetla (Swiss German for sausage roast) on a hilltop on Sunday. (Swiss German readers, please correct my spelling). We cooked our cervelat over a fire and even ate them Swiss style, holding the sausages like a banana, and dipping them in mustard. The only unSwiss thing about our little Sunday picnic were the paper plates we ate them off of. We just couldn't get motivated to drag our china up the mountain.

But I figure that doesn't matter. Because I ate the whole thing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Why the Swiss Care About Scottie Pippin

I was reading Blick am Abend the other day, when I saw the celebrity pages. And it got me thinking. Why do the Swiss care about the birthdays of Catherine Zeta-Jones, Will Smith, and Scottie Pippin? Could it be because they don't have any celebrities of their own? Read more about this phenomenon here.

As an American, I'm not even sure if I care about these people. Do you?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Swiss Political Advertising Part 2

Ok, I was going to post about something else today, but then I saw this. Anyone else see a problem with this ad? These posters, a campaign to prevent the construction of minarets in Switzerland, can be found around the country. In a breath of fresh air, both the cities of Basel and Lausanne are actually trying to stop them from running. Personally, I still can't believe how outwardly racist some Swiss organizations can be.

If you're interested in reading more, there's an article on CNN (thanks Mrs Mac).

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Monday, October 05, 2009

What the French do during lunch

On a typical workday, while Americans are eating a Subway sandwich at their desk, the French are doing this:

They are learning to cook a gourmet meal and then eating their creations (complete with wine and espresso) at different cooking classes across Paris. And then, two hours later, they just head back to the office. C'est normal, n'est-ce pas?

I've come to the conclusion that we as Americans are doing something wrong. You?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The New Swiss Beauty Queen in Crowned

Maybe it was just me and my bad Swiss German comprehension. But I could have sworn that Linda Faeh, who was crowned Miss Switzerland on Saturday night, didn't answer her final question correctly.

But who cares. She has blond hair and a nice smile. And apparently that's all that counts in these things.

Now perhaps this is unfair. The new Miss Switzerland is beautiful and could also be highly intelligent and who am I, a crappy German speaker, interpreting her Swiss German, to say she didn't quite get the question. Maybe she was just nervous and didn't realize that the final question was "A woman has fallen asleep for 20 years and now wakes up, what would she say about what has changed?" Instead she answered it like "A woman has fallen asleep for 20 years. What did she dream?"

To be fair to my German, the final two contestants answered this question like I thought it should be, proving that maybe I have half a German brain. They talked about the shock of seeing new technologies, etc, etc. But they lost. This brings me to point #2. Democracy.

Yes, you're probably wondering what the heck democracy has to do with Swiss Beauty Pageants, but like the rest of the overly-democratic country, it has a lot to do with it. The judging panel's vote only counted for 50%. The viewer's vote counted for the other 50%. (Although like everything else in Switzerland, democracy came at a price. 80 Rappen per vote via SMS, to be exact.)

So really, it was all a popularity contest, not a beauty contest. But I have to hand it to the Swiss. They know how to turn anything, event a beauty pageant on TV, into a money maker. So whoever has the richest and the most friends wins. It has nothing to do with intelligence or talent (there’s no talent show in case you’re wondering). But in this sense, it's not unlike most other things in life, really. This post was written on behalf of But as you can probably tell, it’s entirely my opinion.

And if anyone wants to argue with me on the final question from Saturday night, please do. Swiss German interpreters over French announcers (the event was held in Geneva this year) can make things even more difficult to comprehend for us non-native Swiss speakers.

Tune in next week on the ACC site for more of my thoughts on Swiss beauty pageants. And if you can’t wait (and who can blame you) click here to read my take on the Mister Switzerland pageant, held earlier this year. What do you think of Swiss Beauty Pageants? Or beauty pageants in general?


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