Friday, December 25, 2009

Spreading Swiss Cheer

We had our 75-year-old Swiss neighbor over for fondue last week and before she left she said, "I really hope you stay in Switzerland." 

I practically melted when she said this. As any foreigner knows, most Swiss can't wait to ask you when you're moving back. To have a Swiss person tell me that they hope I stay was the ultimate compliment. I'll never forget it. 

And with that, I'll say Frohe Weihnachten und ein gutes neues Jahr. Thanks for being a member of the One Big Yodel community. I love your comments and hope we can continue our discussion of all things Swiss and expat in the New Year. 

To honor the holidays European style, One Big Yodel will be taking a kleine Pause next week and will resume in the New Year. I hope you can do the same. Enjoy the season.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Subway in Baden

I was really excited when I heard Subway was coming to Baden. Finally, a place to go in Switzerland where a sandwich includes more than just bread and one ingredient. 

But then I found out the prices. CHF 18 ($18) for a "Foot-long" value meal? Maybe I'm not so excited about Subway after all. I could have a "Sub Platter" for that price in the U.S.

Alas, the prices aren't stopping the Swiss (they never have). Whenever I walk by, the Subway in Baden is always packed with people. Elementary school kids, teenagers, adults. Apparently, the Swiss are warming to the idea of eating chips with their sandwiches. And shelling out the big Francs to do it.

In other American fast food news, apparently they are going to renovate the Baden train station (the oldest train station in Switzerland) and install a Starbucks next year. What's next? My little medieval Swiss village is slowly selling out. McDonalds. Burger King. Subway. Next thing you know, we'll be celebrating the Fourth of July too. 

What do you think of all this Americana taking over Switzerland?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Last Minute Gift Ideas from Switzerland

Cheese. Chocolate. Fondue Pot. This being my fourth Christmas in Switzerland, it has been even harder to get creative with what to give friends and family back home. Sure I've talked about the ultimate Swiss souvenir before, but I needed something different this time, as some family members already have that particular bathroom accessory. Anyhow, you can read what I've come up with over on today (except for you, mom, no peaking!)

If you'll be giving gifts from Switzerland, what are you gifting? Or if you've received a unique gift from Switzerland, what was it? Inquiring shoppers want to know.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An Expat in Switzerland's Favorite Christmas Markets

Last year, there was a big argument at my office in Zurich when my German boss claimed that German Christmas markets were far superior to Swiss Christmas markets in front of a group of Swiss colleagues. I tried not to take sides, but after four years of European Christmas Marketing, I too have found that German Christmas markets are more to my liking than Swiss ones. 

The main reason I prefer German markets is that they're usually larger and I'm an American so I like large things. Of course, there's something to be said for small markets, and I always enjoy Baden's little market because I can walk out my door and be there in five minutes. With a commute that small, I don't mind that the market will only occupy me for less than a half hour. But I felt much differently when I went to Bern's market, which took up two hours of total transport time, but only offered about an hour's worth of entertainment. 

In any case, after awhile, all of these Christmas markets start to feel the same. They all have glüwein. They all have mandeln. They all sell millions of trinkets I don't need but buy anyway. But still. There's something festive about all of them. Especially ones that offer 1/2 Meter Bratwursts.

So for what it’s worth, here are some markets in Europe I especially enjoyed:


Basel (if you like big markets, this is arguably Switzerland’s largest)


Stuttgart (great weekend destination from Switzerland, good deals on the train from CH)

Esslingen (adorable town near Stuttgart with a fantastic market, including a medieval one)

Düsseldorf (free ice skating and ½ Meter Bratwursts)

Schloss Dyck (they sold golden gnomes here, something I couldn’t pass by)

But enough about what I think. What are your favorite Christmas Markets in Europe?

This post was written on behalf of, a new expat community blog. This blog offers affordable calling cards in Switzerland as well as information about living abroad in Switzerland and in many other countries.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why Celebrities Love being Expats in Switzerland

Celebrities like Tina Turner love living in Zurich for the same reason some of us normal people find it hard: No one bothers her.

She doesn’t need bodyguards. She doesn’t need disguises. She just goes out. And people leave her alone. They’re not crazed and camera ready. They’re not asking for autographs. They’re probably not even smiling at her.

The Swiss are a discreet bunch and celebrities love them for it. The rest of us though, can find that this discreetness makes it hard to make friends. In fact, as you can read about over on Wide Eyed Gypsy, Switzerland recently ranked third from the bottom of the 26 expat locations surveyed by HSBC for their friendliness. Am I surprised? No. Do I think this is going to change? No. In fact, with the new minaret ban, Switzerland’s reputation for friendliness towards expats just might have gotten even worse.

But just because it’s hard to make friends doesn’t mean Switzerland is a bad place to live—just that it takes that much more effort to meet people (and more effort to train yourself not to smile at everyone). And because I think it’s important to meet people outside of expat groups, I’ve written a lot about how to make friends in Switzerland. Here are some links to the posts:

How to Make Friends in Switzerland, Part One

How to Make Friends in Switzerland, Part Two

Anyhow, despite the “unfriendliness” it’s also important to try to become a part of the culture in order to reap the creative benefits that a recent study by INSEAD demonstrates: if you live abroad, you become more creative. But only, of course, if you invest time getting into the culture and meeting people outside of expat groups.

In other news, read my guest post about why blogging can be great as an expat in Switzerland over on Swisstory Blog.

This post was written on behalf of, a new expat community blog. This blog offers affordable calling cards in Switzerland as well as information about living abroad in Switzerland and in many other countries.

Monday, December 07, 2009

How to Buy (and get rid of) your Swiss Christmas Tree

If you're like me, you go to Jumbo, pick out a Christmas tree, strap it to an IKEA cart, bring it home on a bus, drag it up the steps to your apartment building, endure stares, endure bruises, and think nothing could be harder. But after you decorate it and enjoy the sparkly 100 Franc lights (what is with the prices of Christmas lights?), it's all worth it.

Until you realize that the tree is only festive for so long.

Yes. You've seen them. Those sad, balding pines sagging against metal railings on various Swiss balconies across the country. It's practically March, but yet it appears that some people are still celebrating Christmas. I am one of those people.

Usually, I end up celebrating at least six months of Christmas as my husband and I debate how to get rid of our Swiss Christmas tree upon missing the one tree pick-up delivery day. Here's a hint to our strategy: a Swiss army knife and a garbage bag. (Just don't tell the Swiss police, I have a feeling this is sehr illegal).

To read more about how I celebrate the six months of Christmas, click here to read my expat adventure column in Swiss News this month.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Switzerland: Wealth, Democracy, and a whole ton of Chocolate

I was in the Chicago airport a few weeks back and was a bit disappointed by the food offerings in the international terminal. There were basically three things to choose from: candy, alcohol, or chips. Now I'm no expert on nutrition, but I try to be one on Switzerland and guess what. In the pathetically slim food offerings in all of the international terminal at Chicago O'Hare, the Swiss dominated. Their chocolate was on the shelf. And not much else was.

You have to hand it to this country. They're smaller in population than the entire city of Chicago, and yet their products are on shelves in Chicago and around the world.

Yes. This country is facinating. Maybe you can tell I think so by the number of years I've been writing this blog now.

Anyhow, if you're new to Switzerland, considering moving to Switzerland, live in Switzerland, or just want to know more about the kind of people who eat (and probably sell) more chocolate than anyone else on earth,, a website for expats in Europe, is in the process of publishing a Swiss Survival Guide. Parts of the guide are already available online, including the introduction, which is written by yours truly. Read more about these rich, democratic, and traditional people here, in Welcome to Switzerland.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Minaret Ban: Fear or Discrimination?

I have to say, I was shocked that the Swiss passed the minaret ban on Sunday. I've read reports that say the ban resulted from fear and not from discrimination. But my question is, isn't that the same thing?

Not to mention, I just don't get the fear thing. What do the Swiss have to fear? No one has terrorized them. And I don't see what banning minarets accomplishes. Except to ask for trouble.

I also don't get this: religious freedom is part of the Swiss constitution. But the Swiss are so democratic, they've somehow been able to vote against their constitution. You have to give them credit. Democracy doesn't get any better than this.

There are four minarets in Switzerland. Four. None of them are used out of respect for the Swiss concern of "disruption." And please. If you want to talk disruption, I've got a clock tower across the street that tells me the time every fifteen minutes, 24/7. Never mind the Catholic church bells. Or celebrations called Badenfahrt.

What do you think? Is the minaret ban a step back for Switzerland? Can the Swiss ever claim they are neutral again? Is fear and discrimination the same thing?


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