Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Don't Leave Switzerland Without...

Hi Yodelers,

Yesterday I was over on ACC sharing my take on the 10 Things You Should See Before You Leave Switzerland. They were inspired by reading the book, 1,000 Things to See Before You Die. But often (especially in the Switzerland section) this book tends to focus on exclusive hotels and restaurants and I don't necessarily think those always define the best things about a place.

Anyhow, from the narcissus fields above Montreux (see picture above) to riding in a Slow Up event to yes, even one grand hotel, I'm curious what you think about the list. What should no expat living in Switzerland miss?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dear Frau: Where are the Swiss soccer fans?

Welcome to the fifth edition of Dear Frau. It’s kind of like Dear Abby, except with an international twist. If you have a question, be sure to contact the Frau and maybe your little Frage will be in next week’s Dear Frau column.

Dear Frau,

Budweiser is casting a World Cup reality series and we need fans of Swiss football who would want to travel to South Africa to represent their country and team at the World Cup this summer. We’ve found fans from other countries already but are having problems finding people in Switzerland. Help! We are still searching for that one lucky fan who will represent Switzerland in the Bud House. He or she will be flown to Cape Town, South Africa, for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and enjoy luxurious accommodations, thrilling excursions, and the opportunity to have the kind of access few fans ever have. If you could help us find that elusive Swiss fan that would be great.


Find me a Fan

Dear Find me a Fan,

The Frau was once at a U.S.A./Switzerland soccer game in Basel and it was kind of sad. The stadium was maybe 1/3 full. Maybe. But the Frau didn’t care because she hadn’t come for the football—she had come for the VIP box—and was busy stuffing her face with foods she can't normally afford in Switzerland–like steak.

Anyhow. It’s hard to see many Swiss get excited about much in public—especially a soccer game where they lose to a team as pathetic as the Americans. But still. There must be some die-hard fans out there.

Any Swiss football fans out there that want to travel to South Africa this summer? (Hmm. All I heard was an echo).

Ok yodelers, it’s time to act. Ask your friends, post this on Facebook, tweet it, whatever. We can’t let Switzerland be fan-less on the world reality stage. That would just be sad. We know the Swiss love reality TV. Just watch Bauer, ledig, sucht and you'll see what I mean.

If you’re interested or want more information, you can contact Find Me a Fan directly at rebecca.snavely@gmail.com. She doesn’t mind. In fact, she looks forward to hearing from any and all yodelers.

Deadline to apply is March 28. Good luck!

Why do you think it’s so hard to find Swiss football fans? Is Switzerland too small of a country? Are the people here too private? The Frau wants to know what you think.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Swiss Survival Kits

Hello Yodelers,

Tomorrow, stay tuned for another sorry soul who needs your help. I mean, stay tuned for the Dear Frau column. Thanks to all who gave advice last week on what to pack when moving to Switzerland. But in the meantime, some news and links for you:

Last week, I was over on Expatica giving advice on how to save money in Switzerland. Yes, it's possible.

Yesterday, I was over at ACC talking about the 25 ways you know you're in Switzerland. For instance, does every other country you visit now seem cheap?

And today I'm over at Two Fools in Zurich, trying to explain why Americans are so creative in German class.

Finally, I just started offering a Swiss Survival Kit, in other words, specially chosen items of interest for Yodelers on Amazon.com. Any items you order directly from this site will get me a profit of 4%. I can't wait to get rich. I might even make enough to buy a ketchup packet from the Swiss McDonald's! But mainly, I want to help, and these are the items that helped me survive this crazy country. If there are other items you've found helpful that I should know about, please leave a comment and I'll add them to the survival kit.

Monday, March 22, 2010

What is wrong with Swiss hotels?

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were trying to plan a trip with our Swiss neighbor. We were going to spend a weekend in Arosa. Together. The 30-something Americans with the 70-something Swiss.

Problem was? There were no hotels in Arosa for the weekend of March 19.

Well, let me put that another way. There were no hotels available for less than CHF 370 a night, and most were over CHF 1,000 AND wanted to charge us an extra CHF 25/per person/per night for--heaven forbid--asking to stay over a weekend.

Excuse me for being a guest.

Even my Swiss neighbor thought it was all ridiculous. Swiss hotels seem to think that we should thank them for allowing us to stay with them instead of the other way around. In the last few weeks, I've received hotel brochure after hotel brochure from places like Grandhotel Giessbach, Belvedere in Scuol, and Hotel Schloss Ragaz. In addition to prices that look sort of reasonable until you realize they are PER PERSON and not per room, they ALL want to charge up to another CHF 60/night for staying on a weekend.

Well I have news for them. Instead of staying in Switzerland, I'll be leaving on a jet plane to other European countries where hotels can still be found for $100, including breakfast, including shampoo, and including a bit of gratitude.

How about you? Has a Swiss hotel ever scared you off? Where will you be spending your upcoming holiday weekends?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dear Frau: What should I pack?

Welcome to the fourth edition of Dear Frau. It's kind of like Dear Abby, except with an international twist. If you have a question, be sure to contact the Frau and maybe your little Frage will be in next week's Dear Frau column.

Dear Frau:

I’m moving from the USA to Switzerland soon. Are there things I should definitely pick up here before moving?


Soon in Lausanne

Dear Soon in Lausanne,

Is Obama the U.S. President? Is Switzerland full of chocolate? Is this blog worth reading? The answer is yes.

Yes, you should definitely pick up things before moving to Switzerland especially if (1) you have a paid move and (2) want to save money.

It’s not that Switzerland doesn’t have stuff, it’s just that the stuff they sell is overpriced compared to its U.S. equivalent. And if you plan to go car-less like me and many expats living here, it makes living great, but buying things a hassle. (This comes from someone who knows hassle—she brings her six-foot Christmas tree home on a Swiss bus every year).

If there are certain non-perishable foods (and let’s be honest, in U.S. grocery stores that’s pretty much all there is) that you crave, make sure to stock up on those.

If you are moving American beds, it might be smart to buy an extra set of sheets because European bed sizes are different and if you soil your sheets, well, you don’t want to end up having to buy an entire new bed because of it.

If you’re a book-a-holic like the Frau, stock up on English books you want to read because they go about $30 a paperback in Switzerland. Planning on traveling around Europe? Buy a few guidebooks in advance. What about a French-English dictionary, n’est pas?

Shoes are another consideration to bring, especially athletic shoes, which in Switzerland can run $150-200 for a basic pair of running shoes. The Frau does not pretend to understand Swiss prices; she just tries to avoid paying them. (She recently discovered that Intersport sells sweatsuits for the reasonable equivalent of $150. Wow. No wonder Swiss people don't wear these things).

Cold/Flu medicine, aspirin, these would all be smart to bring since Swiss colds are nasty and the amount of foreign languages thrown around this little country can often cause headaches.

If you’re not being moved, that sucks but you’ll survive. And paying for a few extra suitcases on the plane may be worth it. Your best bet for affordable furniture in Switzerland is either IKEA or Interio.

Oh, and if you have room in your luggage after all of this, the Frau wouldn’t mind some Reese’s Pieces. The ones her sister brought her last week are almost gone already.

Now the Frau is tired, craving peanut butter (put that on the packing list!), and has run out of ideas. Anyone else have packing suggestions for our soon to be expat? What did you not bring and wish you had?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thanks, Fellow Yodelers

One Big Yodel is taking a commercial break to let you know that this blog is now officially worth reading. Whew. Aren't you glad you haven't been wasting your time, after all?

Along with Swisstory, One Big Yodel has received The Expat Focus Recommended Website Award for Switzerland. This award is given to outstanding expat websites (their words, not mine) which provide information that those moving to or living in a foreign country would find useful.

Wow. This blog is useful. And to think I started it back in 2006 with only one reader: my mom.Thanks to all of my fellow yodelers who have come along for a read or a feed since then. I like writing so much, I'd do it even if no one cared, but it's nice to know you're out there. Merci.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Swiss Chocolate Taste Test

You haven't really lived in Switzerland until you have done an official chocolate taste test. Thanks to my sister, recent visitor and ultimate tourist, my first Swiss chocolate taste test has been completed with the following result: My taste buds suck.

Her test consisted of blindly tasting various versions of dark chocolate to determine my preferred percentage of cacao: 50%, 60%, 70%, 85%, or 90%.

Results: the only chocolate I guessed correctly was 90% but not surprisingly, I liked them all. My favorite was the Lindt 70%.

Have you done a Swiss chocolate taste test? Do you need an excuse? I could use another one. So what are your favorite Swiss chocolates?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Great Reads for Expats

Today, I'm over at ACC with a few of my favorite expat reads. I tend to like memoirs with the universal theme of reinvention abroad since that's been the theme of my life the last few years.

What are your favorite books on expat life?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Dear Frau: I want to be a Swiss journalist!

Welcome to the third edition of Dear Frau. It's kind of like Dear Abby, except with an international twist. If you have a question, be sure to contact the Frau and maybe your Frage will be in next week's Dear Frau column.

Dear Frau:

I come from Sri Lanka and formerly worked as a journalist there. I want to join the media here, but I’ve had problems due to language issues. The government only provides me with German courses, they will not let me go to journalism school or to the university. What should I do?


Hopeful Journalist

Unfortunately, problems due to language issues are not a unique situation to foreigners living in Switzerland. Even the Swiss are often confused and speak to each other in non-official languages like English (except the French-speaking Swiss. They may know other languages, but they only and ever speak French).

Despite her 2.5 years of German language training, the Frau has accepted that she will never be able to be a German journalist or German copywriter. No matter how well you learn and speak a language, writing in it professionally is something that very few can do well as non-native speakers. That’s why so many companies in Switzerland seek native speakers for certain jobs.

The Frau knows she is fortunate to speak English as a native language and be able to continue her writing career because there are English publications in Switzerland. Even so, there aren't that many, so she still must look outside of Switzerland for opportunities. Let’s just say the Frau will not be writing for the NZZ anytime soon.

The Frau would never tell anyone to give up, only that as a non-native English, German, French, and Italian speaker, she thinks you have a tough road ahead as a journalist writing for Swiss publications. Competition for jobs these days is tight enough and as a writer, your language skills must be near perfect. Even the Frau worries she might misspell things and this freaks her out.

The Frau’s advice would be to try to continue to work for your former newspaper in Sri Lanka. Do they need international news? Could you be their Swiss or European correspondent? Could you write travel articles about Europe for other Sri Lanken publications? As a writer abroad, you must learn to be creative in ways writers in their home countries don't have to be. Try to think outside the box. The other option is to reinvent yourself completely and think of other things you love and could do in Switzerland with less barriers to employment.

Whew. The Frau hopes she's not being discouraging here, just realistic. Anyone else have advice for our Sri Lankan journalist? Feel free to disagree with the Frau's advice. How have some of you reinvented yourselves abroad?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Not Exactly Easy Cheese

How different is living in Switzerland versus living in the United States? One way to find out is through cheese. Both countries have it. The difference is that one sells cheese in aerosal cans and one does not. But for those whose lives (ahem, moi) were previously processed to perfection, getting used to the real stuff is not without pain.

Read how adjusting to Swiss life is "Not Exactly Easy Cheese" in this month's Expat Adventure column in Swiss News, written by yours truly.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Stop the Press! We sell Coca-Cola now!

Is anyone as amazed as I am that Migros (a large supermarket chain in Switzerland) is running an ad campaign to tell the world that they now sell things as unique as Coca-Cola? Wow. It's like it's news that people in Switzerland do drink things besides Rivella.

Let's see. Coke has been around since 1886, so Migros is only, well, 124 years behind the times. Now that's a thing to advertise.


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