Monday, December 20, 2010

Time for Nothing. The horror!

It's that time of year again.

The time when this Frau gets really nervous because she has to do something extremely hard for an American: relax.

Switzerland has done wonders to calm her need to be busy at every moment, but she's still an American at heart and therefore way too antsy to just do nothing.

Still. The Frau is going to try. She is going to pretend like every day is a Swiss Sunday. She hopes you can be a little Swiss this holiday season too.

So, in honor of this strange, relaxing mindset, the Frau will say her holiday greetings, Swiss-style now: Frohe Weihnachten und ein glückliches Neues Jahr. Joyeux Noel et Bonne Année. Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from One Big Yodel.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Talk

Sometimes understanding German makes living in Switzerland more difficult. You hear insults. You hear stupid conversations. And you hear two twelve year old girls asking the Coop cashier how old they must be to buy cigarettes.

When she told them 16, they were very disappointed.

I was disappointed in them. Somehow, I wish I could have imagined that they were asking where the lollipops were.

I miss my little expat bubble sometimes. Living in reality can be much harder. Maybe I should move to the French section. Or better yet, the Romansch section. Everyone would be saying happy things there.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Holiday Spirit

Mountains. Snow. Christmas Markets. What else could you want?

Oh. Maybe the holiday spirit?

That's the one thing that was missing at the Innsbruck Christmas Market. Happy people.

At one store, I was buying a few Christmas ornaments with a friend so I asked for an extra bag. Nicely. In German. The salesclerk then threw the ornaments on the counter, got another bag, and threw them all in the other bag. Excuse me for giving her business.

At another stand, I picked up a wrapped loaf of bread to figure out what it was. It looked tasty and was covered in chocolate and I was considering buying it until all of a sudden I received a scathing lecture from the seller for touching it. I apologized, but this woman kept yelling. One of my friends, who speaks fluent German, stepped in and told this women we were sorry, we just thought her breads looked good and we wanted to see what they were. She kept yelling, "you should know better than to pick things up!" My friend told her that then she should have a "do not touch sign." "No!" said this woman, "It is common sense not to touch things!"

She was still yelling but I wasn't going to take it any more. I wished her a "Frohe Weihnachten" and then I walked off.

Later, we passed her booth and here's what we saw:

Happy Holidays from Austria.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Save money on your rent

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren

There's something your landlord probably isn't going to tell you.

The interest rates have fallen in Switzerland and therefore many renters are entitled to a rent decrease. The catch? Unlike rent increases (which have happened to us once already over the last four years) rent decreases don't typically happen automatically (unless you have a really nice landlord).

Please do not let language issues get in the way of your rightful savings like I have been guilty of doing in the past. Here are the basics about what you need to do:

1) Check your lease to see what the national reference rate that your current rent is based from (Hypothekarzinssatz). Our lease, from 2006, shows a rate of 3%, which was later raised in 2008 to 3.5%, which increased our rent a lovely SFr 150/month. The rate has just been lowered to 2.75%, so we should (fingers crossed) be entitled to a nice rent decrease.

2) To qualify for your decrease, you must send a letter by registered mail to the people you rent from. But don't worry, the letter is already written for you. You just need to download it and fill in the blanks. To download your letter, click here. As I understand it, you must send this letter within 30 days and every person listed on your lease must sign it. You can visit the renter's association website for more information by clicking here, where you'll also find the letter available in a Word document.

Here's to trying to save money in Switzerland! Good luck. And if anyone has information on where to find these letters in French, please let me know so I can add the links to help our friends on the other side of the roesti ditch.

Has anyone had success with rent reduction in Switzerland? Please share.


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