Saturday, December 31, 2011

Just say cheese

In the German-speaking part of Switzerland, it is traditional to watch "Dinner for One" on TV on New Year's Eve. Our Swiss neighbor does it every year. Don't ask me why a film in English is a German tradition, but it is. She even watches it in the original English.

Speaking of dinner, I've had cheese for dinner for the last two nights. Thursday night, we had fondue at our neighbor's and there was so much cheese in the pot that it broke. Then, last night, we had raclette. Six people ate 28 pieces of the stuff. The result? According to Mr. One Big Yodel, "I have such a big ball of cheese in my stomach that it is radiating heat like the sun."

What a way to celebrate the season in Switzerland.

Alles Gute zum neuen Jahr from One Big Yodel. Prost.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Five cheap things to do in Switzerland this season

This is Ms. One Big Yodel's first Christmas in Switzerland. Instead of going home to visit family, her family is coming to her. Unfortunately for many visitors to Switzerland these days, it has become even more expensive than it was in the past. But here are a few things you can enjoy in Switzerland for (gasp!) cheap.

1. Eat marroni. Nothing says Christmas in Switzerland quite like a hot nut, or more specifically, a roasted chestnut. They are typically sold by street vendors in most Swiss villages.

2. Walk in the winter wonderland. Almost everywhere in the country, it's a great time of year to enjoy the weather, nordic walking style. In Baden, for example, there is a candle-lit evening hike up at Baldegg on December 27 that includes a plate of pasta after the 5k hike.

3. Ice skate. Many Swiss villages have an ice skating rink. For as little as CHF 5, you can have an afternoon of entertainment.

4. Make your own glass ornament. At Hergiswil Glassworks near Lucerne, visitors can make their own glass ornament after their CHF 5 tour of the factory (but be sure to check dates, it is closed part of the month). Or if glassmaking's not your thing, has put together a list of places, including various cheese dairies, which offer free admission.

5. Do nothing. Enjoy the holiday in traditional European fashion by doing nothing but relaxing. Most offices are businesses are closed the week after Christmas, a tradition worth starting in the rest of the world too.

What do you like to do to celebrate the season?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

10 Things Expats Love to do on Facebook

Ok, expats. It's time to sum up our online habits. Below are 10 things expats love to do on Facebook:

1. Brag about the trip they’ve just gone on.

2. Brag about the trip they are going on tomorrow.

3. Write their status in another language.

4. Make fun of bad English.

5. Insert foreign words into English sentences.

6. Post travel list challenges.

7. Exclaim how jet lagged they are.

8. Exclaim about how cheap everything is in the U.S.

9. Post photos of exotic locations, view from office or apartment included.

10. Use airport abbreviations in their status updates, the more obscure the better.

Are you guilty of any of these? And is there anything I've forgotten?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Shop online like it's 1989!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about five Swiss websites that could use a makeover. But this Swiss online experience perhaps tops it all:

My husband went to a photo workshop in Baden over the weekend and received a coupon for 15% off his online order at ProFot.

So naturally he wanted to shop since he needs very little incentive to buy photo gear.

He filled his virtual shopping cart and went to check out and realized something strange: there was no redemption code on the coupon.

Upon further investigation (i.e. contacting the company), he learned that to redeem the coupon, he had to either scan it and email it to them or get this...snail mail it to the headquarters in Baar.

Yes. Thanks to you, ProFot, people in Switzerland really can shop online like it's 1989.

Have you had any strange shopping experiences in Switzerland?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Five Great Books About Life Abroad

There are a lot of books about life abroad out there.

But many of them romanticize the experience rather than tell the real truth: life abroad is hard. Contrary to popular belief, the world is not just a place for Westerners to eat, pray, or fix up a holiday home. It can also be a place where a person with a Master’s degree doesn’t even know the word for beef.

Below are five books that paint a more accurate portrait of life abroad when you’re really, really living it for the long haul. If you're looking for a Christmas gift, I recommend any of these. And if you order them by clicking on the links included in this blog, you’ll help support One Big Yodel as well.

Me Talk Pretty One Day

By David Sedaris

Ruthless French teachers. Fears of speaking a new language so strong you wish meat were sold in vending machines. Trying to explain a holiday such as Easter in another language (Jesus shaves, anyone?). In these stories and more, Sedaris pretty much sums up the difficulties (and surprising rewards) that come from trying to make a life in another country. C'est bon.

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

By Susan Jane Gilman

A recent college graduate, Susan Jane Gilman was ready to conquer the world. She had romantic visions of backpacking abroad. But then she went to China, which in the 80s, had been open to tourists for about ten minutes. Between ant infested hotel rooms, broken down vehicles, and Chinese men that don’t know a word of English but can recite John Denver songs by heart, Gilman proves that “real travel” doesn’t get much more real than this.

Tales from the Expat Harem

Edited by Anastasia M. Ashman and Jennifer Eaton Goekmen

Before I traveled to Turkey last year, I read this collection of 32 essays about women who live there. One of my favorite essays was about a Christian evangelist from Iowa who was rescued by the very Turkish souls she hoped to save. Gotta love the theme: An American goes out to save the world and the world saves her instead.

Moonlight in Odessa

By Janet Skeslien Charles

What happens when a woman from the Ukraine becomes so tempted by the American dream that she becomes a mail order bride in order to attain it? This novel, written by an American expat living in Paris, has the answers. See the United States through the eyes of a Ukrainian as the main character, Daria, goes from being wide-eyed over things like garage door openers to finally becoming skeptical of the very materialism she dreamed of obtaining.

Kabul Beauty School

By Deborah Rodriguez

This is the true story of an American woman who goes to Afghanistan to teach women how to open their own beauty parlors. But teaching becomes interwoven with living as her students share their stories with her. From the woman who faked her virginity on her wedding night to the 12-year-old bride who was sold to repay family debts, this is an interesting look into the lives of Afghan women and also the affect they have on the American woman who came to empower them.

What are your favorite books about life or travel abroad?


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