Thursday, December 20, 2012

Guns in Switzerland and the United States

The Frau was planning a nice holiday post for this week when the holiday spirit got dampened in a big way last Friday. So instead of posting about skiing in Bettmeralp, sledding on Rigi, or New Year’s fireworks in Zurich, The Frau will be “celebrating” the season with a big bang of a different sort.

In Switzerland, children are encouraged to be sharpshooters
Maybe you’ve heard of this little town called Newtown?

The Frau is not a fan of guns despite Duck Hunt being the one and only video game she ever played with a passion. One gun is one too many, in her opinion, so let’s get right down to things and discuss a country that has almost as many guns in circulation as people: The United States.

In Richmond, Virginia, The Frau once lived across the hallway from a guy that owned a gun. She knew he owned a gun because he actually wore it on a holster when he was out and about. This was perfectly legal in Virginia. Maybe it made him feel safer, but it sure didn’t do much for The Frau except remind her to avoid an argument with him at all costs.

Sometimes life doesn’t make a lot of sense—at least when it comes to protecting it. One person puts a bomb in a shoe and now we’re all walking around airports in our socks, but hundreds of school kids can be shot dead before they ever get to prom and we do nothing. Nothing.

Speaking of doing nothing about guns, welcome to Switzerland. It’s a country with about the same gun freedoms as the United States. And as the U.S. considers taking action (key word, considers), let’s have a look at a little Swiss inaction concerning gun control:

In 2011, the Swiss rejected an initiative to restrict firearm access by a vote of 56 percent to 44 percent.

There are a lot of guns in Switzerland and there are a lot of people who like them.

Every Swiss army recruit is issued a gun on their second day of training, which he most likely stores in his house. There are shooting ranges all over the country, many of which cross hiking trails. And every September, the entire population of Zurich takes a Monday off so that children can compete in a shooting contest (see photo above of Knabenschiessen).

In 2011, estimates found on for the number of firearms in Switzerland ranged from 1.2-2.3 million. With a population of 7.9 million, that means about 15-29% of the population owns a gun, assuming they all own just one.

How does this compare to the United States?

It is estimated that 280-300 million guns are in circulation in the United States. With a population of 311 million, that means at least 90% of the population owns a gun, assuming they all own just one.


Insert moment of silence here.

And according to a gallup poll taken in 2011, about 47% of Americans keep one gun at home

But how safe are we because of this gun ownership? Well, let's look at the rate of death by firearms.  The U.S., with 9.2 deaths per 100,000 firearms, ranks 12th in the world. Switzerland, with 3.5 deaths per 100,000 firearms, ranks 21st.

Conclusion? Neither country is that great when it comes to gun violence, but The Frau is safer in Switzerland. But if she wants to live in the safest place in the world where death by firearms is concerned, she’s going to have to move to Chile or Japan.

Have something to say about guns? Please leave a comment.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

You know you've been in Switzerland too long when

You know you’ve been in Switzerland too long when…

You use a lot of genaus—even when speaking English.

Swiss card game
Are you a player?
You’ve stood behind someone buying a bottle of soda with a CHF 1000 bill more than once.

You know how to play Jass.

You define yourself either as a Migros or a Coop shopper.

You debate construction schedules with your neighbor.

You can’t visit "home" without thinking how dirty everything looks.

You go to lunch exactly at noon.

You think CHF 20 for lunch is a “good deal.”

Your baby stroller is the most expensive mode of transportation you own.

You don’t even think twice about taking your Christmas tree home on the bus.

You've almost been killed crossing the street in many other countries.

You think everywhere else you go is really cheap.

Your American husband plays his alphorn in the living room.

You realize no matter how long you live here, you’ll always be “the foreigner...”


You're still scared to go "home" again.

How do you know you've been in Switzerland too long?

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Switzerland on a Budget

The words "Switzerland" and "budget travel" are not often found in the same sentence. Wilkommen, tightwads, to The Frau's blog. Cheapskates, you've come to the right place, even if Zurich may, after your first CHF 30 ($32) plate of Kung Pao Chicken, seem to be the completely wrong place.  (For The Frau's Top 10, "No way, that cost what in Switzerland?" blog party, see The Frau's post about the cost of living in Zurich.)

Anyway, The Frau would like to apologize ahead of time for those of you who may try to buy used socks at a Swiss flea market and find that they're out of your price range. Zurich wasn't listed as the world's most expensive city this year for nothing.

Save money! Go to the dentist in Germany.

But fear not. The Frau is here. And she once was able to bargain a seller down to CHF 1 ($1.08) for a pair of used baby socks at a Swiss flea market (the things she goes through for Baby M!). It wasn't easy, but then again, it's not easy to save money in Switzerland.

So in honor of The Frau’s article on how to save money in Zurich in easyJet Magazine this month, she’d like to give those visiting and/or living in Switzerland a few additional tips.

Take Advantage of RailAway Offers
Every month and also for every season, the Swiss train system partners with places like ski resorts, zoos, and hotels to offer discounts to train riders going there. The catch? You have to buy the tickets at your local Swiss train station before you depart. So if you’re buying a RailAway offer to the zoo, you need go to your closest train ticket office before you start your journey and buy the rail, transfer, and zoo ticket together.

Try your luck at SuperSaver Tickets
These are limited and train-specific, but if you’re lucky, you might find a great train fare (up to 80% off) by searching SuperSaver Tickets online. For example, The Frau was once able to find a ticket from Zurich to Lugano for only CHF 11 using SuperSaver Tickets. Now that was a real deal. 

Rent an apartment instead of staying at a hotel
If you’ll be staying in Switzerland for at least a week in one location, try renting a Swiss holiday apartment instead of staying at a hotel. For example, last January, The Frau was able to rent an apartment in Oberwald for six adults and one baby for CHF 1000 for the entire week. Plus, you will save money by being able to cook your own meals. Make fondue for six for CHF 50 instead of CHF 200 by shopping at the grocery store.

Eat at grocery store restaurants   
Don’t want to cook your own food? Then do the second best thing. Eat at grocery store restaurants. Coop, Migros, and Manor all have buffet restaurants that are open during store hours (so don’t think of using them for a late night dinner or Sunday meal). For lunch at Coop, for example, you can try penne with mushroom cream sauce and a small side salad for CHF 10,95.

Drink from the tap

The Frau has never understood the high prices of beverages in Switzerland. So instead of BYOB, BYOS—bring your own Sigg bottle and fill it up with water from Swiss sinks and fountains to carry with you when you’re out and about.

Do you have any additional money-saving tips? The Frau does. Click here to read more about how to save money in Switzerland.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why Switzerland can't be number one for moms

It’s official. Baby M has won the lottery of life. At least according to The Economist, which lists Switzerland as the best country in the world to be born in right now. (The U.S. is down at 16). 

But another recent survey, which ranks global motherhood, lists Switzerland as the 18th best country in which to be a mom.

Switzerland: a good place to be a mom?
So The Frau, a.k.a., Die Mom, comes in 18th, while Baby M comes in 1st. What accounts for this discrepancy?

We could blame Switzerland’s short 14-week paid maternity leave (short for Europe, Americans would still weep for anything close to this—thus their rank of 25th in the same survey) or the fact that working women in Switzerland are taxed more if they are married...(please don’t get The Frau started on how this is even constitutional, not to mention why every Swiss woman is not out there collecting signatures RIGHT NOW to change it)…


The Frau has an even better answer to this question that goes back to the day she became a mom in Switzerland.

After laboring at home for about 11 hours or so, it was time to go to the hospital. Really, really time.

Mr. Frau ran to the train station to summon a taxi, while The Frau, 9.5 centimeters dilated but didn’t know it yet, leaned against the wall in the lobby of her apartment building. She could barely stand at this point, let alone walk a foot without stopping to wait for another contraction to pass.

After what felt like several decades, The Frau saw a taxi go past her building...but it didn’t stop. Did Mr. Frau and the driver have a language mix-up? Was the taxi driver sadistic? Or just lost? While The Frau stood there in pain, considering the worst, Mr. Frau finally appeared another few decades later and escorted The Frau to the taxi, which had parked around the corner instead of right in front of her apartment building.

But why, fellow yodelers?
Why would someone park around the corner when it was their job to pick up a woman in heavy labor to take her to the hospital?

Because, fellow yodelers, The Frau lives in a pedestrian zone. You are not supposed to drive in a pedestrian zone.

So as it turns out,
The taxi driver wasn’t confused.
The taxi driver wasn’t sadistic.
The taxi driver wasn’t lost.
The taxi driver was Swiss.

This is why Switzerland will never be the number one place to be a mom. Or at least, become one.


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