Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Four Books You Should Read About Switzerland

The Frau is a reader as well as a writer. And naturally, to acquire new insights for her writing, she enjoys reading about the current place she calls home. Below are four must-reads for any expatriate in Switzerland (three of which armchair travelers will appreciate as well).

By John McPhee

“Switzerland does not have an army. Switzerland is an army.” This is a quote from La Place de la Concorde Suisse and also sums up why any expatriate in Switzerland should read it. The text, which originally appeared in The New Yorker, demonstrates how the Swiss army sums up Swiss life. There are also facts the Frau learned that made her laugh: did you know that Swiss German men who misbehave in the army are assigned to a Swiss French battalion as punishment? Did you know that most Swiss bridges are ready to explode at a moment's notice? Oh. And don’t be put off that the book was published in 1994. Since most things never change in Switzerland, it is still very relevant today.

By Diccon Bewes

What makes the Swiss tick? As most people who are living in Switzerland have discovered, there’s a lot more to the country than cheese and skis. Part information, part observation, this bestselling book is a must to anyone wanting to find out more about the little landlocked island we all call Switzerland. The book answers big questions about neutrality during World War II (hmm, see book above) as well as little ones, such as what the heck is Heidi Week at the local Swiss McDonald’s?

By David Hampshire

Already have that Swiss Army knife but still feel like you need another survival tool? This book will answer questions about permits, unemployment, apartment contracts, buying a house in Switzerland, and more. Even though the Frau has been in Switzerland for almost six years, she still sometimes finds herself referring to this book to confirm her suspicions concerning many Swiss procedures (and also because she is kind of a nerd like that).

By Paul Bilton

Big laughs usually come from little truths. And this tiny book is full of them. Get to know the Swiss with something they are not usually known for: humor. Then, for even more insights into why you may find the Swiss a little strange, be sure to read the Xenophobe’s Guide to the Country You Are From.

Enough of what the Frau thinks. Do you have any books on Switzerland to recommend?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Five Reasons Switzerland is a Great Place to Have a Baby

The Frau has now been Die Mom for over seven months. Naturally, she was incredibly nervous about giving birth in a country where she had to learn the German equivalents for painkiller, cervical dilation, and please no episiotomy. But somehow, everything went smoothly. Somehow, the Frau survived. Somehow, Switzerland delivered by helping the Frau do the same.

You can hike around Lake Lungern with a stroller.
Needless to say, the rumors are true. Switzerland is a great place to have a baby. Here’s why:

One: Affordable care. 

Frustrated with expensive Swiss insurance policies? Have a baby and get your money’s worth. Swiss insurers are required to pay for almost all pregnancy-related doctor and hospital visits. So go ahead—lower your monthly payments and increase your deductible—your normal pregnancy-related check-ups and hospital bill won’t be coming out of it.

Two: Patience. 

Swiss midwives don’t rush you. Most encourage natural birth. But before you run back to the United States and demand a C-section, keep this in mind: a place that encourages natural birth (whether you do it or not) is actually a good thing because it means your labor is cared for with patience, not by people who just want you to hurry so they can go to lunch. Also, after a normal birth, you can stay in a Swiss hospital for up to five days as you recover and learn to care for your baby. You can even leave your baby at the hospital and go out to dinner, which the Frau highly recommends since after you leave the hospital with your new baby, dinner will probably become something you dream about, rather than eat.

Three: Midwives. 

You can have a midwife visit you at home after you return from the hospital. She comes to your house and makes sure you know what you’re doing (because if you’re like the Frau you won’t!). This is all also covered by Swiss insurance, which becomes even more of a blessing if you read books like Baby Catcher, and realize how U.S. insurers have basically made independent midwifery extinct in the United States. Be more prepared than the Frau, and choose your midwife before you give birth

Four: Free Money. 

Yes. You are hearing right. Beginning the month your child is born (so aim for the 30th!) you receive a minimum child benefit allowance of CHF 200 ($212) a month, which is added to your paycheck.  Unfortunately the Frau lives in Aargau, where they give you the bare minimum, but still, it helps make up for the fact that diapers and three times as expensive in Switzerland than they are in Germany. Even more amazing? You get your CHF 200 every month until your child turns 16. After your child turns 16, you are entitled to an education allowance of CHF 250 a month until your child is 25. If you’re luckier than the Frau, you also live in a canton that will give you a bonus of CHF 1,000, just for giving birth.

Five: Stroller-accessible Hiking Trails

You may not be able to get to your fourth-floor apartment without a struggle, but the woods? No problem. You’ll be sure to find plenty of stroller-accessible hikes in Switzerland. A few great Frau-tested hikes with strollers include the path around Lake Lungern, the wine trail near Maienfeld, and the wonderful walks included on this blog. Now if only the people riding the SBB/CFF/SSF without kids wouldn’t take up all the spots in the family zone, things would be perfect.

Have you had a baby in Switzerland? What has been good (or bad) about it for you?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

English Book Reading in Zurich

Attention English-language book lovers in Switzerland. Your long awaited event is here: The authors in residence with the Zurich Writers Workshop will be giving a reading on Friday, May 18, from 8:15 to 10 p.m. at Orell Füssli The Bookshop in Zurich. Diccon Bewes will be reading from his Switzerland bestseller, Swiss Watching, and Sam North will be reading from The Old Country. The event is free (yes, something for free in Switzerland!) and open to the public. Light snacks will be served. The Frau hopes to see you there.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Now available at your Swiss grocery store

Now in your freezer section.

Now in your chip aisle.
Whether you enjoy these products, or just a good laugh, the Frau would like to leave you with three little words: En guete, mitenand.


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