Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Four Great Things About the United States

The Frau has been blabbing about all things good and bad in Switzerland for the past two weeks and it’s about time she thanked a few readers who always contribute to discussions. So here's to you, Made in Suisse and Swiss Side Jewellery (check out their blogs!). (And other readers, don’t worry, a reader appreciation post is coming soon where the Frau will honor many more members of her community).
Celebrating July 4th in Switzerland

But first, it's time to honor of the 4th of July. Yes, today is American Independence Day. And besides wearing white socks and going directly to McDonald’s in her sweaty clothes right after her workout (oh my!), the Frau would like to present four great things (ok, in honor of those gratis American ketchup packets, she’ll throw in a fifth great thing for free) about the United States that she still misses after living abroad for six years.

Friendly, open people who smile

Fine, the Frau may have only asked a stranger in Chicago for directions and in return gotten Jenni’s life story, but somehow, the openness of Americans is something the Frau lifts her big glass of root beer with ice to every time she goes home. Americans are so friendly, the Frau sometimes even finds herself wanting to call her dental office in Chicago just for a few warm fuzzies on one of those dreary days in Switzerland when an icy Swiss receptionist has made the Frau feel as if she is doing something terribly wrong just for calling to make an appointment.

Casual attitudes

Ok, let the Frau be clear: she is not a supporter of pajamas in public. But she is a supporter of the relaxed, anything-goes American attitude that comes with the clothing. And she is definitely a supporter of not dressing up to go to the grocery store.

Affordable housing

Since her little addition to the family last year, the Frau’s apartment has gotten smaller and smaller. While she loves her view as well as her Swiss neighbor, she does not love that to move into—heaven forbid—a place with three (!) bedrooms in the same general location will cost at least CHF 3500 a month not to mention unforeseen cleaning, moving, and bureaucratic expenses. The Frau does not mean to say that housing is affordable everywhere in the United States. But rather, that most three-bedroom apartments outside of a big city center would not have rents in the $3000-range. Heck, the Frau had a monthly mortgage payment on a cute little four-bedroom cape cod in Richmond for less than half the price of her two bedroom apartment in Baden.


As an American, the Frau likes choices. And she grew up expecting them. But start looking at anything in Switzerland from apartments to soda (we’ll exclude yogurt—somehow, yogurt gets special treatment in Switzerland) and you’ll soon discover that you really have no choice. You’ll be enjoying that specially priced vintage 2012 Coke or Pepsi (but please don’t offer both in one store, that would be too overwhelming!) in a white-walled, white-tiled kitchen whether you like it or not. The Frau misses having an opportunity to enjoy a strawberry cream soda in an orange-painted kitchen. Fine, that might be overkill. But the point is, she could do it. And the Frau misses that “could.”


Maybe this goes into the casual attitude category, but here’s the thing: Never in the Frau’s 20+ years in the United States did she ever worry about things like leaving a little lint in the dryer or a little dirt in the gutter. And she always assumed that if you lived in the same apartment for six years, it would be understood that a few scratches on some stuff or a little grime lurking somewhere under the sink spout would be excused. You did live there, right? Wrong, say the Swiss. That little chip in the tile? Well that will cost you your $9000 deposit right there. Apparently, Swiss German doesn’t have a word for “wear and tear” and Frau misses that nice little American concept. Or maybe she just misses the idea of a little leniency. Because while the Swiss may be so perfect they’re hardly human, the Frau is like most Americans: human with a capital H.

What do you love about the United States?


hattie said...

I was never more than tolerated in Switzerland even though my spouse made millions for a Swiss company with his inventions. He fit the culture better, too, being of a quiet, reserved nature.
I did not start out wanting to ignore all the meaningless strictures on wives and children of ordinary means, and to top it foreign women and children.
But I got very tough. This experience has served me well back in the U.S. because I saw all the opportunities for work and education and pursued them. And did I ever love having my very own big house.
I guess the main thing I learned was not to get bogged down in trivia. To do what was right and important.

nav @Travel insurance said...

I loved all the information you have given about US.Wonderful insights and proud to be an American.

Chantal said...

Hi Hattie,

Yes, it's very hard for foreigners to feel welcome in Switzerland. I think you end up getting used to it, but it's not easy.

I actually find that foreign women are usually exempt from some of the strictures on wives that you talk about. "Oh, she's foreign," seems to be an ok excuse. The Frau doesn't mind this one!

Dimitri said...

I love the (sometimes fake) friendliness of waiting staff in the US! 'nuff said...

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post. I also miss the accomodating nature of Americans (e.g. holding a door open for a stranger with a buggy) rather than the Swiss "me-first" mentality.


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