Thursday, June 27, 2013

9 Questions About Switzerland

The Frau has been living in Switzerland for seven years, but that doesn't mean she has all the answers. In fact, she still has viele Fragen. Here they are, in no particular order:

What should The Frau say when she sees a former co-worker bathing topless during her lunch hour? Say hello? Say nothing?

Why does The Frau always end up walking behind someone with a cigarette?

Can a person ever say En Guete too much?

Why do people who hate noise and/or kids sit in the family car on the train?

If The Frau leaves Switzerland but eats the same amount of chocolate, will she finally gain weight?

Why is it that the more German The Frau knows, the less she wants to talk?

Why do people always ask if Baby M is a girl when she is wearing pink? Is it because European boys and men wear pink too?

Why do the Swiss French learn German and the Swiss Germans learn French and then they speak to each other in English?

Is it really necessary to always go to lunch exactly at 12?

The Frau welcomes answers in the comments.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Foreigner or Expat in Switzerland?

Seven years ago yesterday, The Frau arrived in Switzerland.

Yipee. Should she feel different?

Oh no, yodelers, because here's the thing: no matter how long she lives her life in Switzerland, she'll always be a foreigner.

She wasn't always a foreigner. For her first five years in Switzerland, she was an expat. 

Is there a difference between an expat and a foreigner?

Ja, ja.
23% of the Swiss population is foreign.
And made to feel foreign.

An expat has an expiration date. An expat has defined plans to leave, usually with the same company that brought them there. An expat often lives in a bubble, putting their life on hold for that normal they think they’ll be able to return to—key word, think.

Because Switzerland has a lot going for it, many expats become foreigners in Switzerland.

A foreigner is someone who decides to stay—at least for awhile. They have local contracts with no expiration dates. They stop putting their lives on hold and instead live their lives to the fullest in the place they are now, rather than where the place they plan to be later.

By her definition, The Frau has become a foreigner.

Foreigners in Switzerland like The Frau often realize something else: No matter how good or bad their German is, no matter if they learn to play the alphorn or not—they will always be one thing in Switzerland: foreigners.

The Frau thinks a lot about this now that she has Baby M. Baby M is an American growing up in Switzerland. She says “Baden” with a Swiss accent. She answers when spoken to in Swiss German. And “nein” is her favorite Swiss German word.

But Baby M, if she continues grows up here, will also probably always be a foreigner. A very strange kind of Swiss German-speaking foreigner, but a foreigner by Swiss definition, nonetheless.

The Frau has come to realize that once a foreigner in Switzerland, always a foreigner—even if you are born here.

This is why almost 23% of the Swiss population is foreign. Behind Luxembourg, Switzerland has the highest percentage of foreigners in Europe—and for good reason—the time, expense, and process involved in becoming Swiss is some of the most stringent in the world.

The Frau doesn’t necessarily even want a Swiss passport—what she wants is the acceptance that doesn't seem possible here without it. Because after seven years in Switzerland, she’s found wondering, can a place ever be considered a home if one is always defined as a foreigner when living there?

What do you think?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hello USA, Goodbye Efficiency

Usually it takes The Frau at least 10 minutes to begin swearing at U.S. inefficiency upon arrival in her home country. On her most recent trip, it only took 30 seconds.

She’s either becoming more and more Swiss or the U.S. is becoming more and more inefficient, she isn’t sure which.
Waiting for a half hour after a ten hour flight

Within 30 seconds of her SWISS flight landing (on time, of course) at Chicago’s O’Hare airport on May 24, the captain came on to announce that the airport had no gate for the plane as well as no gate for several other planes that had arrived before, so everyone would be sitting on the runway until the airport could begin giving planes gates.

The Frau rolled her eyes. But Baby M, being even more Swiss than The Frau since she was born in Switzerland, was even less pleased at such inefficiency. So she screamed at the top of her lungs for the entire half hour the plane sat on the runway.

The Frau tried to explain to Baby M that she was now in another country—her own—and therefore she’d need more patience for anything requiring synchronization or efficiency, but Baby M didn’t care. She thought five hours was enough time to be on a plane—let alone 10, with another half hour thrown in for fun courtesy of ORD—so she refused to calm down.

The Frau couldn’t really blame her. Her wails seemed to echo the feelings of every other passenger as if to say, “Giving a plane a gate. How has this become rocket science for American airports?”

Have you experienced inefficiency at an airport lately?

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Frau is not Naked

What is it about naked people in Switzerland? Naked hiking was so popular in Appenzell that they had to pass a law against it. Not to mention all the topless sunbathers lounging around in the middle of Zurich.

Swiss people love to get naked. But Americans, well, we don’t really do naked. We may dress sloppy, but we don’t pull off our clothes in the middle of the city the minute the sun appears like The Frau has witnessed people doing in Zurich.
Using your imagination, add naked sunbather here.

No, we Americans are prude and proud. We freak out about seeing a woman breastfeeding. We freaked out when Janet Jackson bared a breast during the Superbowl. We call topless pictures of women porn, while the Swiss call them everyday news—at least if dailies like Blick have anything to say about it.

The Frau has something to say about all these naked Swiss people. It’s that she feels strange not being naked among them. But no matter how many women strip down to their birthday suits in Swiss swimming pool showers or sun topless along the Limmat, The Frau is, at the very least, wearing her entire swimsuit.

So even in the shower at the pool, The Frau looks like a foreigner. And every time she realizes this, she wonders—would she rather be naked? But then again, she is naked—at least in her foreignness. And that—for now, anyway—is all the nakedness she needs.


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