Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Swiss Expat Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving holiday, The Frau would like to wish every yodeler much good health. And to do this, she would like to take you with her to the office. We expats do have to work on Thanksgiving, after all.

Open on a Swiss open-plan office on Thanksgiving Day. Employees are sitting across from each other. If it weren’t for their computers where they can read the news, they would simply stare at each other blankly all day long. People are speaking various dialects of Swiss German. Keyboards are clicking. Phones are ringing. But then The Frau sneezes and all work stops.

WORKER 1: Gesundheit.

WORKER 2: Gesundheit.

THE FRAU: Danke.

WORKER 3: Gesundheit.

THE FRAU: Merci.

WORKER 1 starts typing again. WORKER 2 continues his phone call. Things are getting back to normal. But just when The Frau thinks she can get back to work...

WORKER 4/STRAGGLER 1: Gesundheit.

THE FRAU: Thanks. Danke. Gleichfalls.

Everyone gets back to work for 4 minutes and 38 seconds (approximately). Then…

WORKER 5: Sneeze.

Repeat entire dialogue, bitte.

The Boss walks over.

THE BOSS: Did everyone remember to do their timesheets?

EVERYONE: Nein. There is no job number for sneezing. What should we do?

The boss leaves to check about job number for sneezing. Then it happens. The Frau feels another sneeze coming on. She can’t bear it. So she runs to the bathroom so she can sneeze scene-less, but on the way there, someone wishes her En Guete. Of course. It is almost turkey time, mitenand. So stop typing and start sending your En Guetes irgendwo before you leave the office to get a Rivella and an overpriced sandwich. Happy Expat Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Five Uncliché Swiss Gift Ideas

Over the cheese and chocolate thing? Have enough Swiss army knives and Swatches? Then the One Big Yodel Swiss Christmas Gift Guide is for you.


Whitebooks are sold at Globus in Zurich
Whitebook is probably the best handmade old-fashioned notebook with a modern twist you’ve never heard of. In fact, The Frau calls her Whitebook the “Swiss Army knife of the written word”. Created by a Swiss entrepreneur, it’s everything you’ve ever wanted in a traditional notebook—but never considered. Bookmarks, pockets for random notes, an adjustable pen holder…And depending on the size you choose, Whitebook holds not only a variety of refillable perforated paper (that actually lays flat, yippee!), but also your iPad mini, iPad, Kindle, or other electronic thingy of your choice. subscription

For either CHF 39 or CHF 59 a month, you can have two or three bottles of carefully chosen wine delivered right to your door., a Geneva-based start-up, hopes to turn every yodeler into a sommelier. That’s why your bottles of wine are also delivered with a brochure describing their taste and origin in three languages–including English. The Frau was fortunate to be sent a trial wine box. To test its quality, she had—who else—Jean-Claude, her French friend that grew up on a vineyard in Burgundy—over for dinner. He praised the wines, saying they were an excellent quality for the price. Bon. How do you say, “re-order” in French?

Radius Design coat hangers or city lights

Ok, fine. Radius Design is actually a German company. But it creates with Switzerland in mind. Specifically for those of us lucky to love Baden (yes, Baden!) and Zurich. Choose your city (London and Paris are options too) and then choose between a coat hanger or a wall candle holder and enjoy your city’s landmarks in a whole new way.

Sigg bottles

Possibly the most indestructible bottle around (The Frau can say this since Baby M treats hers more like a ball than a bottle), Sigg Bottles are stylish too. So stylish, that some have appeared in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Like most other Swiss-made products, however, Sigg bottles are cheaper once they’ve been exported to another country. Like Amazon.

Slow Train to Switzerland by Diccon Bewes

Slow train to Switzerland by Diccon Bewes is the story of the first conducted tour of Switzerland, and how it changed both the Swiss and the way we travel. If you have an interest in trains and tourism or know someone who does, then Slow Train to Switzerland makes a great gift.

Anyone else have unique Swiss gift suggestions?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

There’s a two-year-old with a flaming stick, oh my!

The Swiss have a very different approach to danger than most English speakers. Instead of preventing a child from playing with fire by putting candles out of their reach, they hand a toddler a lantern with a flaming candle inside it and expect her to walk with it for five blocks.

The Frau speaks from experience. Because Baby M was supposed to do just that as an organized daycare activity. But after flinging her flaming lantern around for about thirty seconds, she decided to let The Frau carry it five blocks for her while she chilled out and ate pretzels in her stroller.

The Swiss version of personal responsibility at its finest:
The Fire Parade in Liestal
The Swiss childcare workers were not impressed with either The Frau or Baby M.

But The Frau can’t say she minded Baby M’s lack of interest in the lantern.

Let her tell you why not.

The Frau really likes the concept of personal responsibility. It’s ten times better than the concept of “blame someone else for my stupidity” that most Americans subscribe to—at least if they can afford a lawyer.

But unfortunately, culture kind of sticks to people like melted Raclette cheese sticks to a pan. So even if The Frau tries to scrape off her American paranoia during Swiss events that are supposed to teach personal responsibility to two-year-olds, sometimes her old-fashioned American fear still clings to her. 

Can you blame her? She comes from a country that, according to the American Pediatric Society’s book on raising children, says children can’t be reasoned with until they are at least age seven.  In the meantime, Swiss children have been walking to school by themselves for two years...

Anyone else have experiences with the Swiss version of teaching kids about personal responsibility?


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