Wednesday, December 31, 2014

5 Things The Frau Misses About Switzerland

Happy Old Year, mitenand. As The Frau looks back over 2014, she can’t help but miss Switzerland, where she spent nine of the last 12 months (not to mention her last 8.5 years). Here are some of the things she misses most now that she’s back in the US.

The great outdoors. No one does the outdoors like Switzerland. With over 60,000 km of hiking trails, it’s about 59,900 km more than The Frau has access to from Chicago.

Disentis, Switzerland
The weather. Ok. The Frau never thought she would miss the grey Swiss winter. But she does. Because she forgot how cold it is in Chicago. She hasn’t been this cold since, oh, she lived in Chicago over 14 years ago.

The transportation. The Frau hates driving. So much so that she has refused to get a car thus far and has been riding her bike when it’s -8 c outside. Yes. She is crazy. And Swiss. She still can’t comprehend that she can’t walk or take a bus, train, tram, boat, or cable car everywhere.

The beauty. Switzerland is gorgeous. No matter how much she wants it to, the flat American Midwest just can’t compete with Switzerland’s rolling hills, sparkling lakes, and the Alps.

The adventures. There’s something about living in another country, especially when it borders five others, that’s exciting. Living in the center of the US, where Gary, Indiana is further than Germany used to be, is hard to accept after having easy access to the entire European continent for almost a decade.

What do you love (or miss) about Switzerland?

In other small print, The Frau would like to say merci vielmal to all of her readers in Switzerland and around the world. Thanks to you, her first book, Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I'd Known, has sold almost 1200 copies since May.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Wear Your Pajamas to Work (and Preschool) Week

Pajamas are everywhere in America. In fact, it’s quite acceptable to wear them in public. After years of feeling like she had to put on a skirt just to take the elevator down to the laundry room in her Swiss apartment/office building, The Frau is trying to accept this American sleepwear-in-public trend, but to be honest, her family is having a hard time with it.

Wear Your Pajamas in Public Day is Every Day in America
Take yesterday. At Mr. Frau’s company, it was “Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day.” The Frau is not sure what wearing pajamas to an office is supposed to achieve, but in any case, Mr. Frau was told it was all about “having fun.” Well, in true Swiss fashion, Mr. Frau decided to have no fun at all and went to work in his usual button down and jeans (wearing dress pants usually takes office fashion too far in America).  Mr. Frau had to lead a workshop teaching people how to be managers and he just couldn’t imagine doing it in his PJs. The Frau can’t say she blames him. 

As it turns out, American offices have a lot in common with American preschools. The day after Mr. Frau’s “Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day,” it was Toddler M’s “Wear Your Pajamas to Preschool Day.” This event was so important it was printed on a flyer, which told us not to forget, because the day would be “all about having fun.”

Now The Frau didn’t mind encouraging Toddler M to wear pajamas, since it meant less work for her in prepping Toddler M for school, but strangely enough, Toddler M wanted nothing to do with pajama day and everything to do with wearing normal street clothes. Even upon arrival, where every child in her class was clearly wearing pajamas—and Christmas pajamas at that—Toddler M refused to put on her snowman feet pajamas, which The Frau had packed in her bag just in case. So there was little Swiss Toddler M, wearing street clothes in an American preschool filled with children in pajamas.

As The Frau said in her last post, assimilation hasn’t been easy.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Repatriation–even harder after Switzerland

Dear Yodelers,

Excuse the French, but since it's an official Swiss language The Frau won't hold back: Repatriation is a bitch.

Research says it is harder to go home than abroad. But research didn’t consider the Switzerland factor. And Switzerland makes it worse. Let The Frau explain.

Perhaps some of you know—Switzerland was recently rated the best place in the world to be an expat. It has one of the highest qualities of life in the world. Be born in Switzerland, and you’ve won the lottery of life, at least according to organizations that like to create surveys.

These facts do not make leaving Switzerland easy. In fact, they only set you up for disappointment. How can any other country compete?

Here’s the reality. It can’t. The Frau must accept that while there are some wonderful things about America—lots of personal space, spontaneous conversations with Target shoppers, being close to family—it is not Switzerland.

The Frau met with a fellow Swiss re-pat in Chicago recently and this woman still doesn’t have a car and she’s been back for two years. She takes a mini-bus whenever she needs to go far-flung places like Madison or Iowa City. She said it took her an entire year to adjust back to the US after being in Switzerland for three years.

Ok. Do the math. The Frau was in Switzerland for over eight years. Does this mean it will take her almost three years to adjust to the US, all other things being equal? What does that mean if her on-hold Swiss residence permit expires in two years?

In any case, you’ll be glad to know that The Frau has adjusted somewhat. She’s already forgiven the neighbors for not dusting their flowerpots. And she's driven the family car a few times although can’t bring herself to buy a second one yet. Also, Toddler M doesn’t yell “nein” at the American kids like she used to, although after enjoying a sleepover with one of her Swiss-American friends last week, she did resort to saying “ich auch” all the time for the following two days.

In other good news, The Frau tasted the best Magenbrot she’s ever had—and it was from Chicago’s German Christmas market. The Frau must say, American food does not disappoint–except when it comes to cheese. Oh well. Frohe Weihnachten, mitenand.

Friday, December 05, 2014

The Ultimate Swiss Christmas Gift Guide

Frohe Weihnachten, yodelers. In honor of Sunday Shopping Time, The Frau would like to make some Christmas gift suggestions. All items here have either been gifted to or given by The Frau and therefore they are 100% Swiss quality guaranteed—at least by her American standards.

The Frau wears her Edelweiss
with pride.
Edelweiss Shirt

This shirt is semi-required for anyone living in Switzerland so if you have a friend or family member that has yet to wear one, it’s time to give the gift of assimilation. With an Edelweiss Hemd, never again will your friend or family member show up incorrectly dressed for an August 1 Farm Breakfast. Whew.

Swarovski Snowflake Ornament
Swarovski ornaments don't
lose their value.

Ok, ok, so Swarovski is an Austrian company, but in honor of the Christmas tree in Zurich’s main train station, which is covered in Swarovski crystal ornaments, The Frau has been a collector of the annual crystal snowflake ornament since 2008.

SBB Mondaine Clock

Give the gift of time—it’s very Swiss. The Frau loves the SBB Mondaine Clock. Her husband does too, which is fortunate since she gave him this clock as a gift a few years ago. It’s now out of the moving box after its trip across the Atlantic and it’s still ticking away in Central European Time.

Hiltl Cookbook

The Frau enjoys her Hiltl cookbooks even more so on this side of the Atlantic. Because now she can have a taste of Europe’s oldest vegetarian restaurant without leaving the comfort of her new American house. 

Swiss Toilet Paper Holder

Let your friend or family member be reminded of Switzerland up to five times daily when you give the gift of a shiny new chrome Swiss toilet paper holderClearly, there are great benefits to this gift, including the fact that no one else will give it. Not to mention, it makes ripping your desired amount of toilet paper easy and prevents the embarrassment of unrolling an entire roll of TP without meaning to.

Radius Design City Lights

Ja, ja, The Frau has the Baden version.
Entschuldigung, yodelers. Radius Design is a German company. However, we can like it because 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 candleholder and enjoy your city’s landmarks in a whole new way. 

Book about Switzerland
Swiss Life Book

The Frau is biased since she's the author of Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known, but hey, she realized she needed a Swiss gift that was priced under $20 for this list and guess what? Only an American product could be priced so advantageously. Available at Orell Füssli or online.

Anyone else have Swiss-inspired gift suggestions?


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