Thursday, October 29, 2015

7 Things The Frau Missed About Switzerland

Sometimes you don't know what you missed about a country until you return to find out. Here's what The Frau missed.

1. Bread

The average Swiss eats 108 pounds of bread a year. There is a reason for this. Swiss bread is good, it's cheap (especially compared to the same quality American bread), and there's so much variety you could eat a different kind of bread for three weeks straight and not get bored. Or you could be like The Frau and eat Nutella and Zopf every single morning. Because you can.

2. Cheese

Duh. While in Switzerland, The Frau ate Raclette, fondue, and two entire blocks of Gruyère cheese from the grocery store. Almost every meal was some form of cheese and bread. She ate enough cheese for a year. It should have been illegal. But it wasn't. Because there's something more illegal back home: Calling Velveeta cheese.

3. Efficiency
The Leukerbad Therme

Yeah, yeah, the on-time trains. The fact things run like clockwork, which makes sense for a country known for timekeeping. And because of this, the amazing things The Frau had forgotten you could do. Like stand above Track 32 at Zurich's Main Station at 9 p.m. and realize you need toilet paper. Run into the Coop at 9:01 p.m. that's right across from Track 32. And still make your 9:08 p.m. train. Now THAT is Swiss efficiency.

4. Spas

The Frau misses the Swiss concept of wellness, which basically amounts to sitting in bubbling pools of mineral water. Americans think spas are places for a facial or a massage. It's not the same.

5. Well-traveled Americans

Ok, this is a strange thing to miss about Switzerland. But because most Americans haven't been outside of America, it can be hard to find people to relate to back home. And although it might be hard to find Americans in Switzerland, when you do find them, they are interesting and international and often the kind of people you can have a conversation with all night.

6. The hiking trails 

Almost anywhere you look in Switzerland, there are hiking trails ready to lead you elsewhere. The Frau misses Switzerland's great outdoors. In fact, in Illinois, there's hardly a reason to own a pair of hiking shoes.

7. Seeing kids outside

The Frau went running along Lake Zurich, and you know what? It was cloudy and cold. The ground was wet. But there were kids outside, properly dressed in rain pants and coats, watching the swans. Krippe workers pushed kids through the city and on hiking trails. And this was not a field trip that cost the parents extra money and extra enthusiasm. This was everyday life. The Frau misses this concept. So she brought Toddler M back a pair of Migros rain pants because she had outgrown her old pair. Today they are going to the park on a bike, even though it is cold and dark. 

If you left Switzerland, what would you miss?


Unknown said...

I left Switzerland in 2006 and haven't been back for a visit yet, but bread is on top of my list. NZ bread is just not "bread", unless you're prepared to pay $8/500g at the Farmers Market....I also miss restaurants in idyllic places and "Strassefescht", where I can have a beer in the street without breaching any bylaws.

Unknown said...

"But because most Americans haven't been outside of America, it can be hard to find people to relate to back home." Living in the Midwest may be the problem. If you live in, say, New York or the Bay Area, many people with the means to do so (most people I know) travel internationally whenever they can.

Amanda said...

Left in 2010 and still haven't been back :( but I miss so much!! definitely the bread and cheese. I miss seeing 4-year-olds walk home from school, Sunday hikes and walks, the bike paths... everything! are you still in Zurich or already headed back to US?

Chantal said...

The price of good bread, good cheese, etc. is much more inexpensive in Switzerland than it is in the U.S. No wonder Americans eat such junk--the good stuff is expensive in the States.

Obviously there are pockets of well-traveled Americans in places. But in general only 10% of Americans travel outside of North America. So the chances of randomly finding them outside of the largest cities is small.

Back in the U.S. already. Missing the bread and cheese already, especially when The Frau saw the equivalent to the Tessinerbrot at the Farmer's market yesterday for $6. The Tessinerbrot The Frau recently bought last week in CH was SF 1.60!

FYI, yodelers, you can legally import cheese to the U.S. in your suitcase. The Frau now has some Raclette in the fridge.

Ice Charades said...

I left Germany almost the same time you did. Since I took the S-bahn every morning, I miss the smell of the bakeries at the station.

Martin said...

It is funny to me that you repeat how cheap cheese seems to be in Switzerland! For me, as a Swiss, cheese is a very expensive grocery, comparable to meat. Oh yes, and I probably eat about the same amount of cheese as I eat meat. And per kilo, cheese is even more expensive than meat, for sure! Even given the Swiss meat prices.

@Angela: valid passports in circulation in 2014
US: 121.5 million (38%)

issued passport in 2014:
US: 14 million (4.4%)
NY: 1 million (5% of all inhabitants)
CA: 1.9 million (4.9%)
IL: 0.54 million (4.2%)
MI: 0.224 million (4.1%)

So, you are not right. There is no huge difference between the so-called „internationally-oriented“ US-american coasts and the Midwest, as you claimed! Not really.

And by the way: If you compare prices, you should not compare the values on the basis of the exchange rate (currently: currently almost equal) only, but based on the purchase power parity (see PPP). Then an already expensive item becomes even more expensive in the US, because currently you can calculate the $ price tag in US multiplied by 1.53 in order to get an PPP-based price in francs Switzerland!

Hattie said...

My friends are all well traveled and now that we are retired traveling more than ever. But we are the only people in our local circle who have lived in foreign countries.

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Anonymous said...

I agree with all of your points! I miss Coop so much, I find it dreadfully depressing to see the long aisles of processed food in our huge supermarkets, especially when you juxtapose it with the health of Americans.

This isn't necessarily Swiss-specific, but as an expat, I had the opportunity to meet women from all over the world. My best friends there were from Beirut, Shanghai and Istanbul, I will always have a strong bond with these women. Our children played happily together and we learned about eachother's cultures, religions and food while sharing so much of life together. It opened the world to me even further. It seems impossible for me to find this diversity now that I'm back in the states, which seems completely counter-intuitive.

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