Gratitude Friday: Our time in Geneva

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Thank you, Geneva.   We are grateful for our time here.   We have learned many valuable lessons.

We have struggled with a new language, cursing it, shedding tears, and jumping for joy when finally mastering a phrase or actually starting to form these foreign sentences in our own heads. While we still are far from French speakers, we value what it has taught us.  Humiliation (ourselves).  Appreciation (those who are kind to us even when we butcher the pronunciation).  Admiration (that the Europeans know so many languages).

We realized a language barrier isn’t always the biggest roadblock.  Most of the time, we delighted at the cultural differences.  Other days, we didn’t.    We judged when to bend the rules (still running at crosswalks sometimes) and when to really respect them (Bonjour, Madame.  Bonjour Monsieur).

We met truly interesting people.  The small table, 3 serving dishes, and 6-place setting we brought thinking we wouldn’t meet any true friends here, soon became a laugh.     We were fortunate and met oodles of fantastic people.   We learned from them.  We traveled with them.   We taught them about Halloween, 4th of July, and Thanksgiving.  They generously shared their customs with us.   Our way of thinking and understanding the world broadened and became different because of them.

At work and through my volunteering, we got exposure to having a professional relationship with different nationalities.  At first, we languished the difference in speed and approach, yet walked away later thinking maybe our workaholic mentality has a lot to learn from other countries.

We fell into the pace.  While we once spent life apart in different cities, we enjoyed precious evenings together.  Just us.  No obligations.  No dozens of activities to consider and balance.   We only had a working TV for half the time and didn’t miss it a bit (maybe had to do with my VT football team having such a cruddy season!).   We walked to the market on Saturdays we were here, just to buy a fresh chicken and some vegetables.  We attended every festival Geneva had to offer and came to really adore the fabulous street food that came with it…roasted boar anyone?     We embraced a leisurely during-the-week  lifestyle with less stress and chaos.

We got healthy.  We enjoyed not eating steroid-induced, processed foods.   Gabe ate full fat yogurt every day (that tasted more like ice cream) for breakfast or a “pain au chocolat” which is like a croissant stuffed with chocolate.   He still lost 15 pounds over here.    I loved the bread, getting fresh baguettes a few times a week.  I went from needing chiropractic care, acupuncture and massage weekly for chronic back pain, to having a body free of any maladies.   When I went home, my masseuse, she said that my back…it wasn’t the same one she used to treat back then.

We became weekend warriors, soaking up all Switzerland and the neighboring countries had to offer.  We learned to adore France and eat our way through most of Italy, traveling to each country over 10 times.   We also made it to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Scotland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Turkey, The Vatican, Monaco, Greece, Spain, Thailand, and Cambodia.   And visited over 30 UNESCO world heritage sites.  What I never dreamed I’d see in a lifetime became a reality in less than 2 years.

We fortunately skied on the Alps many times.  And we watched it snow almost every single day the December before we had to move.   We continually witnessed amazing winter wonderlands that continually took our breath away.  Long periods spent in the car became a delight instead of a dread….just seeing the snow on those Alps and those tall pines…I always got giddy.  God did amazing work here in this part of the world.

We built our first home here.  Having moved a few days after the wedding, we are honored to have spent the first year and a half of our marriage in this place.  We are grateful for the strong foundation that this expat experience brought to us.  We wouldn’t trade it for a thing.

Genève:  Merci beaucoup, toujours.  Au revoir, ma chère ville.

Saying Au Revoir

We are officially packed up and in a hotel.  Our entire Swiss household has been loaded into a container that will travel across the Atlantic arrive to the United States in March.

snowymove

Snowy moving day

Goodbyes are hard.  Today in particular.  I managed not to cry all day until a happy hour with Gabe’s colleagues where I erupted in emotion as they handed us a bag of Swiss memories – a fondue pot, chocolate, and a yodeling Swiss mug.   Yes, I cried over a yodeling mug.  But it had been building throughout the day, saying goodbye to some very special people.

And, let me tell you – another lesson learned….tears aren’t pleasant in below freezing temps.

Let’s hope for warmer weather tomorrow.

 

The reasons we’ll miss Europe….and the reasons why we are excited to come home

Our time is running short.   There are lots of lists on the blog lately, but I thought I’d sum up our list on what we’ll miss and what we are excited to come home to.    If you are friends & family, it goes without saying….we can’t wait to see you and on the flipside to new Geneva friends, we’ll miss you.  So, here is the rundown of all the other things:

Why we will miss Geneva / Europe:

Respect for environment – Sure I may complain about the time it takes to recycle here, but these guys sure do have their stuff together when it comes to less waste.  And I challenge you to count the amount of to-go cups, bottles, you see walking around Geneva.  You may get to ten in one day of counting.   People don’t take the lazy way out as much as we do in the US.

In the end, I got used to separating 8 different types of recyclables and taking them to different places each week

Food supply - It’s nice not to question if your food is good for you or not.  I’m not talking about BigMacs here either.  In the USA, you always have to question what drugs your meat has been given and whether your apple has been hyped up with steroids. In Europe, these horrific practices are illegal.  We’ll be buying organic when we return. Our bodies have never felt better during our time in Geneva.

The Plainpalais farmer’s market

Pace – We have a really nice balance here.  Stores are closed after 7pm and on Sundays so that employees can spend time with their families.  Vacation time is revered & respected in Europe.   In the USA, people (including yours truly) tend to wear stress like a badge of honor.   I’ve heard it called “the rush to the grave”.  We will miss the slower pace here.
Public transport – It’s awesome not to get road rage from a car.  Not having driven the entire 1.5 years we lived in Europe, it is actually a refreshing change.  Also, it’s nice not to figure out who is driving when we go out for dinner or drinks….the bus is our automatic designated driver.

Hermes tram, I’m gonna miss you!

Squares/plazas – There is not much better in Europe that hanging out in a square / plaza, piazza, place or platz.   We love doing this when traveling.  We’ll miss having many options just walking distance from our flat.

Place du Molard, one of our favorites

Fashion – This was Gabe’s.  He enjoys the variety and trendiness.   This is actually not on my list….see point #4 below.

The man scarf with a tee shirt is popular here.

Multiculturalism – We are constantly surrounded by different cultures and traditions.  It is very eye-opening to have exposure to friends and co-workers from all over the world, who open our minds to new views.  We have learned a lot from them.
Easy International Travel – What do you mean we can’t jet off to Italy for the night?  This will undoubtedly be one of the biggest things we miss.  We loved the accessibility to new and different places in Europe.
Being uncomfortable daily – There is a quote from one of my favorite brands, Lululemon, that says “do something everyday that scares you”.   Living in Europe as a foreigner has given us plenty of opportunities for this saying.  Every day, we have our challenges.  And, I think it is good for us.  It has given us a real sense of adaptability and also humility.

Geneva can be a little cold & lonely. But that can be good.

Why we are excited to come home:

 
Customer service – We have been stripped of any expectation of customer service during our time in Europe.  Forget a waiter checking on you or actually having a issue resolved.  In Switzerland, the store owner is always right and you should feel indebted to him for being allowed to even enter their establishment.
Speed/efficiency – Being a person who loves things done fast, I had to give up on any shred of this in Switzerland.  Hello, bureaucracy.  Can’t wait to go back to the States where speed is a virtue.
Being able to read things – I look forward to understand packaging and all signs.  Okay, maybe not political signs but all the other ones.

Hopefully I won’t buy the wrong ingredients anymore!

Not walking all our groceries home – as charming as walking everywhere is, hauling all your goods on your back is not so charming.  More like sweat and tear inducing.  I will vow to take my bike to the farmers market, bakery and occasionally the Harris Teeter, but will be happy never to have to carry all our groceries up “devil hill” anymore.

Won’t miss you, grocery cart thing

Gym clothes are okay – As someone who has gotten worse looks that the average Geneva homeless person, I can’t wait to get back to a country where it isn’t a crime to grocery shop in your lululemon. Seriously, people.  How do you wear your stilettos on cobblestones anyhow?

Grilling – oh how we have missed the deliciousness of grilled meat.  the fun of a backyard BBQ.  Corn on the cob. Baked beans. Steaks that actually taste good.  Mmmmmm.

No more fake grill

Laundry horror stories  – Having a load of laundry take less than an hour……heaven.

Won’t miss the 5 hour load, or having restricted hours!

Closet space – in Charlotte, my closet was actually the previous owners’ nursery.   Moving into a closet that was smaller than any broom closet I’ve ever seen, my clothing will be very happy to spread out. Even sharing with my hubby still gives both of us each 6x the room we have in Switzerland.

Lack of cobblestones – Sure cobblestones add charm and character.  But living with them and walking on them in day-to-day living can grow old.  I’m excited for some flat pavement.

Control over our own thermostat.  Living in a flat, we are at the mercy of when the regie thinks it is appropriate to turn on the heat in the winter.  Also, as much as we got accustomed to living without air conditioning, it can be hard to sleep in 95 degree heat sans A/C.  We’ll use our heat and A/C more sparingly now but will be awesome to have control again.

I was always one cold ducky

Gratitude Friday: The Mayans Were Wrong

As the world was predicted to end by the Mayan clock at 12:11 Geneva time, we have currently made it 12 hours into a new era.

Real glad they were wrong about this one.

Real glad they were wrong about this one.

While to some the Mayan calendar was a joke, I think in light of this week’s events, gratitude in living a new day is certainly something to appreciate…..

Below are few of my favorite quotes & verses about gratitude and making each day count:

“It isn’t about getting  joy, it’s about giving  joy”  The film, The Bucket List.  

My take:  While a tear-jerker, I loved this movie…I thought it was a good lesson on the most important things in our lives and how we somethings get that mixed up. One of the most powerful scenes for me was when Jack Nicholson returned from the trip to his empty house full of beautiful things, and just started crying.  He’d learned that the stuff he’d spent his whole life earning and gathering was meaningless, especially without the human relationships he’d sacrificed.

“Instead of saying ‘today I have to’ for going to the store, doing errands, [insert thing you dread] switch and say, ‘I get to’ go to the store, do errands” - YMCA yoga teacher in Charlotte

My take:  At an early a.m. yoga, one of my instructors spilled out these simple yet powerful words and it stuck with me for quite some time.  Sometimes, I can live by my to-do list, feeling so burdened by the tasks I have to get done.  It can prohibit my “life in the present”.  But 99% of the world worries about their next meal. It certainly gives me a paradigm shift about complaining about anything related to the grocery store.

“Paint the walls of your mind with many beautiful pictures”  William Lyon Phelps

My take:  My church in Charlotte focused a lot on your thought life…saying what are your thoughts become your behavior.  They suggested that even watching violent movies can numb your sense of violence and negatively effect the way you treat others.  And I agree, focusing on positive and good things is a very healthy mind-set to have.   Thinking positive and staying positive can do some powerful things for your health and well being.

 “So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”  From Tuesdays with Morrie.   

My take: I really appreciate this advice Morrie gives Mitch Albom. Our culture is geared up so much towards busyness and consumerism.  Sometimes, stepping back from what’s popular opens up so many doors for true happiness.  Just because everyone’s doing it, doesn’t make it right.

“This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” Psalm 118:24

My take:  Every day is a gift and a blessing.  Some days it doesn’t seem like it, but each day we are given is precious.

Do you have any favorite sayings on living each day to the fullest?  If so, please share them in the comments section.

Bon weekend, everyone.

McDonalds Europe

McDonalds, whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, actually does a good job with globalization and market localization. In Europe, they tailor to what the market likes for breakfast.

No Egg McMuffin here. Just a cappucino & a croissant. Oooo la la.

It is also important to source local ingredients.  The Geneva McDonald’s ensures to customers that the beef, potatoes and bread are all made in Switzerland.

This translates: 100% pure Swiss beef, potatoes and bread

They know what tastes will be popular with their local market.    In Switzerland, they also have a McZüri which is a veal burger.

Image courtesy of theinformedvegan.com

Speaking of tastes, sandwiches are also tailored to include the bread that the market favors.  In Italy, you can get a burger on Foccacia:

And there is my personal favorite in France…..

Image courtesy of lesmarquesetmoi.fr

Some things are somewhat the same.

The playground is titled “Ronald’s Gym Club”

Drive-thrus, walkups, McDonalds always provides a quicker option

Walk-up counter in Lyon, France. The sign reads “Order here”.

And others much different.

Not a kids coke but a small coke

 

Gratitude Friday: A Blue Sky in November

This week, I have been in a bit of an Eeyore mood.   Not sure if it is November in Geneva, the perma-cloud the rests above the city for 1-2 months this time of year, the incessant rain, or the fact we are still in limbo with our next steps & move.

Image courtesy of tvtropes.org

But low and behold…..today, out came the blue skies, if even just for a bit.

I captured this shot on my iPhone last night while waiting for the bus:

I am thankful for a small break in the rain and clouds, especially this burst of blue & cotton candy in normally dreary November.

Bon weekend, everyone.

Being An American From Afar

This Election Day, I wanted to share a few of our experiences as “being Americans from afar”.    We are US citizens and hold US passports, but for the last 1.5 years, we have been residents of Switzerland.

The Swiss flag in Old Town Geneva

What’s that mean for your life in Switzerland?   We have the right to work here, as B-permit holders.   We do not have the right to vote in Switzerland.   Speaking of rights, we also do not have the right to do our laundry, dishes, or make any type of noise outside of the hours of 8am-8pm, including taking out our trash or recycling.  All of these rules are also applicable all day on Sundays and holidays.   But, we feel lucky.  Some apartments in Zurich outline that you can’t flush toilet outside of these times.

What’s that mean for being an American from afar ?   We do have the right to vote in the US even though we are not current residents.  We have the right to pay taxes.  Which Switzerland requires we do to them too.  Funny how everyone is clear on equality on that one.    As non-residents, we cannot bring as many goods duty-free into the States as a US resident can.  Learned that the hard way when importing a suitcase full of Swiss chocolate and stuffed cows.   Also, we don’t get our mail forwarded further than a year which means it lives in no-man’s land.   I wonder how many collectors are after us.

How was voting?  Actually, awesome.  Big kuddos to Mecklenburg County, NC.   I thought that voting abroad would require lots of mail, follow-up, calls, more mail.    But, we successfully registered from afar this Spring, requested ballots this Summer, they arrived in September, and we returned them in October.   An individual called me at home to get clarification on Gabe because we had to register him in Mecklenburg Country prior to the election and his voter card got returned  in the mail [see mail problem above].  After we submitted this form, she confirmed that our ballots were received and counted.   The only downside is that we had to send our ballots in so early that we missed the commentary in the Charlotte Observer, detailing each candidate’s position on the county ballot, that comes out so close to the election.  So, we had to do a lot of our research online.

How was doing your taxes?   Good question….they haven’t been submitted yet.  I’m not sure what takes so long as we submitted them March 1st to the consultants, but they had to request extensions in both the US and Switzerland because they are so complicated.  In fact, after 6 months of them working on it, we got our ‘draft’ for Switzerland last week, which has to be completed before the US ones are started.  It was in French.  We had to have the consultants translate it verbally on a conference call yesterday so we knew that there were errors which they are now fixing.  We knew to expect this….one Swiss ex-pat warned us that he still hadn’t cleared everything up 3 years after his assignment.  Joy.

What else is weird about being an “American from afar”?    I’d have to say that phone #s are weird.   I tend to visit old doctors and service providers when visiting the States.    You should hear the reaction when I cannot provide a current 704 number for their computer.   My phone number in Switzerland is like this:  0041 079 XXX XX XX.   It apparently can’t fit in the computer.  Nor can our address which only has a four-digit zip.   They would rather not see me that deal with the numbers.  It’s a battle.

What is awesome about living in two places?  Health insurance.  It rocks.  And, I love the fact that I can go to a doctor in whatever country I need to based on our situation…as long as they take me as a patient because of our complicated phone #.

Nevertheless, today, as Americans from afar, we are so proud that we are from an amazing country where we have the right to vote for our leaders and our country gives us so much in terms of safety and infrastructure.

From across the ocean, hope everyone has a Happy Election Day!

Gratitude Friday: Beating the Blues

This Gratitude Friday, I just wanted to express my thankfulness for finally learning to control cultural disorientation a bit better.    It’s taken a long time, but I finally have been able to understand some of the triggers and manage them in a way that subdues the “culture shock” from previous experiences.

Fresh off of a visit from the USA when this typically occurs, I wrote the following article for the AIWC blog.  I wanted to share it because it’s been a year and a half of learning for which I am grateful to have finally wrapped my arms around better.

Bon weekend, everyone!

We have been living in Geneva for a year and a half now, but still its common to get “the blues” every now and then.

I learned in assimilation training that the many varied stages are natural part of the expatriation process.  Their theory is that the following stages are experienced:

1. Initial excitement
2. Initial anxiety
3. Arrival fascination
4. Initial culture shock
5. Surface adjustment
6. Internal shock
7. Acceptance & adaptation
8. Return anxiety
9. Reintegration shock

The stages last different lengths of time for different people.  Also it is very common for spouses to be in different stages at different times.    Cultural shock / disorientation is something we all go through, but I thought I would share a few of my personal tips on beating the blues:

Geneva can sometimes feel lonely.

Reach out.  It is always good to build your social network in a new city, so it starts to feel like home sooner.   A few social groups  in Geneva include The AIWC and Glocals.   Many churches are English-speaking as well, including ECBG - Old Town, Emmanuel Church - right bank, Anglican Church - right bank, and the Lutheran Church - Old Town.   The sites AngloInfo and World Radio Switzerland also provide ways to link up to others.

Don’t wait.   Many people want to wait until they are settled, unpacked, and feel like everything is in order before they get to socialization.   I’d advise to join some of these networking groups immediately.   That way, if you start to get the blues, you already have these to lean on.

Spread your wings early!

Embrace the uncertain.  Living in a new place can make you feel uneasy many times.  When I first moved to Geneva, the hardest thing was that I didn’t feel capable of doing day-to-day chores.  Back in my home country, I was independent, capable, and could handle most any situation.   In Geneva, the language divide and difference in customs made me feel like I was a different person.     Everyone feels this way, so the key is to tackle things head on!!

Think positive.  Don’t let yourself get drug down by the differences and challenges.  Start a gratitude journal for the new experiences and things you are doing.   Along the same note, be careful not to be critical of your new country.   Avoid commiserating too much with friends as this behavior can sometimes foster more negativity.

Get out!!  If you are feeling blue, make sure to get out of the house.  Talk a walk.  Go discover a different park.  Make a date with a friend to go to a museum or restaurant.  These things can definitely help your mood.

Walks in the countryside make everything seem better.

Identify the triggers.  I discovered that about 50% of the time, I would get very sad upon returning to Geneva from my home country.  I identified two triggers – busyness/pace and weather.   If I have a lot going on when I come back, such as a guest, a trip, or work-related activities, I am happier because I don’t have time to dwell on the differences.   I also tend to have a harder time in the rain and cold, since this is different weather than I was used to.   That is a hard one to avoid, but at least I know to expect it!

Here’s hoping the clouds stay away!

Gratitude Friday: My First Vernissage

The photography group I belong to at the AIWC recently hosted a vernissage.   The word vernissage is common in French & Dutch, and references an opening night of an exhibition before it is open to the general public.  In this instance, it was a vernissage of our photography.

I wrote a small article about the event in the AIWC magazine, The Courier.  I thought I’d share an excerpt:

We are a group of women encompassing all ages and backgrounds.  Our photography expertise is just as diverse as our personal qualities, as we have professionals and beginners.  We have members who have been taking photos just a few months, yet some their entire lives.  We have large paparazzi cameras and we have small “point-and-shoots”.   However, we are all artists.  And we enjoy learning from each other.

Most of our work is done along themes.   Our leader, Wilna, says about themes, ”The theme is like a guide for your eye. It stretches your looking around and influence your focus.  It makes the photographer like a detective, who has his eyes always open for new discoveries.

Sport. Clocks. Bridges. Leaves. Trees. Roofs. Mountains. Textiles. Surfaces. Bottles. Time. Street life. Hands. Shadows. Eyes. Music.     These are yet a few of our themes that inspire our work.

It is quite interesting how a group can interpret these singular words.   Once a month, we come together for photo sharing and each member presents the work they have done along the theme.  Sometimes, photos can be almost identical, and other times, worlds apart.  It is beautiful that way, how we each interpret these themes differently, and thus, we learn and grow together in our perspective. 

In addition to our thematic projects, we have group photo shooting outings where we explore areas of Geneva together.  We also attend exhibitions and share articles and books to draw our inspiration.

This month, we’ll be launching a new exhibition at the club.   Each photographer will display their individual “Passion in Photography,” so you will be able to learn more about their style, motivations and interests through their personal exhibit.  We will host a vernissage, or opening night, on September 27 from 3:30 to 20:00.   We do hope to you can attend so that you can see our interpretations and our passion. 

Seventeen of the women in our photography group exhibited.   Here were a few photos of the set-up before the guests arrived.

Setting up for the vernissage. Photo courtesy of friend, CB.

Setting up for the vernissage. Photo courtesy of friend, CB.

Setting up for the vernissage. Photo courtesy of friend, CB.

The long hallway. Photo courtesy of CB.

For the exhibition, we were encouraged to select photos that represented our passion in photography.  For my wall, I chose to do landscape photography and my favorite thing to do with them: paint.   So, I accompanied each photograph with a painting of that same scene.    The camera lens is sometimes called the “third eye”.  For me, it was meant to show a “fourth eye”: the canvas, and the difference that medium can bring to an image.

Floating Village, Cambodia

White Turf, St. Moritz, Switzerland

Sun Salutation, Jussy, Switzerland

My display. Photo courtesy of C.

So, thus this week’s gratitude post.   This photo group has been very fun to be a part of.   I have learned a lot from the women in the group.  Mostly about patience.  While I tend to rush through things, the women in the group are from different cultures which tend not to be in such a hurry.   Being around them when doing photo-shooting has really inspired me to notice the small things.  Changing an angle or just waiting around for something different to happen can really change the emotion of a photograph.

Aside from that, I am grateful for the social aspect.   We have members from The Netherlands, U.K., U.S.A., South Africa, Canada, Japan, Brazil, Australia, and France.   How wonderful it is to see their perspectives and the subjects that they chose to shoot, and to learn alongside them.

I really do appreciate my time in Geneva for getting to do this. Also, a big thanks to my hubby for his support in my hobbies, especially with letting me use his Big Camera.

For more perspective on the vernissage and the AIWC photo group, you might also want to check out my friend C’s display and post here.

Bon weekend, everyone!!

 

Just how expensive is Switzerland?

Someone recently asked me “how expensive is Switzerland?”.   Well, an article this year named Zurich as the #1 most expensive city in the world.  Geneva ranked at #3.  Just to put it in perspective, New York City is 47th.

I thought I would showcase some examples.

You think US gas is expensive?  I see all your Facebook posts.  Well, it costs us over 125 francs (150 USD) to fill our car up.

462 CHF = 500 USD.   Our yearly TV tax.  Nope, this doesn’t include cable.  Just for the privilege of watching TV or signing up to pay 100 CHF / month more in basic cable.  You don’t even have to have a TV to get taxed….it covers radio too.

Getting your hair done. Gabe pays 85 francs for a men’s cut. This is like 93 USD. One time, he accidentally got a senior stylist and it was over 105 francs. I have a friend who got highlights at the same salon – 350 francs!!!

When people leave their paper & cardboard on the curb, they put it in a Louis Vitton bag.

Drink menu at a bar near our house, prices around 17-19 CHF.  Add 10% for the price of the Swiss franc, and you are spending a cool 20 spot for one drink.

12.70 CHF = about 14 USD for a Medium Value Meal at McDonalds.

The average window sign in Geneva.  These prices are not unusual on Rue du Rhone: Dress 2230 CHF, Bag 1280 CHF, Scarf 330 CHF, Ties 220 or 180 CHF, Shirt 1500 CHF and Pants 1330 CHF.

One of my favorite sources for expensive deals is Glocals, which is like our Living Social or Groupon.

I know these little Roombas are expensive in the US, but I think its only 200 USD. Here, half off, they are 400 CHF!!

What a deal!!! Half off: Only 69 francs (75 USD) for a mani / pedi!!! I used to pay 25 or 30 USD for both, full price.   Let’s just say I have also never paid to have my nails done here.

How do we live in such a city?  

Here, we only eat out once a week.   Back in the States, we ate out 5-8 times a week between lunch and dinners.   However, the average meal out at a low to mid-range restaurant with a glass of wine costs 80 CHF.  A nice place is 200 CHF.     So, thus the cut-back.

We eat less meat. It’s 3-4 times the prices of the US.  So we have more vegetarian meals.

We don’t buy any clothes here.   The extent of our purchases are a H & M furry hat for me when it was -20 degrees and a pair of boxers that were half off for Gabe.

We don’t buy “stuff”.  The desire is less great here (both their less commercialized way of life and the fact we don’t understand all the ads), but we make due with what we have.  We never go out just to shop or pick up something because it looks cool.

Pretty much, we spend all our disposable income on groceries and travel.  All in all, we don’t actually mind this change in lifestyle.  It will be interesting to see how this changes or stays the same when we return home.