Thanks for a Joyeux Anniversaire, everyone!

Post by Lauren

It was a great 32nd birthday for me. Not only did I awake to great breakfast pizzas made by my husband, but I was surprised later in the day by freshly baked goods by the S’s and an amazing birthday card and care package of treats from them as well.

The day was topped off by the fête fireworks which were remarkable. Gabe jokes that he ordered them especially for my birthday. It certainly is good timing for my birthday to hit this big celebration as they are the biggest display in Europe.


Gratitude Friday: Travel

Post by Lauren

An easy gratitude selection this week. We have T in town from the US. We just returned today from a great overnight trip to Bernese Oberland where we explored the valleys, stayed in a peaceful Alp town, and scaled the mighty majestic Schilthorn. So, simply, this week, I am thankful for our ability to travel here. So many parts of this beautiful world are close and accessible to us during our time here. We are grateful for this opportunity and hope to make the most of it!

Here are some snapshots from the past two days:

Gimmelwald, Bernese Oberland

Murren, Bernese Oberland

Ascending to the Schilthorn with views of the Monk, Eiger and Jungfrau

Bon weekend, everyone!

A Page from the Swiss Rule Book: The Dryer

Post by Lauren

It isn’t unusual to see people wear the same outfit for a few days in a row in Europe. It’s a very common occurrence for your professor to wear the same outfit all week, or co-workers.

One theory I have is on the difficulty of doing laundry. We find ourselves very lucky to have a washer/dryer in our place. This isn’t normal. There are two main reasons someone wouldn’t have this in their home:
1. most buildings are older and don’t have the hookups.
2. the price is insane. I mean insane.

Buying a W/D in the US isn’t that bad. I did get a GE Friends and Family deal, but think mine maybe cost 800 for both, including the delivery. We were floored by prices upon arrival here. The low end units are about 3000 CHF for a pair, with most being in the 5000-6000 / pair range. Add on 20% for exchange rate and it ends up being more than a lot of cars.

I actually recently learned that there is a reason….that is, beyond the fact that everything is just laughably more expensive here. On of my books states that everything is tinier in Switzerland so they have to make special W/D units for this little country in order for them to fit into most bathrooms. You can then see how producing only a few units a year would raise the prices. And thank goodness we have the tiny ones. As you read in our post about their arrival, there are only 6 inches between the edge and our shower pit currently. If it were bigger, we couldn’t fit in the shower.

Don't be jealous that I can do laundry and shower at the same time.

But, these little guys can’t fit but maybe 8 garments at a time. Or two towels. Or maybe one set of sheets – if you are lucky to get the fitted and the normal in the same load. And then it takes 5 hours to do a completely load as the washer cycle is 2:20 and the dryer is 2:30. Don’t even think you’d be lucky enough to have a set of dry clothes after 2 ½ hours either. They are still wet at that point. I think it is some sort of protective mechanism to prevent wasting electricity. I mean, why would you even want your clothes to be dry when they come out of the dryer? So wasteful. Just kidding. I only have that attitude since I can’t trick the darn thing. I try to empty the bladder* turn it off/on and confuse the machine to dry it like a fresh load, but it knows. It’s smart. It turns for a minute until I leave the room. Then it shuts off again. There is no tricking a Swiss dryer to waste electricity. It wouldn’t be very Swiss of it. So I still have to air dry everything all over the house after it has dryer time.

*Don’t be jealous of the fact that our dryer has a bladder. You have to empty it after every load or else nothing gets dry at all. Don’t believe me or know what a dryer bladder is? Here is a shot….luckily the bathtub is right there so i don’t have to find out where to dump the entire tank.

This must be emptied between every load and sometimes during loads with heavy items like towels

My day-to-day life as a pack mule

Post by Lauren

Since we don’t use the car for day-to-day living for many reasons, usually all of our groceries and purchases come home with me on foot.

Also, in Switzerland, you have to bring your own bags to the store (and bag your own groceries too), so it requires a bit of planning.

Our artillery of bags.

This means:
–I never go anywhere without tying an errand on the way home to it, so a trip up the dreaded hill isn’t wasted and I don’t ever have to buy more groceries than I can carry
–I never leave the house without some assortment of canvas bags prepared for whatever I might buy when I am out.
–I never leave without some type of recycling to take back to the store. See a past post on recycling for more on this.

Strange things we have carried home so far:
–We carried our television set halfway home and bused it the rest of the way. Actually, Gabe carried it 80% of the time because I was a weakling…..but my wrist still is aching and not fit for yoga because of this experience. In the US, I’d be afraid of carrying a large purchase like this in public. But here, the average persons shoes cost more than our TV so i don’t think anyone was coveting it.
–I am sometimes seen carrying large house plants on trams and trains in order to get them home

My friend S bought a table and various other household things last week. She ended up having to tape everything to the table so she could carry it home and into the tram. Note: you can carry anything onto the tram as long as someone doesn’t help you. It all has to be manageable by one person or it breaks the law.

Never did I imagine myself saying this, but I the purchase of a shopping trolley to handle groceries. Here are a few I admire:

Which one do you think is most suited for me?

Why Everything is Always Closed in Europe

Post by Lauren

Before we decided to move, one of Gabe’s cons to moving to Switzerland was that stores weren’t open on Sundays. I questioned why that mattered so much and proclaimed that I would gladly exchange my current over-stressed situation for one that forbade errands to be done on Sunday. It would give me a chance to relax, after all instead of to squeeze in 10 errands from dawn til dusk! He just shrugged.

The jury is still out on preference, but I will admit I was a bit naïve on the impact this has to day-to-day life. I figured it was time to delve into the topic of Sunday closings as well as European vacation time.

Here is how it works here, without exception:

#1: All stores are open 9-7pm** on weekdays. They close at 5 or 6pm on Saturdays. Clincher: this includes ALL grocery stores.
#2: All stores are closed on Sundays. Clincher: this includes ALL grocery stores
#3: Stores are closed on any holiday. Even the random ones in the middle of the week that no one has ever heard of. Clincher: this includes ALL grocery stores

**Note, most of the time small stores, post offices, and independent businesses are also closed two hours for lunch. Forget getting stamps or nails from the hardware store during this time.

The nice thing is you don’t have to wonder if a store opens late on Sunday or is open on Sunday. In the US it was only Chic-fil-a you had to be careful of. Here, you just know its EVERYTHING!

Grande Vacances

You may already know that Europeans take off 4-8 weeks every summer for their grande vacances. We knew this from working with Europeans in the US but never gave a ton of thought to it except to be jealous.

When we first moved, a lot of people asked us where we were taking our holiday. I would reply that we were just working on settling and we planned to take some time in the winter holidays to visit friends and family. They would look at me strangely.

My French tutor informed me in mid-June that she was going to depart in a week for 6-8 weeks of vacation and we’d resume in mid-August, date TBD. I asked if we were still meeting the next week since she still had a week before she left. She looked at me funny and told me she had to pack over the next week for vacation. Oh.

Gabe was on a conference call and the question came up as one of the managers wanted to get the schedule straight of who was in when. Pretty much every single person he works with is off at least a full month in July/August. He likes it as he is getting to do a lot of big independent projects without a single person in the office.

While this works for Gabe, if you are in client services, you can’t work as your client is gone. Our friend A works with a client who was closed for August, so they encouraged him to take the month off as well.

It is very common to see signs all over town – restaurants, businesses – just closed for 8 weeks. A ran into this when she was baking her cake treats for a Canadienne buffet. The only bake shop in Geneva is closed for the entire summer, so she had to make do without it. We ran into last night when out to dinner with S & S. We arrived to the restaurant I selected in Carouge to find “closed” signs on a primo Saturday night due to their 3 week vacation.

This concept is very hard for Americans to understand. We have a personality of production and are generally not given a lot of vacation time. A few of us had a big conversation on this at the AIWC one day. How do they afford to take four weeks on vacation? How do businesses run without anyone there for 4 weeks? Don’t they need groceries on Sunday? What if you need medicine? If you are single and work full time, how do you ever get groceries or necessities…especially with so many lunch closings!?

The short answer that I was given is that it’s for their health. The Europeans believe that they will simply get sick if they don’t take at least a month off to decompress in the summer. While it is a stretch to afford a four week trip, they truly think they can’t afford not to do it in terms of stress/illness.

And in regards to the Sunday closings and early evening closings, that is the time that they set aside for families and charging their “batteries”. That is why it is forbidden to do any type of work – cleaning house, yard-work, taking out the trash, recycling, laundry, even drying laundry on a Sunday or after 8pm. It’s a time for rest for everyone. You aren’t allowed to exercise your hyper-productivity as a foreigner either. You’ll be pointed at and corrected.

And, it actually isn’t rooted in religion like you might think. My theory is that it maybe originally was. But now, its simply that they fear the stress will kill them.

Switzerland has the #4 life expectancy rate in the world. Take a look at this life expectancy chart. Many Western European nations are at the top. Should I continue to complain or take heed….maybe they have figured something out?


The fête commences

Post by Lauren

Every summer, Geneva hosts an amazing 10 day festival. Or maybe its 20 days? The “pre-fête” started around July 23. There have been swarms of people everywhere, rides, music nightly on 3 stages and food vendors galore for the pre-fête over the last 2 weeks. We’ve gone there twice for drinks already and to take in the international scene. You could have fooled me and called it a real festival, but it actually wasn’t the real deal.

The real fête started this past Thursday night with a grandiose fireworks display which is actually the petite (or little) fireworks. The big fireworks come at the end of the festival. S hosted a bunch of us at their home for a fabulous dinner and we walked down by the lake afterwards to enjoy the scene.

We have a friend coming in next week so we are really glad we have the entertainment of the festival at the lake to show him!

Gratitude Friday: Le cours de français est fini

Post by Lauren

it was an easy gratitude selection this week….French bootcamp is done! I even got a diploma!!

Kidding aside about the completion, I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to take this intensive course. Being immersed for 8-10 hours a day definitely accelerated me and my speaking. The University of Geneva hosted a wonderful program and I was really impressed by the organization of such an endeavor with all students being at different levels and no common language to teach in. It’s remarkable how we can all learn a language being taught in that same language we don’t fully know yet. They had fun, creative electives to lighten up the classroom teaching. I enjoyed the lunchtime story-telling and singing classes the best.

And, a big thanks to my very supportive husband for encouraging me to take it even though we had to foot the bill for the course ourselves. And also since many evenings, I would be a french zombie…trying to formulate questions and responses in French before realizing i didn’t have to do that with him. Thank goodness 🙂

We had a class picnic today to celebrate the final day. I thought it was everyone bring your own, but about half the people brought a delicacy from their country. Ozge made handmade cheese pastries from Turkey, Sabrina brought cookies from the Dominican Republic, Milica brought chocolates and fig newton type things from Serbia, and the Brazilian guys brought mango juice. Ricard ran out and bought some celebratory champagne which we enjoyed in the park as well, especially the distraction the popping made to all the other students!

We also gave our teacher, Sandrine, a card. I thought you’d enjoy seeing it as well.

Bon week-end everyone!

I can’t count to 100 anymore

Post by Lauren

One of the most frustrating things about speaking French in Geneva has to be the numbers 70-99. See, in French, once you get to 70, you have scary numbers that are math problems in themselves.

For example, 70 is 60+10 or soixante dix. When you progress to 71, 72, you add by a number already in its teens. So for 71, its 60+11, so soixante onze. And then for 72, its 60 + 12 so soixante-douze. And so on….

However, then for 80, its 4 x 20. And for 81, 82, you add by one, two, etc. So, for 81 it is 80+1, so quatre-vingts et un. 82 is quatre-vingts deux. And so on….

When you get to 90, it is 4 x 20 + 10. Back to the number in the teens. So, for 92, for exampe, its quatre-vingt-douze. And so on….

Why in the world don’t they use the same system? Why different names and different things to add, like 1 sometime and 11 sometimes?

And, this might be enough to give you a headache. Especially when you are at a store and they spit out numbers really fast.

However….enter…..solution!! I found out that in Switzerland, they use septante and nonante for 70 and 90. Then add by 1‘s. Ingenious. Those are easy!!! I was pumped I wouldn’t have to remember the really hard France French way.

In Lausanne, one town over, they use huitante for 80. Even better!! I started wishing I lived in Lausanne.

I made this chart for this blog post to help explain. I realize this may have been 15 minutes I’ll never get back as you are likely just skipping through the nonsense on this post.

But, alas…..when you go to different stores in Switzerland, they use a combination of all the above numbers. It’s unpredictable. So, not only do you have to know the really hard numbers, but you have to know all 3 versions.

Just imagine giving out a telephone number or even writing one someone gives you. It goes like this….

+41 079 589 78 92

You could be standing in one part of Switzerland. Imagine it…..

–5 miles away in France, one would say: plus quatre-vingt / zero soixante dix-neuf / cinq cent quatre-vingt-neuf / soixante dix-huit / quatre-vingt-douze

–5 miles away in Geneva territory, one would say: plus quatre-vingt / zero septante-neuf / cinq cent quatre-vingt-neuf / septante-huit / nonante-deux

–Yet, in Lausanne territory, where you are standing, you’d say: plus quatre-vingt / zero septante-neuf / cinq cent huitante-neuf / septante-huit / nonante-deux

Got that #?