Girls just wanna have fun

Post by Lauren

I was gleeful when I ran into a group of singing French girls on my way home from the gym Saturday morning. They carried a huge basket of candy. I immediately associated it with Halloween and trick-or-treating.

But, alas, no. They were a bachelorette party making their way through the streets of Geneva. They approached all men for cash and would give them a piece of candy in return. Not sure if the cash was for the bachelorette festivities or the wedding fun.

Anyhow it brought a smile to my face as the boarded the pink tram (decorated for Breast Cancer Awareness month).

Notice the person in the foreground looking aghast at the horror of it all.

Halloween in Geneva

Post by Lauren

In Europe, Halloween isn’t such a big holiday. Gabe & I had a few friends over so that we could properly celebrate.

First, he carved a pumpkin, which is a necessity for Halloween. By the way, large pumpkins are sold sparingly at the big grocery store, labeled Gros Halloween, or Fat Halloween.

Then, I made a few “scary” dishes:

Then, a few friends joined us for the fun. Note, most of them came on public transport and got lots of odd looks. Including people who were taking photos of them. Again, Halloween is very strange here, especially to dress like characters (see yesterday’s post).

You are probably wondering who won the pumpkin? Well, the big prize goes to The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo.

Congrats and Happy Halloween!

The American

Post by Lauren

Since Gabe’s company has headquarters in the US, they encouraged all the employees to dress up Friday. Here is Gabe dressed as Magnum PI. It was relatively easy to pull off since he had a Hawaiian shirt and cap and S & S had given us a bunch of mustaches (you’ll see why for tomorrow’s post). Anyhow, comparing the two, I think he did quite well for a costume pulled together in ten minutes, morning of.

Since only about 5% of his office is from the US, he knew that people may not know Magnum PI. However, he figured he would get equal education in their characters….maybe some politicians, movie stars, etc. However, people only dressed up like witches and goblins.

We now know the European definition of Halloween is to dress up like a scary thing, not characters, historical references, or pop culture icons like we do in the US.

Lesson learned.

At the end of the day, they circulated an email featuring everyone who participated. People had subtitles of Goblin, Witch under their photos.

Gabe’s simply said, “The American”.

Gratitude Friday: Autumn in Switzerland

Post by Lauren

This Friday, I just wanted to express my gratitude for Autumn in Switzerland. Since our house hunting fell in Winter and our move in Spring, Fall is the last season that I have yet to see. It was worth the wait…..

 

Bon weekend, everyone!

 

I’ve got wheels.

Post by Lauren

No…I haven’t learned how to drive our car, Sven, yet. But I have my own set of wheels. I finally got a grocery caddy. If you ever told me that I would get excited about owning a grocery caddy I would have laughed at you. But after 5 months of living in a city without the ability to use a car, the day has come.

The cool thing about it is that it folds up. My French teacher was quick to point out it wasn’t very good for heavy loads since there wasn’t a structured base. I agree. But nevertheless, I like it because if grocery shopping is 3-4 errands into the day, I don’t want to have to drag a full grocery caddy platform around.

Pulling this guy up our steep hill still gives a workout but its a lot easier than carrying four bags of heavy groceries on my shoulders.

The Price Is Right – France vs. Switzerland

Post by Lauren

Do you remember the Grocery Game on the show The Price Is Right? I used to love watching this show when I was a kid. So for the spirit of fun, we are going to play the game on this blog with the prices of goods in France vs. Switzerland.

Good luck guessing. A little more challenging than Bob Barker’s version.

The prices are equalized by currency, and I took it a step further to actualize it into American dollars. So, euros x 1.4 and Swiss Francs x 1. 2.

Be a sport. Scroll til you see the product and no more before you guess the prices.

Roll of Pizza Dough:

Switzerland:

$ 6.48 (5.40 CHF)

France:

$ 2.80 (1.37 euros)

500 Grams of Spinach

Switzerland:

$ 7.08 (5.90 CHF for 300 g)

France:

$ 3.50 (2.50 euros for 500 g)

Kronenbourg Beer 10 pack

Switzerland:

$ 10.68 (8.90 CHF)

France:

$ 5.72 (4.09 euros)

 


Guacamole, jarred*
I know, its gross, but beggars can’t be choosers

Switzerland:

$ 6.60 (5.50 CHF)

France:

$ 3.02 (2.16 euros)

Canned green beans

Switzerland:

$ 8.22 (6.85 CHF)

France:

$ 1.33 (0.95 euro)

Coke 4 pack, 1 liter each

Switzerland:

$ 9.12 (7.60 CHF)

France:

$ 6.72 (4.80 euro)

 

So how did you do? I hope you were a winner.

Me, I’m depressed after putting together this game.

Swiss political ads

Post by Lauren

Switzerland held elections this past Sunday.

Leading up to the election, political ads have been in full force, covering trams, buses, and about 80% of the Geneva billboards. To be expected, right?

What wasn’t expected by me was the shocking nature of some of these campaigns. For a neutral country, they can be very direct. Particularly, the Swiss People’s Party ones which are fear based to stop “massive immigration”.

Believe it or not, this year’s campaign’s are tame :

Previous years have been a bit more appalling. I did a quick Google search and found some from the last big election in 2007. You really don’t need to know French or German to interpret the xenophobic message conveyed.

For more background, check out the CNN article here on the election results, or a portion of the Jon Stewart show which talks about the minaret topic.

Measuring. Never the same.

Post by Lauren

Aside from the language barrier, another barrier for those living in foreign countries is measurement.

 

No more inches, feet, yards, pounds, miles.

Everything is by the meter, the gram, the kilo.

And after 4 months, I still haven’t adjusted to grocery shopping in terms of measurements. I shy away from the meat and cheese counters as I am not sure I’ll know exactly how much to order. In the US if something like that happened, I’d just suck it up and buy whatever I ordered. Here, if I make a mistake in meat, my two steaks could cost the equivalent of $100 USD. No kidding.

And here are some more examples of how the quirks of measurement affect our lives:

Paper. Printer paper is not the same size. It’s about halfway between the US size and a legal size. I had to chop off the bottoms of my French assignments to get them to fit into my notebook.

Printing Photos. Here are the options for printing photos on my nearest photo lab machine. If I don’t happen to carry my tape measurer with me, I am screwed.

A4 is a apparently a common size in Europe to print photos for display. I needed to submit a display photo for the women’s club exhibition. After 2 hours of attempts to get my printer to do it and taking it on memory stick to printshop twice and not being able to find the right size, eventually, I had to ask someone else to do it. Talk about feeling incompetent.

Frames. Not the same. I am learning this with art. US canvases don’t fit Swiss frames. US frames don’t fit Swiss canvases. This was surprising to me that standards would be different in this area. I spent an hour in the art store and the frame store trying to figure out which ones would match each other for my upcoming art booth.

Weights. At the gym, all the weights are in kilos, not pounds. I feel really weak here.

Distances. Of course, everything is in km. We have tricked our GPS to talk in miles so we have a better concept of when a turn is coming up since we haven’t master the kilometer. Roughly, its 3.2 miles for 5 kilos, so I sort of just divide in half. The good news is that when you see a high number, it feels much faster when you reach your destination.

Outdoor temperature. I still remember someone at the women’s club exclaiming it would be high thirties in Spain that weekend. Everyone gasped and I just looked confused and tried to calculate it. I keep my weather updates in Fahrenheit on my iPhone & laptop because even though I know the math behind it, I have am not able to quickly do the conversion enough to make a judgement in what to wear.

Cooking temperature. Our oven of course is in Celsius degrees. I just tend to double what I think it should be in Fahrenheit. Truly, the math is to multiply by 1.8 and add 32, but doubling is just simpler to me. This might be why I burn a lot of things in our oven.

Furniture. They don’t have the same bed sizes here. A coworker of Gabe’s brought their mattress and sheets and planned to buy a bed frame in Switzerland upon arrival. They couldn’t find one to match so they ended up shipping a new US double bed frame to our house before our move so we could bring it with us.

Knowing this, I ended up bringing extra sheets since it would be impossible to get them here.

Annecy, France

Post by Lauren

We had to do some shopping for our upcoming Halloween festivities this weekend. Since groceries can be 1/2 to 1/3 the cost in nearby France, we decided to make a trip there to pick up the goods for the soiree.

Instead of picking a close border town, we chose to drive to Annecy, which is about 30 minutes from Geneva. Gabe had been to Lake Annecy before for work, but neither of us had been to the Annecy Old Town.

It was very charming. I loved the reflective colors in the canals that wove in and out of the charming French streets. I know my Mom will love this place when she comes to visit.

 

Our verdict on shopping in France is that it is really only worth it for large parties or stocking up on pantry goods. The Swiss are so strict on what goods you import, it took a lot of brain power when shopping to add up the weights to make sure we were under. In fact, I picked up a small frozen bag of veal meatballs and had to put them back because they were twice our limit.

We know not to push the limits. One of Gabe’s co-workers went to France to prepare for a big American style BBQ at her house. She bought 80 euros worth of meat there…a steal for a party….but ended up with 400 francs of importation fines. Ouch.

Check out Lady J’s blog more on shopping in France, including the limits.

Friday Hikes in the Swiss countryside

Post by Lauren

I had taken a sabbatical from Friday hikes for awhile because of my feet, but started back up for the past two weeks. I absolutely love the views walking in the countryside, so was grateful for time outdoors. Here are a few snapshots :

AVUSY, a 50 minute bus ride from center city Geneva:

 

GLAND to ROLLE, a 15-20 minute train from Geneva’s main station:

The great news is that between this and Burgundy last weekend, I have a lot more painting inspiration. I hope people like vineyards 🙂