Swiss Minimum Wage

Post by Lauren

One of the interesting things about Swiss government is that any petition can be put to vote, through a referendum. You just need 50,000 signatures in 100 days for a Facultative referendum and 100,000 signatures for an Obligatory Referendum.

A petition table in Old Town Geneva



Before we left, there was a heated debate about a minimum salary in Switzerland.

Political advertisement for minimum wage change

The party who instituted the referendum was hoping for a minimum salary for full time employees of 4000 CHF / month which is about $60K USD a year.

Wow, that’s a lot for a minimum! Mental note – start seeking Swiss jobs more aggressively!

Equalized in USD but cost of living is not factored in. This would affect these #s quite a bit.


As it turns out, only 40% came out to vote and the referendum was not passed. They hope to revisit it next year.

Swiss Holidays: L’Escalade

Post by Lauren

This weekend was the annual L’Escalade celebration. In French, “escalade” means climb. In 1602, the Savoys (now France) wanted Geneva badly. It was its own republic and not to mention, a free town. The Duke of Savoy wanted to push out Protestantism and make it his capital. So, his army secretly gathered and tried to climb into the city gate with ladders. They were thwarted and Geneva kept its independence. Thus, the holiday’s name.

 

Geneva, back in the day. Courtesy of wikipedia - escalade-battle-2.jpg

 

I was originally told that there was a lady was up late at night cooking soup who heard the climbers and dumped her boiling pot of vegetable soup on their heads and their screams woke up the Genevois so they could defend their city. Apparently, this recount is false that she was the initial defender, but she did dump soup on one soldier’s head and killed him. And his screams woke up more people. She also was the mother of 16 children.

And to commemorate the brave Madame Royaume (the soup thrower lady) they have a marmites (chocolate cauldrons) into which they dip marzapan vegetables to symbolize her vegetable soup. How this correlation was made, I am not sure, but I do know that the confectioner’s on Rue de Marché are very grateful.

 

A typical chocolate display for L’Escalade. I can’t imagine what the big pot cost. Also below are marzipan vegetables.


Nevertheless, the Escalade celebrates Geneva’s victory and all weekend, people are gathered in Old Town, dressed in period attire. We went Saturday to explore.

Every half hour, there were demonstrations on musket firing, cannons, and battle scenes.

Just for L’escalade weekend, they open the Passage de Monetier, a secret passageway that was used during enemy attacks. It was very tight!! They served vin chaud, a hot spice wine that was very handy to keep warm. I don’t recommend having four cups if you want to have a productive Sunday.

Sunday, we went to the grande cortege, or parade. It was really cool and done in the dark so it is by candlelight, to mimic the time of evening of L’Escalade. There was lots of fire involved and thousands of Genevois in costume.

 

At the end, they do a huge bonfire in St. Peter’s Cathedral.

We enjoyed our first L’Escalade and are glad to live in this city so proud of their heritage!

 

Maybe we got Halloween all wrong

Post by Lauren

This weekend is a big weekend in Geneva history, L’Escalade. I knew there would be historical celebrations in store. What I didn’t count on was hundreds of teenagers, in costume, throwing eggs and flour at each other in downtown Geneva. In fact, I was almost caught in the cross fire coming home from Globo Gym Friday.

No one seemed alarmed at all. See all the passerbyers just checking their blackberries, smoking their cigarettes, in all black, of course. I consulted wikipedia, and yes, it quotes, “Teenagers tend to throw eggs and flour at each other as part of the celebration”.

Good that we cleared that up. Here are a few photos from this mornings wait for the bus:

Glad I made it safely home instead of being made into a cake.

Gratitude Friday: An Amazing US Trip

Post by Lauren

This post was easy. We are very grateful for an amazing three weeks in the USA. We were able to fit so much in, and in all, I think we saw easily over 100 friends and family members. Below is a pictorial recap:

WASHINGTON, DC
We stayed the night with great friends after landing at Dulles at 4pm. Conveniently they live 5 minutes away from the airport and a Mexican restaurant. Two amazing things when you are jet-lagged. We enjoyed an evening with them and had a 7am flight to:

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

I was able to participate in our annual Casserole Christmas. This holiday was born when there was a group of us Southern gals working together who discovered that Isabella usually didn’t have casseroles for Thanksgiving and Christmas, mainly fresher Californian type foods. We wanted to showcase our heart-heavy casseroles for her, so this event was born with about 6 or 7 of us. As you can see, there are a few Casserole-lovers in the making. One is a 2nd child, one a 3rd and another a 4th child – can you believe it?

I was able to participate in our annual Casserole Christmas. This holiday was born when there was a group of us Southern gals working together who discovered that Isabella usually didn’t have casseroles for Thanksgiving and Christmas, mainly fresher Californian type foods. We wanted to showcase our heart-heavy casseroles for her, so this event was born with about 6 or 7 of us. As you can see, there are a few Casserole-lovers in the making. One is a 2nd child, one a 3rd and another a 4th child - can you believe it?

We also hosted Pizza Night. Since we had limited time in Charlotte, we thought it was the only way we could see such a volume of friends with most working. We just ordered some food into our empty house in Charlotte. We wish we could have spent more time talking to everyone but are thankful that those who were able to joined us, did!

We also hosted Pizza Night. Since we had limited time in Charlotte, we thought it was the only way we could see such a volume of friends with most working. We just ordered some food into our empty house in Charlotte. We wish we could have spent more time talking to everyone but are thankful that those who were able to joined us, did!

APPOMATTOX, VIRGINIA

We were so fortunate C & J were in town (for the previous Thursday night Hokie Game) with their new little bundle of joy. They brought her over after we arrived for playtime and Mom, Annette and I fought over who played with her.

 

We had the pleasure of visiting with all but one of my aunts/uncles in Appomattox (don’t worry, we got to see them later!). Mom had also arranged to have my stepsisters and their families join us for a Thankgiving brunch. What a full time of fun!

 

CINCINNATI & COLUMBUS, OHIO

We continued onto Cincinnati. We stayed with Andres for a night in his cozy Victorian. We went out for sushi and then onto The Lackman, a really cool bar in downtown Cinci. I am sad I didn’t take a photo except for this one of Gabe and Maude on the sofa. But, I made up for it in Columbus where we got some shots of N & L’s adorable girls. We learned that a 2 year old can operate an iPad better than I can. It helps that she is above the curve, but still….I have some catching up to do.

 

MENDON, OHIO

In Gabe’s hometown, we had 3 Thanksgivings, a birthday, and an engagement to celebrate. We had absolutely beautiful Ohio weather. We were excited to have my Mom & Buster join us for the final Thanksgiving.

 

ATLANTA

Gabe worked in Atlanta but during the evenings we were able to visit friends and family. We were able to meet Baby S finally. I also got to meet Baby CA as I didn’t get to see her before we departed for Switzerland. We celebrated my cousins wife’s birthday with them at their home. Also, I got to have an all day date with a dear friend for some catch up time and as a bonus, we picked up her cute twins at daycare.

NEXT, WE SEPARATED. GABE WENT TO PHILLY AND NEW YORK TO VISIT FRIENDS & FOR GUYS TRIP. I RETURNED TO CHARLOTTE TO CELEBRATE A BDAY AND VT GAME.

Next, we separated. Gabe went to Philly and NYC to visit friends and for his annual guys trip.  I returned to Charlotte to celebrate a birthday and VT game.

Whew, what a great time! We are thankful that everything went smoothly. All the flights were relatively on time and we lost no bags (checking 4 each time!). We are also very thankful we got to see so many people and we didn’t get sick. I was a little paranoid about getting some sort of cold when I had a full schedule of meeting infants.

We are truly blessed.

We are going to rest this weekend to catch up from all the fun! Bon weekend, everyone!

Fighting Eeyore

Post by Lauren

This week, I have been a big Eeyore. I didn’t adjust well at first to coming back to Geneva this time.

This is me, the last few days. Oh Bother.

I haven’t been able to pin it down specifically on culture shock, jet lag, or the big perma-cloud looming over Geneva (read more about permacloud here from S). Or maybe its a case of all three at once.

Last return, it was easier. I hadn’t seen Gabe for a month so was counting down the minutes until I got back. We also had Andres visiting so I needed to reorient quickly to snap into action. And it was summertime, so lots of light to help get over the jet lag.

This time, I have been sleeping an insane amount. I have been disoriented. I have been rejecting the French language. I have been grumpy while grocery shopping in the blowing freezing rain while my umbrella yanked from the wind in my grasp. I have been wishing I had a car to do errands. I have been cold in our apartment even though the heat is turned up as far as we can get it.

And it wasn’t just internally noticed. Yesterday, I went to photography group and they all jested when I yawned through the whole class. During Skype with Mom, she told me it look like I had black eyes on her screen. Gabe asked me if he should be concerned.

But today, something changed….we had a gorgeous day of sunshine. And I felt normal again.

I bumped into W, a warm Dutchwomen, who leads our photography group. She commented on my changed face from seeing me the day before and said that I was “sensitive to the colors of the weather!”

It’s a beautiful saying to describe the blues.

Anyhow, glad the weather, jet lag and overall gloominess are rubbing off finally.

Goodbye, Eeyore.

An interview with ourselves

During our US travels, we got lots of inquiries about our first six months in Switzerland. So we figured we’d post the top ten questions & our answers in case we didn’t get to see you.

What is your favorite thing about Switzerland ?

We love being in the same city as one another. It was only 8 months ago that we were doing the long distance thing, so we are enjoying being with each other, avoiding Interstate 85 and not packing up on Sunday nights.

We really like Geneva. Its got great public transportation, fun summer activities and is in the middle of everything.

We also love our opportunity to travel during this time in our lives. We have a great location in order to explore Europe. We are trying to make the most of our time here by doing trips on the weekends. We have been to London, Madrid, Amsterdam, Florence, and lots of Southwestern France – Chamonix, Burgundy, Annecy, as well as ventured around our home country, Switzerland – Montreux, Gruyeres, and Interlacken.

What do you miss the most?

We both miss feeling like capable adults. In the US, there wasn’t much we couldn’t handle in terms of day-to-day life. Living in a foreign country feels like being a four year old sometimes….not able to talk properly, figure things out, or know how to function as an adult does. In fact, you can count on there being an uncomfortable situation every single day. Sometimes its not fun.

Oh, and we also miss Mexican. And pumpkin spiced lattes. And not being able to afford to buy anything but food.

Do you have any friends?

Yes, we are very lucky to have met lots of great people – both Americans and other nationalities. We enjoy learning about other cultures through our friends from around the world.

Do they have Christmas in Switzerland?

Christmas is a religious holiday of which Switzerland is 40% Protestant and 30% Catholic, so yes.

What season are you in?

We have the same four seasons as the US which occur at exactly the same time. It only gets flip flopped if you are south of the equator.

What time does it get dark there?

The same time as it does in the US. So, since it is winter, when it is 5pm our time, it gets dark. Except we are 6 hours ahead, so it is East Coast 11am.

Is it really cold there?

It’s not too bad. Geneva is one of the most mild cities in Switzerland. We haven’t seen any snow yet and the Fall / Winter has been pleasant.

What do they eat in Switzerland?

It is famous for chocolate and cheese. We eat dark chocolate every night. Fondue and raclette are cheese dishes that are really popular at restaurants but we only eat them when company comes because if we gain too much weight we won’t be able to afford new clothes. The restaurants are mainly French & Italian. There are a surprising number of pizza places because of proximity to Italy. The food in Geneva is not that spectacular compared to other cities we have visited in Europe.

What language do you speak there? Swiss?

Nope; there is no Swiss language. We speak French in Geneva. Other parts of Switzerland speak Swiss German, Italian or Romansch. It really depends on what country you border in your canton to what is the official language. Some have two. That would suck to live there.

If you have a kid while you are there, would it have Swiss citizenship?

We don’t plan on having children until we are back to the United States, but no, our child would not have Swiss citizenship. One parent has to be Swiss. They don’t give out citizenship here like candy bars here.

Feel free to ask more questions in the comments section. We’d be happy to answer them!

Alternative coffee culture

Post by Lauren

During our three week visit to the US, I consumed more pumpkin spiced lattes that most people consume in a lifetime.

If you have never had a PSL, I feel sorry for you. It is a little gulp of heaven.

There are really three reasons why I decided to overindulge in way more than my fair share of PSLs while in the States.

I love you, PSL!!!

Reason #1 – In Switzerland, there are Starbucks, but NO FLAVORED SYRUPs. This should be a crime. It’s like the movie theaters there that don’t serve popcorn.

All Fall, l had to endure the agony of people posting about PSLs on Facebook. This should also be a crime.

Reason #2 – I can’t afford Starbucks. Its like 10 US dollars for a latte. Since I am not currently working, I have to pass on going. Even when everyone else gets it. But its okay. Because there are no syrups its not as appealing as it would be in the US.

Reason #3 – Switzerland coffee culture. It is definitely a “NO-to-go” country. There are three Starbucks in Geneva and they are the ONLY place I know of that would give you a cup of coffee to go. Even still, you have to special order it that way, or else it comes in a mug. I am pretty sure it also comes with a dirty look.

The Swiss like to casually sit in a cafe and have a teaspoon sized baby espresso cup. It takes them like a half hour to drink it. While I am loving the slower pace, I simply cannot get used to this cultural difference. I like to have mine in a thermos and drink it continually.

How the Swiss do it.

Even when I bring a thermos with me on the tram in the morning, people stare at me. Just imagine the most confused look ever. That is what I get when I carry a coffee thermos. I thought it was because of the no-to-go, but S & S pointed out it also has a lot to do with size. Not that my thermos is large – its normal sized, but it is bigger than a thimble.

A few weeks ago, I saw another person with a thermos. Its the first time I had ever seen it so I decided to capture it as I surely will never see it again. I gave her lots of smiles on the tram as I wanted to show my support.

Concluding this coffee post, I am happy to report that we imported a 750 ml bottle of Pumpkin Pie syrup. No clue if it is anything like Starbucks, but one can hope. There is already an army of fellow ex-pat PSL fan friends in Geneva ready to try it out.

 

US by the numbers

Post by Lauren

We are back to Geneva after 3 weeks in the US. It was a great time spent with friends and family but we are T-I-R-E-D. If you don’t believe us, here are the numbers:

10 = the number of different beds we slept in during 3 weeks time
9 = the number of airports flown through during the trip
8 = the length in hours of the flight from Geneva to the US
7 = the number of flights we each took in 3 weeks time
6 = the number of doctor / dentist appts I had during the trip
5 = the number of bags that I had to carry on the last leg by myself
4 = the number of Thanksgiving meals we had with family
3 = the number of different rental cars we had during our trip
2 = the number of times my body weight of my baggage going back to Geneva
1 = the number train trips in the US
0 = the number of naps taken

 

*In the above map, purple is when we traveled together and red / blue when we were separate. Solid thin lines are flights, double lines are car trips and thick lines are train trips. If it hurts your head to look at it, think about booking all of it! It was all worth it though as we loved getting the time with everyone we were able to see.