European Fashion: The Man Bag

While I admit that I don’t quite “fit in” here when it comes to fashion, I do enjoy checking out the trends.    What’s different than the US?    Overall, men dress in more tailored gear here in Europe.     They often wear dark skinny jeans, tees, and man scarfs.     They rarely ever wear baggy clothing, polo shirts, any logo gear, or athletic shoes / clothing in public.

Today, we are going to explore the fashion phenomenon of the “man bag”.

Man bags come in many shapes and sizes.  They are prevalent across Europe.   Sometimes they are large, for carrying gym clothes and other odds and ends, and sometimes they are small, more like a purse, or as I like to call it, a “murse”.

Here are a few shots from day-to-day life in Europe so you can get an idea of the variety:

Man Bag #1.   I’d say it is more of a “murse” than a man bag.

Man Bag #2.  More of a work messenger bag.

Man Bag #3. Dublin, Ireland.  This athletic style is very popular.

Man Bag #4. Dublin, Ireland.  Another fairly common black athletic style.

Man Bag #5. Montreux, Switzerland.  Making the USA proud.

Man Bag #6.  Man travel bag, Frankfort airport

Man Bag #7  Guy making out with his girlfriend wearing a mix-tape designed man bag

Scotland visit man bag.  We think this guy was from Italy though.

Man bag #8 Bag seen on Scotland trip. We think this guy was from Italy though.

A duo of black man bags in Vienna

#9 – A duo of black man bags in different material in Vienna

#10 - Handled man bag in Vienna's train station

#10 – Handled man bag in Vienna’s train station

If you have a man bag, what do you carry in it?   If you don’t have one, what would you carry?


The Brazilian Beauty Salon

The day of the wedding, D’s mom, Mama I, arranged for hair appointments for all of us.  While I encourage Gabe to get his hair cut in every country we go to (it is half or third of the price of Geneva), I had never had the pleasure of an international hairdo.

Pippi Longstocking?

D’s cousin worked at the salon where we went so she was in charge of telling all the stylists what needed to be done.   We all selected our styles out of the book and Miss L, D’s sister, translated our preferences.

Trying to decide on styles

We enjoyed the different experience, commenting how busy the salon was.

Daughter Awesome had taught me & Gabe that most Brazilian women make salon appointments for Friday, to prepare for the weekend, no matter what the income bracket.  She explained that rich went to the rich salons and the poor to the poor salons.  You either had your nails, makeup, or hair done.   Just for the weekend!

I haven’t had a pedicure in one full year, so I was very jealous of this frequency!   Even young girls were in the salon getting pedicures as early as eight.  I guess you have to start with the beauty routine early….the Brazilians are such beauties!

Mama Mia getting her do

The Sensuous Siren after her curls were set

Mama Mia and the aunts delighted in the coffee, which the salon girls brought out on a tray, with china.   This is something we are used to in Switzerland – a more formal presentation for food & drinks, but this custom blew them away.  There was a picture taken of everyone receiving their lovely coffee treat.

Mama Mia, the world’s #1 coffee lover, was delighted.

While our curls set, we started getting called up for makeup.  The makeup was more dramatic than we were used to, which I think was a really neat for the big event.    I had already planned to ask for dramatic due to my more casual dress.  However, after seeing some of the aunts, I decided that asking for dramatic in an already dramatic country might be a little overkill.

Glamour Queens with their lovely make up complete.

Miss L translated what I wanted to her cousin, and I loved it……. D’s cousin is really talented in this area.  In fact, everyone loved their bold Brazilian wedding look.

As things frequently do in Brazilian, time got a little off track with timing.  So, D, the bride, had to step in and finish about five of the hairdos while her cousin focused on the makeup.

I will mention that D is a talented hairdresser, so she felt like this relaxed her instead of sitting watching.   However, since she has been in the US for ten years, the salon patrons did not know.  So you can imagine that they were very curious about our whole group and what the heck was going on!

D, finishing Mama Mia’s updo

D doing her mom’s hair, Mama I

In the end, we all walked out a lot more glamorous and ready for the big ceremony.

Don’t you love the dramatic makeup and styles???

Mama Mia and The French Cougar

Floridian Fox, Sensuous Siren, French Cougar and Mama Mia

Mama I & Dashing Dad’s beautiful girls

Amsterdam’s Bike-Loving Lifestyle

I think there are more bikes in Copenhagen than Amsterdam, but it more obvious in Amsterdam.   Every nook and cranny is filled with bikes.

Typical canal scene in Amsterdam

Bike parking

They even have a bike garage at Centraal Station to contain all of them.  We’d seen it last trip, but it was neat to see it from the water.

Bike garage

This trip, I noticed a “bike boats” that were built to contain some of the ones that were spilling off the street.

Red boats of bikes on the right

The Dutch are very talented at their bike riding.   You often see them talking on the cell phone, and some of the women apply make-up while navigating their bike.  I’d be in a canal if I were them!

I noticed a few things that are crucial if you are Amsterdam biker:

–Many people have “saddle bags” that are meant for their things – purses, work bags, groceries.

–A lot of folks have extra seats, for children or friends.  Even if there was no seat, we saw a lot of people “side saddling” the bike while their friends drove them along.

Image courtesy of

–Carts are good for multiple children. We saw one fellow driving with his infant in a baby carseat and an extra toddler in the cart on the front of his bike.

Bike with a seat on the back and a cart on the front.

–It’s popular to decorate your bike.  Either by weaving your basket with artificial flowers, or by painting it an unusual color, like bright pink.   Heck, I don’t blame them.  I commented that I’d want a GPS tracking device for my bike since I’d be afraid if I lived in Amsterdam, I’d constantly forget where I parked with the bike storage chaos!  It pays to stand out!

–People with nice bikes have this special system that allows you to lock your bike without a chain-type mechanism.  Ferdinand and Isabella wondered if bike theft was a problem, since there were so many.  Ferdinand commented that as long as you didn’t have the nicest bike, you might be safe!   However, we know someone  living in Amsterdam who had their nice bike stolen, so it is possible.

–Some people who we met in Amsterdam taught us about the term “time travel”.  Apparently if one has had too much to drink, bikes home, and ends up the next morning with unidentified scrapes and bruises caused by a likely bike accident, you would remark, “last night, on my way home, I time traveled”.

–Some of my Dutch friends told me if they see a group of yellow bikes or people with matching parkas, they know to steer clear.  They said tourists are out of control.  I’d agree……when we rode in November, I didn’t fare so well on the bike (almost had death by tram).  But, it certainly inspires me to ride more when in Geneva or in the States when we return.

if I lived in Amsterdam, I’d want this bike


Post by Lauren

Because of the limited mobility of my feet, it was much easier to ride in a wheelchair for the longer distances when traveling with Gabe’s family.  I have gotten permission to walk up to 30 minutes at a time (at a snails pace) but I am supposed to keep them elevated the rest of the day if I walk that much.  By riding in a chaise roulant (French for “wheelchair”), we didn’t have to stop and take 1000 breaks.  It is also easier for Mama Mia when doing long long days of tours and exploration to ride in the same style.

Hanging out in the courtyard of the hospital where Van Gogh lived / painted.

However, wheelchairs are not common in Europe.  Or so we are guessing by the stares we received while riding in them in the three countries we visited.   Not kidding that people would stop in their tracks and look.  For extended amounts of time.

In Zermatt, we guessed that maybe thought it had something to do with the thought of ski accidents since it is a huge winter sports town.  Maybe it scared them for what was ahead on the slopes the next day.   I joked with Gabe that if someone asked, I was going to tell them that it was a result of heli-skiing on the Matterhorn.

Attracting curiousity in Zermatt

In Milan, as Gabe pushed me along the streets of the fashion capital, we realized that this particular accessory also garnished a lot of looks.

In Nice, an 8 year old girl rollerbladed backwards for an entire minute so she could continue to gawk as we strolled/rolled down the Promenade d’Anglais.  I was worried she might collide and need one herself by the time the viewing was over.

I wonder why wheelchairs aren’t as common in Europe?   Maybe its the difficulty of cobblestones or lack of access to elevators & handicapped bathrooms due to older buildings?

Anyhow, just another culture difference we are learning about.

Suiting it up in Geneva

Post by Lauren

Barney Stinson would love Geneva. Obviously for the level of awesomeness, but really the fellows in Geneva really know how to “suit it up”.

I still find it amazing to see everyone in their perfectly pressed suits whizzing by on their mopeds to work, on their bikes, and motorcycles. Men and women.

If you walk down the downtown Geneva anytime between 9a and 11a, you are sure to have a 3:1 suit to normal wear ratio. It makes me feel super self conscious since I am normally found in my gym clothes at that time.

If you think I’m kidding, even the guys at Globo gym behind the reception desk wear suits. Seriously..the gym?

I learned recently that the word suit in French is costume. I find this particularly funny in Geneva.

Look!!! A big sale on costumes!!

For more Swiss fashion trends, check out A’s blog.

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?

Gratitude Friday: Cosmopolitans Anyone?

Post by Lauren

This Gratitude Friday, my post is both a vocabulary lesson and a story of my appreciation for this new word.

Before moving to Switzerland, my definition of the word “cosmopolitan” consisted of : #1 the pinky yummy martini, #2 the magazine, and #3 maybe an adjective to describe a swanky metropolitan environment.

Pre-Geneva me knew cosmopolitan as this

I realized I was a bit naïve in this area when our cultural trainer Gary kept referring to Geneva as “cosmopolitan”. See, we’d been there just a month prior and I wouldn’t have described it as using the word cosmopolitan, as I knew it. In fact, what came to mind was beautiful, ancient, wordly and a bit ecclectic.

However, thanks to Wikipedia, I learned the proper definition of cosmopolitan is:
–A city/place or person that embraces its multicultural demographics
World citizen, one who eschews traditional geopolitical divisions derived from national citizenship
Cosmopolitanism, the idea that all of humanity belongs to a single moral community
–Cosmopolitan Society/Cosmopolitan City, where people of many ethnicities, religions and cultures meet and live in close proximity (especially applied to busy sea ports)

Well, in living in Geneva, I think I would agree with those better than my prior vocabulary.

In fact, Geneva is quite an anomaly compared to the rest of Switzerland. In training, we learned about Swiss stereotypes, how our personalities matched to their customs, and how to adjust our behaviors accordingly. However, Geneva is more “Swiss-light”, with a big influence from France, and an even bigger cosmopolitan influence.

One big reason is the proximity to France and influence of French culture, food, language, and architecture. Fast Fact: the canton of Geneva shares only 4 km of border with Switzerland, but 108 km with France. I read that most Swiss Germans don’t even consider Geneva really part of Switzerland at all!

the tail is not wagging the dog here

However, probably the biggest reason is the cosmopolitan nature of Geneva. Based on the numerous humanitarian agencies, world organizations, and corporations headquartered here, 40% of Geneva residents are foreigners. There are people here from all over the world, living, working, and bringing their cultural influences in. Just in my own experiences, there are 40 nationalities represented at my church and 54 at my women’s club. It’s mind boggling!

So, onto Gratitude Friday. I absolutely love this about Geneva: interacting with people from completely different backgrounds as me and the exposure to all of their opinions, interests & beliefs.

Here are just a few specific examples of this :

In my Monday French classes, there is a South African woman, an Ethiopian woman, a Dutch woman, a British woman and me. Our teacher, Esther, is Swiss and was a teenager during WW2 here. All learning French together, we all have different accents and interpretations of words which is really entertaining and Esther considers it her English lesson at the same time.

Last week, Esther asked what the lady from South Africa thought of Nelson Mandela’s leadership, and it was a really neat education for me to hear firsthand from someone who lived there to hear about her own experiences. Prior to living in Geneva, I had never had this opportunity – all I learned was from movies and books.

In my photography group, there are three ladies from the Netherlands, a few Americans, one from the U.K., one from Australia, and one from Brazil. We all bring different things to the table. I really enjoy how much time the women from the Netherlands take to find out how you are doing and to learn about you. I always felt so much in a whirlwind that I am not sure if I have done this enough with people.

Friend and fellow blogger, Lady J, has taught me about Singapore and her time in Japan and I love her passion for her favorite foods and her dedication to bringing those flavors to Geneva in a beautiful way.

At Canadienne Buffets, we have been so lucky to meet great people from China, South Africa & Australia who we really have enjoyed hanging out with and learning about their experiences.

So much to be grateful for this week when it comes to the word cosmopolitan!

Bon weekend!

European Fashion: The Man Scarf

Post by Lauren

One of the really intriguing things about living in Geneva is the incredibly International fashion scene here. Geneva has quite a selection of luxury goods available on the main rues – consisting of watches, jewelry and couture fashion.

The stores are so high-end here that after 8 weeks living in Geneva, I still have yet to walk into one. It is best not to tempt myself as my clothing budget in one of the top 5 most expensive cities in the world would not get me very far.

Gabe and I were amazed on our visits. We’d peer into the beautiful windows and see ski jackets, leather boots.

“Really, nice,” we would comment.

Then we would take a closer look at the price tag and see a Columbia jacket that would be $200 in the US at 999 CHF ($1200 USD) and the boots I adored at 800 CHF ($1000 USD). It was then that we decided that most of our clothing shopping would need to happen back home in the US. In fact, if we needed to buy 4 pieces of clothing between the two of us, it would be less expensive for me to book a flight home to DC and purchase it at Tyson’s Corner and fly right back to Geneva.

While everyone dresses to the nines (except moi, who tromps around Rue to Rhone in my gym clothes on – gasp – my way to the gym ) , Geneva has quite a varied fashion scene as 40% of its residents are foreigners. It is one of the things that I really enjoy – the exposure to different ways of dressing and people watching while waiting for the tram or bus.

One of the fashion trends for European men is the man-scarf. This is not commonly seen in the US unless it is the dead of winter, but it is very popular here…in fact, all of these shots were taken in one July weekend. It is so much more a fashion accessory than a necessity for warmth that many sport it with short sleeve tees. Anyhow, I think the guys pull it off well.

So, we need to decide if we are going to get Gabe on the scarf-train.

Please leave a comment below with your vote – scarf for Gabe? Or leave it to the European men?