Life in Switzerland
You know, I’ve been living now 4 1/2 years in Switzerland. We came straight from TEXAS…landed on Swiss chocolate, Swiss cheese, the Swiss alps and a whole of a country of yodeling things all Swiss. To say that I loved it, it’s an understatement. Don’t get me wrong!!! I really love my good ol’ USA…just not for the next 4 years. Maybe afterwards…who knows.
Here’s a little insight on things I find interesting…au contraire to how things are back home (in TEXAS).
Unlike in the US, here in Switzerland, the doors in our loft have handles instead of doorknobs. This is great! Believe me! I could be carrying loads of stuff, have my hands full of bags, and still open the door using my elbow!
Also, because all the doors are opened or closed with a key, well, it’s impossible to lock yourself out because they don’t have auto locks or can’t be locked with anything but a key. Just don’t lose your KEY!
See what I mean?
A plethora of fountains!
There’s nothing in Switzerland that is free. Switzerland, as many of you might already know, is very expensive. But if there’s one thing I found in Switzerland that is free: WATER. All you need is a bottle. Where can you find this water? In any of the public water fountains you can see practically everywhere you walk in Switzerland. They are everywhere and I mean everywhere. The water source? You guessed it! It comes from the alps!
A piece of advice: Fill up the empty bottle from the water that comes out from its “faucet” and not from the water already deposited in the fountain. If it’s not suitable for drinking, it will display a sign or it will read, “kein Trinkwasser”, “eau non potable” or “acqua non potabile”, in other words, don’t drink it!
We have about 10-12 of these fountains in our village, (population of 2,000!). It’s a small village!
Here in Switzerland, no matter where you live, you can always go to a local grower and buy fresh veggies, fruits, eggs, and/or milk. In some local growers you can even buy homemade bread and/or pastries! This comes pretty handy if you live in a small village, (that would be me), where everything is closed on Sundays.
Here are some pictures of some local growers that no matter what day, they’ll have stuff out there available for you to get:
Warte, Luege, Laufe!
In Switzerland, it is mandatory for children (as early as 4 years old) to be enrolled in Kindergarten. One of the first things they teach them to do is to walk to and from Kindergarten on their own. For that, they must learn Road Safety, yes…at the age of 4! All children are provided with a “Leuchtgürtel trägt” or bright safety belt. They wear this around their necks to alert cars of their presence in their neighborhoods. Then, the Police Department comes to the Kindergarten to teach the young ones how to “Warte, Luege und Lose, Laufe!”, in other words, “Wait. Look, then Walk!” safety tips for crossing the streets, roads, etc.;
As an American, for me, this was a big shocker, of course. We don’t teach our children to be in the streets, alone, at the early age of 4. For that reason, I walk my daughter to and from Kindergarten everyday!
You can trek pretty much anywhere. Here and there, you’ll see the signs…”WANDERWEG”. Everywhere!
Practically a 1/2 mile away from the footsteps of my place, I can find a forest, a hill, a place to trek. It’s Switzerland, so it’s pretty much a given. It’s truly one of the things I enjoy about living in this beautiful European country. You see people trekking all the time. Some ride their horses…nice! Others, and I’ve seen them myself doing this, ride their bikes with a basket to pick wild berries and truffles! If I knew how to look for them, I would be hunting for them as well. No matter the season, it’s always great to go for a trek here in Switzerland!
Let’s go to “die Badi”!
At the beginning, I had no idea what it meant, but as summer approach I asked myself where to go for a swim in Switzerland? Back in the US, I would go to my sister’s or a friend’s house for that. Sometimes, I would go to our neighborhood’s swimming pool. Our Homeowner’s Association would send us a “pool tag” or “pool ID” so that we could have access to the premises during the summer.
Here in Switzerland, hardly anyone has a pool. First of all, it’s expensive to own a property, imagine building or buying a house that has enough yard for having a pool. This is not popular around here.
The grand population of Switzerland goes to the Freibäder or “Badi” as one of my neighbors calls it. The Freibäder (Outdoor Swimming Pool), or Hallenbäder (Indoors Swimming Pool), are basically public pools. You pay when you go or you can buy the pass for the whole season. For example, we go to the “Badi” of Lenzburg. The Lenzburg Freibäder has a restaurant/café (great pizzas!), private and public cabins with their private and public bathrooms.
Here are pictures of the Freibäder of Lenzburg:
If you’re not into pools but are into nature, then how about the lake? In Switzerland, you can practically bathe in any lake, any river, anywhere where there’s water. Mind you, they will have signs posted by areas considered a high risk for drowning.
Here is a picture of people swimming in a lake
“Red Light, Green Light”
It’s a funny thing! I didn’t notice this until I was driving the other day to the store…here take a look…
Weird, ha? Another little thing I realized that it’s different from the great USA. That’s all!
I must confess! This is the 2nd time in my life that I have actually been to a puppet theater. Puppetry is very popular here in Switzerland. A puppet theater such as this one is mainly for children’s entertainment. The topics are of ancient stories, fables and/or fairy tales. All throughout Europe you can find marionette theaters that depict popular plays (Shakespeare for example), while others are strictly for operas and ballet like The Nutcracker. This is a part of entertainment that I have never been exposed to. The first time I saw a puppet show was more like “The Muppets”-version of puppet show. Nothing like this! This is a traditional puppetry rooting back to la commedia dell’arte-16th century Italian marionette theater.
Here are more pictures of this event:
I just went to a children’s puppet theater with my daughter. Although it was for the children, I must say, I enjoyed myself….very much!
“Across the border shopping”
Yep, I do it, my neighbor does it, a lot of people here do it. Why? Everything in Switzerland is expensive. So, it comes to no surprise that the Swiss go across the border to do their shopping sprees. Take eggs for example: I can get 10 eggs for 5 CHF (swiss francs). That would be, more or less, about 5.50 dollars. Yep, expensive. Every time I mention this to my sister she asks if the eggs are made of gold, come with a gift…etc., as if each egg possesses magical powers! Nope! None of that. The chickens are no more special than those raised in Germany or anywhere else in the World.
There are a couple of places that the Swiss shop across the border with Germany: Laufenburg, DE, Waldshut, DE, Bad Säckingen, DE and Basel. Basel borders the German and French borders. I normally go to Laufenburg, DE. However, if I want a little bit of scenery, then I go to Bad Säckingen. It’s nice over there! The shops, the food, only 20 minutes away from where I live…yep.
In November, children here in Switzerland turn turnips into lanterns. They carve them as we would do with a pumpkin, insert a candle at the bottom of the turnip, and voilà, a lantern is born!
I have pictures here to demonstrate the process:
That same night, all the children from the Kindergarten and Elementary School go out in a procession, singing the Räbeliechtli song, lighting up the dark streets of our town. When it’s over, we all gather around the big school to conclude the procession with more songs. Afterwards, the children that participated in their Räbeliechtli are rewarded with a Bratwurst, Brot and a heiss Getränke!
This does not exist in Texas for all I know, but here in Switzerland it’s a must! So, if you have a dog in Switzerland, you must pick up after your dog. Yep, I am talking about the poo poo. And for that, you will see in almost every corner, in any woodsy trail, in the cities, anywhere in Switzerland, you can find a “Robidog”
The Robidog will supply you with the plastic disposable bag needed to pick up the poo poo. You pick up the poo poo and dispose of it at any Robidog trash/stand. You could also dispose of it at any garbage container that you see outside. For all I know, this is allowed (at least where I live in Switzerland).
This is a “Robidog”
Love this “Hero”
This is 100% Swiss made, all the way since 1886. HERO Swiss jams, honey, etc., and I have pretty much seeing it served everywhere in Switzerland, including my beautiful house! What can you say, the Swiss are very proud of their own makings…wouldn’t you? They also make their own pastas, tomato sauces, even chili con carne (canned, of course). When you visit their factory shop you can buy these and many other products they make at factory price! Isn’t that great?
Pictures of the ones I have at home! Courtesy of my neighbor!
I love my sweet Hero!
“Samichlaus” is coming to town…
Here, in the German speaking part of Switzerland, St Nicholas is Samichlaus, the Swiss Santa Claus. He’s accompanied by his Schmutzli. These are Santa’s helpers who are dressed in brown cloaks carrying a bag full of oranges, peanuts and chocolates to pass on to the children as they are visited by Samichlaus. Unlike the USA, Samichlaus comes to visit the children on the eve of the 5th of December to find out if they have been good throughout the year. The following day is St. Nicholas Day and the feast begins. In Fribourg, Switzerland, the patron saint is St. Nicholas, so you can imagine the celebration they put out for St. Nicholas.
We get lucky! We get to celebrate both days, the 6th and the 25th, when our Santa Claus comes and leaves us presents underneath the Christmas tree! -(given the fact we have been good all year!)
A Swiss Fondue “Chinoise” night…
Switzerland is known for many things, including Fondue. But there’s another type of Fondue well known in Switzerland and that is the “Fondue Chinoise”. It basically means that is a hot pot full of broth to have your meats and vegetables cooked. You use the Fondue forks to transport your fixings into the hot pot, and then remove. With the Cheese Fondue, you are just dipping the bread into it. In the “Chinoise” you put the meat, veggies, etc., in the hot pot to get cooked.
I have done many “Fondue Chinoise” at my house, but I must say, I did enjoy having it at the restaurant as well, accompanied by some friends.
” Frohe Weihnachten” everyone!
It’s Christmas and in Switzerland they also decorate Christmas Trees…small Christmas Trees. I wanted to buy a big 8 ft tall tree, but I couldn’t find one! On average, they are about 5 ft. That’s it. Now that we bought a small tree, I kind of like it, even more than the 8 footer we used to buy back in Texas.
The Glühwein will keep you warm…
This is my new favorite drink during the Christmas Holiday! The Glühwein, (or mulled wine) is basically a red wine served hot. It will have spices such as cloves, cinnamon, and orange juice, etc., and some places will add brandy, rum, amaretto or something else. I personally like the one with amaretto. It’s really full of flavor and it’s hot, which serves its purpose during the winter. A couple of these ones and you’ll be set for the night! The cool thing about these mugs are that when you buy a Glühwein at the Christmas Market, you get to keep the mug as well. Nice, ha?
‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, la la la la…, and when in Europe, you must visit the Christmas Markets. In fact, they are so popular in Europe that you can actually take the “Christmas Market Holiday Cruise” to visit the markets along the Rhein! Lucky for me, I live in Switzerland, and I can tell you…Christmas Markets here are worth the visit. So, if you’re in Europe during Christmas time, do visit them. You’ll get totally intoxicated by the smells of Gingerbread, Glühwein and all things Christmassy.
A Coffee Tea, please!
It’s called INCAROM. It’s instant coffee containing Chicory, the herb. You add water, milk and sugar. That’s it. It tastes pretty much like regular instant coffee, but no bitterness to it.
“Einen besonderen Tag”
I love it when my daughter’s school takes the entire school on a field day to go somewhere in Switzerland. All paid. You’re only responsible for making sure your kid has enough food to eat and drink. Everything else is taken care of. Things have changed, big time. I mean, look how my daughter rolls today on a field trip…
In Texas they use school buses or a charter bus, but nothing like this. These buses reminded me of the Tour buses in used in Europe for the tourists. Here, they always go for the best.
It’s a farmer’s thing…
I see this a lot around here, where I live in Switzerland. I’m guessing it’s because it has been fashioned that way. Besides, I live in a small farming village. It comes with the territory. Still, I think it’s pretty neat.
It’s my birthday!
This is very Swiss because we, Americans, don’t do this sort of thing…making big announcements about turning 40 years old.
We don’t brag about it as much as you see it here. I don’t remember anyone back in the USA bragging about turning 50! Then again, we should feel good about turning 50, right?
Zum Geburtstag viel glück…!
It was my daughter’s birthday. She was still in Kindergarten, and she was about to turn 6 on February of 2014. That morning, her entire class accompanied by her two teachers came to pick her up on a wagon. They gave her crown to wear because she was Queen for that day. I thought this was pretty cool for the kids to get a special kind of treatment on the day of their birthday. I made cupcakes and send them with some strawberries so that they can have some goodies during her party celebration at school.
Snail you later….!
This type of snail is everywhere. Apparently, it’s a very common snail of Switzerland where you can have even about 20 adult snails per square meters. Yep, they destroy plants and are a pest, but I must say, they’re very cute! “Hang on, little fella…!”