Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What I miss

Since we've been here over 2 weeks already I thought I'd share a list of things I miss about the US. It will be interesting to see if in a few years from now I won't miss some of these things, but for now here it goes.

1. Cheap Food
Since we are living in a hotel and need to eat out often, this is our biggest complaint. The food is at least 3x more expensive than back home. We went to a pub the other day and their cheapest hamburger was $20. I guess that would be okay if it were a great hamburger, but it was awful! It looked like it was a microwaved burger. Even McDonald's is expensive! Almost $20 for a meal. It's is insanely ridiculous. I don't know why they have to charge so much.
2. Customer Service
People in the US seem much friendlier than here in Switzerland. In the streets of Neuchatel, nobody smiles at you and if you make eye contact with someone they just glare at you, no smile. This attitude is reflected when you go out to eat, or go to the grocery store, etc. The waiters/waitresses here act like they are put out by having to serve you. Most of the time you have to flag someone down to ask for a menu, then you never see them again. Sometimes it takes 20 minutes before someone comes to take your order. And again, they never seem to be smiling or friendly. Same thing at the grocery store, the bank, etc. No one seems happy or even willing to help. Makes me really miss the friendliness of all the waiters/cashiers/etc back home! Just the other day I had to call our bank back in Colorado and the lady was so nice that I didn't want to hang up the phone. It was nice hearing a friendly voice

3. Free Refills
It's really starting to irk me that they can get away with charging $4 for a 3dl (approx. 10oz) coke with no refills. In the States I could get a large soda with unlimited refills (and ice) for $1 at McDonalds. Do soda companies charge more for restaurants to serve there products here, or are the restaurants ripping us off? I'm not sure but I know when I come back to visit I will take full advantage of free refills!
4. Ice
I'm not fond of any drinks at room temperature. I like everything freezing cold. Most drinks here are served barely chilled with no ice. Thankfully our hotel has a fridge so I can buy my own drinks and keep them in our fridge. But even then they aren't cold enough, so I'll usually go down to the restaurant downstairs and ask for a glass of ice. They usually give me a really funny look and then they'll put 2 cubes in my cup. When I explain that I want the whole glass filled with ice, they usually scoff and I get a nasty look. But at least I have my ice.
5. 24 hr stores
After being in Switzerland for 2 weeks I can already tell that people take their time off very seriously. Not only do most people get 6 or more weeks of vacation, but I don't think you would find a work-aholic anywhere in Switzerland. It's a nice change from the US in that regard, but when all the grocery stores close at 6:30pm on weekdays and close all day Sunday it makes shopping a bit more difficult. I used to be one of those people who gets a craving for something and runs to the store at 8pm to get all the ingredients. Can't do that here. Store hours are very limited and once 6:30 comes around NOTHING is open. No kidding, NOTHING. It's a shock for me since I'm used to 24 hour Albertsons, Walgreens, etc.

6. Friendly Kids
Poor Jack has been hit/punched/pushed/kicked more times in the last 2 weeks here in Switzerland than in his whole life. The parks here are filled with little terrors. I have never encountered so many nasty kids before. Not sure if it is a big city thing, a Switzerland thing, a French thing or what but the majority of these children are awful. When we go to the park I have to watch Jack like a hawk and play referee for all the kids who try to run him down. When we do run in to a friendly child, chances are they are just tourists. I'm hoping when we find our apartment in the country the kids will be more friendly than the ones in the city.

7. English
We knew that it would be tough living in a country where we didn't speak the language. I guess it's just one of those things that you never realize how difficult it is until you are there. Not knowing the language is huge! I guess we assumed that most people would know english, but that is not the case. Just daily things like shopping, eating out, going to the park, etc. are a major pain in the butt when you can't speak the language. Nothing makes you feel like an idiot more than not understanding what the 3 year old at the park is saying to you!
8. Modesty
I'm not sure even where to start with this one... For one thing, sometimes I feel like I am back in Jr. High School. It seems every time I turn a corner, or walk down an alley I run into people in various states of PDA. We were at a park the other day filled with kids and families and there was this young couple who seemed to think that it would be the perfect place to strip down to there undergarments and fool around. It was really awkward ... to say the least.

The next thing that I find really unusual here is how many parents let there little boys pee wherever they want. I can understand that potty training is difficult and that sometimes it's necessary to let your kid pee behind a bush or tree, but here I have seen countless little boys walk down the pier, pull it out in full view of everyone and pee right into the beach water...where people are swimming. I never saw that back in the beaches in California. And little boys aren't the only ones with their pants down here... yesterday at the park a 4 year old girl was playing with only a T-shirt on. No pants, no diaper, just a T-shirt. She was playing in the sandbox with Jack and going on the slide and the climbing equipment... I guess in 10 years she will probably be the girl who thinks it's okay to fool around at the park in front of all the kids and families.

9. Chick fil A - Chipotle
Before moving here we'd hear the same two questions: 1. What language do they speak in Switzerland (French, German, Italian and Romanish) 2. What do they eat in Switzerland? Besides cheese and chocolate we didn't know what they ate in Switzerland. Now that we're here we have learned that the Swiss aren't known for their cuisine because it's (on the most part) pretty bland. We have not been impressed by the food here at all. Our $50 dinners are not even as good as a meal at Chipotle or Chick-fil-A.

10. Streets on a grid
You know you are in trouble when your GPS gets lost. That's what happened to us. Our relocation assistant has a GPS and she's been taking us around to look at apartments. The streets are nuts here, you can tell that no master plan was envisioned when designing these streets. It is impossible to drive here without a GPS, and even then sometimes the GPS doesn't know where to take you. Makes me miss all those planned communities back home.

Of course the thing we miss most about the US is all our friends and family! We are very close to having an apartment (hopefully more details on that to come soon), but you can rest assured that we will have wonderful guest accommodations and we EXPECT people to visit us! You will have a free place to stay and free home cooked meals, so that cuts 50% of the cost of traveling right no excuses about not having enough money

Images borrowed from:


  1. Ouch! I can relate to the Chipotle (I MISS that) big time...Food is expensive but the waiters earn more than junior engineers. A bit of a socialist system...but we've found restaurants where the quality and service is excellent and once you get a kitchen you won't eat out as much..(by necessity!). I have gotten used to young children greeting me with a "good day sir"...the collection of children in Neuchatel must be very different than those down by our lake...but then again we walk around with dogs and not a child ...Outside of that at least in the smaller villages it's customary to greet strangers with a polite good morning sir/madame. Hopefully you will run into some of these people and this will help turn the downward spiral the other way! I like your comment about wondering how you will feel in a few years...for me, after 5 years I don't miss ice, cheap sodas, late stores, Sunday shopping. I only miss Chipotles...

  2. Man, that sounds really rough! I'll be praying that the Lord gives you guys a break. I think I'd pull my hair out.

  3. oh my gosh Jenny, it is so cool to read about how different it is there! What an awesome experience you guys are getting! I hope you find a wonderful apartment and I can't wait to see what else happens in Switzerland! :)

  4. Are the holes in swiss cheese a plot to rip us off...?

    Maybe everyone is glaring because they are in a bad mood about the prices and mean kids...

  5. Hey Jen - I love your blog and thank you for keeping us up to date. Sorry to hear that the adjustment is so difficult. I guess we really do take living in the good old USA for granted, huh? I've heard that many European countries don't like Americans, so, don't know if that has anything to do with the attitude. Maybe the people are as bland as the food? As others have said, I think, too, that you will feel much better once you have your own place. I just know you all will adjust beautifully and make friends and have your own "circle" of support. You all deserve only the best. Maybe someday if I am allowed to come visit, I can cook those homemade meals for you, Luke and Jack! Lots of love, Kay