Saturday, July 31, 2010

An obnoxious American’s trip to the grocery store

Nothing is easy about moving to a new country. Every day I feel like I make some sort of mistake and continually brand myself as that “obnoxious” and/or “stupid” American. No one offers to help that stupid American who can’t figure out why the grocery carts are locked, or the obnoxious American who blocks the exit because she didn’t pay her ticket before getting to the gate. Nope, no one offers to help. Instead they act all bent out of shape as if my presence alone is annoying to them. I can tell you for certain that out of all the dirty looks I have gotten in the last few months, nothing can top a dirty look given by a grumpy old German man. That look alone can bring me to tears in a matter of seconds.

Thankfully, I am learning the ropes. Sometimes I can get by a whole day without feeling like an outsider. Here are some tips I wish some one would have told me before coming to Switzerland

1. You have to pay for your shopping cart
All of the shopping carts are chained together. In order to get one you have to put in a 1 or 2 frank coin to release the lock and then when you return the cart you get your money back. A brilliant way to keep people from leaving their carts everywhere but it makes for an embarrassing situation when you have never had to pay for a cart before.

(notice the little chain hanging on the right side of the cart. That is where you lock your cart to the next cart)

2. You have to weigh and print out a barcode for your vegetables

I am starting to believe that grocery store checkers in Switzerland have the best jobs. Not only have I heard that they make around 70,000 franks per year, but they also get to sit on a cushy little chair their whole shift while you bag your own groceries. On top of that, they do not even have to memorize a list of codes for the fruit and vegetables. The shopper is responsible for weighing their fruit and veggies at little scales and printing out tags for each item. This is another brilliant and efficient idea except for the fact that the “stupid American” is used to bringing all her veggies to the checkout person who weighs them for her. Imagine the embarrassing situation that ensues when the checker who doesn’t speak English will not take your bag of carrots and you do not know what you did wrong.

(these little machines are placed in the produce section. Each type of fruit/veggie has a number above it and after you bag your veggies you bring them to this machine, push the number, and out prints your barcode)

3. You must pay for your parking meter ticket BEFORE you get to the exit

Of Of course, nothing is free in Switzerland. If you drive a car you have to be prepared to pay for your parking. Even at the grocery store you get a ticket to enter the gate and park your car and you have to pay before you leave. Only difference is that in America I am used to paying my toll at the gate when I exit. So imagine our surprise one day when Luke and I were driving out of the mall and we reached the gate, put our ticket in the machine and it spit it back out and did not open the door. As the cars were lining up behind us, we kept trying to our ticket in the machine only to have it spit out again. We searched around to see if there was a slot to insert or money, but there wasn’t. By now we had several angry French and Germans behind us, and a closed gate in front of us. If it were just me I probably would have busted right through the gate rather than to have to deal with the stares of the angry German’s behind us. But thankfully Luke has thicker skin than I and he put the car in reverse and made all the cars behind us back up so we could go back to the mall and figure out how to pay for our ticket. As we walked back in the mall we saw an inconspicuous little machine right at the exit. It happily accepted our parking ticket, charged us a fee of 2.50 then gave us the same ticket back. Our 2nd attempt at leaving the garage was a success!

(Here is the darn ticket machine that caused us so much trouble)

Voila! Hope these 3 tips save our American friends some headaches when they come visit us!

And just a few other oddities about Swiss life:

-Your apartment does not come with lights. The previous tenant takes everything out of the house, including the light fixtures. Be happy if they leave you a light bulb.

-The refrigerators are tiny and the freezer can barely hold two trays of ice cubes. Be prepared to go to the grocery store at least 3 times a week.

-Milk is shelf stable. You won’t find it in the refrigerated section here. It will be in boxes right on the shelf.

-100 chf is the smallest amount available for withdraw at an atm. Everything else is petty cash.

-It takes at least 15 phone calls, 3 visits to the Swisscom store and no less than 30 days to get Internet installed. This is the reason for the lack of posts lately. Fingers crossed that we get Internet next week! I have a backlog of photos and video to share!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Unpacking our life

We moved into our new place on July 1st and our shipment of boxes from the US arrived on July 3rd. We have been spending the last 2 weeks unpacking, organizing, buying furniture and try to turn our new house into a home. It makes for a very boring blog post, so I'll keep it short.

Jack asleep amidst the boxes

Our new place!

On to more exciting things, we've been exploring the areas around where we live. We visited the town of Avenches which is built on the site of the Aventicum (what used to be the Roman capital in this region).

Ruins of the old Roman amphitheater which is still in use today.

You can still attend concerts, plays, etc in this amphitheater.

We have been spending a lot of time swimming in Lake Morat.
The lake is much smaller than Neuchatel so the water is very warm!

We also headed to Bern with some friends to go floating in the river
It was very crowded the day we went

They have a kiddie pool set up right next to the river so the kids can play
The kids even have their own little "river" to walk down
And the adults can float down the big river
You can walk up the river as far as you want. We walked maybe a half mile and jumped off this bridge
Floating with our friends Paulo and Rodrigo
When you are ready to get out you have to grab on to one of these poles. But be careful, if you miss the last pole you end up getting washed into the dam. No one knows if anyone has ever missed the last pole, but I'm sure if you did you wouldn't be around to tell about it.
Here we are after a fun day of swimming
Jack running in the grass with Bern's Parliament building right behind him
For the last game in the World Cup we were invited to watch it with one of Luke's coworkers and his whole village. Here are Luke and Jack ready to eat dinner
The whole group
One last picture of Jack's first naked swim at the beach

Monday, July 12, 2010

If you can't say anything nice...

Don't say anything at all. And that's all I have to say about life in the least life in the country with no car. Luke is searching for a car for me so I won't be stuck at home with the cows and sheep and the 100 degree/no air conditioning weather for much longer.