Zürich Street Parade 2015

While we wIMG_5883ould have liked to have been in Switzerland for the National Swiss Day celebrations, we are rather glad we missed the Street Parade. Last year the parade was at the beginning of August, but this year it was the last Saturday of the month. I wonder if that is because one of the main transportation hubs was completely torn up.

Anyway, reports say that a million people (from all over Europe) crammed the city streets (can that really be possible?). Loud music from 26 “love mobiles”, six stages with more loud music, people dressed up like Halloween at a strip club.

The worst part was probably the amount of trash that gets strewn about. But since this happened on Saturday, and today is Monday, there is probably no evidence that the mega party even happened.

You can see photos at the NZZ site. Whether you can read German or not, the pictures give much of the story.

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Landlines

In Switzerland our landline rang fewer thanIMG_0681 ten times throughout the entire year. A few times it was our health insurance calling to confirm information. A few times it was the wrong number. A few times H called from work.

We did not have caller ID there, but I am so glad that we have it here. It seems that since we have been back we get an average of 2-3 spam calls every day. I now screen all of my calls if I don’t recognize the number. I google the phone number and then block it when it turns out that it is a scam.

I am sure that it was not this bad a year ago. It would seem that the Do Not Call Registry does not apply to scammers.

On the plus side, I’ve seen fewer than one smoker per week here.

Limmat Swim

IMG_6734Last year the Limmat Swim in Zürich was cancelled due to cold weather, so we never got to see it. This year, the hottest summer since 2003, has made swimming the rivers and lakes in Switzerland quite popular, and the 51st Limmatschwimmen was on.

This photo comes from the Samichlaus Schwimmen that we did get to see last December when the water was significantly colder than last August. It doesn’t make much sense to me that last year’s summer swim was canceled when people will swim in much colder water.

Anyway, I happily scrolled through these photos of this year’s swim. If we were there, I might have joined the 4,500 people enjoying the waters, or I might have just been one on the sidelines taking photos. In either case, I would have been there. I hope to be at this event some day.

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Thanks to New in Zurich for covering this event.

Street Photography in Zürich

IMG_4789I find myself going through my photos of our year, reliving our experiences. Although I am not a great street photographer, I did try my hand at taking photos of people going about their business. Here are a few of people in Zürich that turned out okay.

There always seems to be a group of kids out on a field trip, no matter the weather.

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Waiting at the tram stop by the ETH, everyone is wearing a black coat.

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Someone is always enjoying the chairs on Sechseläutenplatz in front of the Opera House on a sunny day.

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Even though time between trams is usually less than 10 minutes, it’s nice to have a bench for waiting.

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Okotoberfest in the Zürich HB

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You have to pay to let your dog ride the tram if it takes up more space than your handbag.

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With mandatory military service, you always see young men (and sometimes women) at the train station on Saturdays going home.

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Cell phone culture is alive and well in Europe, too.

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Saw a Mennonite once.

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Maybe my favorite candid snapshot. Two kids chatting up the coffee bean roaster.

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Ruined by Switzerland?

IMG_4749My regular followers might remember that I follow the blog One Big Yodel by Chantal Panozzo, an American expat from Chicago who recently returned to the Windy City after eight years in Switzerland.

Her most recent article, How Switzerland Ruined Me for America and Its Lousy Work Culture, has the expat community all abuzz. Panzanno writes about differences between Swiss (and really, European) Work-Life balance and what many Americans experience. For example, Swiss companies must give their employees at least 4 weeks of paid vacation a year, and we all know that maternity leave is better in many countries than here in the US.

Her points are well-taken, but, of course, she paints only a partial picture of life in Switzerland. Yes, the Swiss make better salaries, on the average, than Americans, but the prices in that country are extremely (and I mean it) high. From rents (very few people own real estate) to food, and that fabulous public transportation will run you a pretty Franc.

Another issue is that it is extremely difficult for foreigners to find work in Switzerland. An employer must prove that they cannot find a citizen for the job, and one must usually speak the language at a pretty decent level (this is no small effort as it takes at least several years to become somewhat fluent). If you work for an American country that moves you to Switzerland, that helps, but you generally do not know how long your contract there will be. I know people who have been there longer than they anticipated, and people whose contracts have been shortened.

It is not culturally easy to be an Ausländer in Switzerland, either. It can take years to feel as though you fit in. If you are not willing to live within the Swiss parameters and follow rules, and you like your freedom to be who you are and do whatever it is you please, it can be a tough adjustment.

Not all American jobs are as horrible as the one Panzanno was applying for in her article. Some are, but others are much better. I know that H and I are among the fortunate who have flexible time and enjoy our work, especially when it allowed us to spend a great year living in Zürich.

There’s always a trade-off.

Müesli

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 2.25.45 PMIt wouldn’t be a true blog about Switzerland without a post about müesli.  We knew about this Swiss breakfast food before moving to Zürich, and once there quickly found our favorite brand of the stuff. Of course our favorite brand was not at our local grocery store, so every time I went down into town and was near a Migros at one of the train stations, I would be sure to pop in and pick up two packages.

If you get müesli at a Swiss restaurant or take away, it is drowning in strawberry yogurt, which tastes pretty good, but also runs the price up. So we always soaked ours overnight in the refrigerator in milk.

A welcome home gift from Lynn was a glass jar full of her homemade müesli which we ate through in the first week. She insisted that it was very easy to make, so I looked online at some recipes and decided that the best bet would be to go to the bulk food bins at Sprouts and start filling bags of rolled oats, nuts and fruit. I also decided to add flax seed and H decided to throw in some shredded coconut.

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Here is what it looks like, and after having our own brand for two mornings so far, we think we will continue with this version. We will probably change it up a little every time we create a new batch.

A little Switzerland in our breakfast bowl. (We’re waiting for Lynn to claim her glass jar….)

Value Added Tax

palmI had a moment yesterday which showed me how I am still thinking European-style. We popped into a Tea Shop to buy a Boba Milk Tea, and I told H that I had the right change for the drink, handing him 25 cents to go with his bills. The price for the small was $3.25. Of course, the price ended up being $3.51 because, as we all know, there is sales tax to add on. (Well, except for those of you in Oregon, Delaware, New Hampshire, Montana and Alaska where there is no sales tax.)

In Europe the VAT (Value Added Tax) is already figured into the price, so the posted price is what you pay. I appreciate that and it has apparently become a habit with me the past year.

Must adjust thinking.