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The Boy, 2 Muttleys and I have finally realized our dream of living 1 mile from the Lindt Chocolate Factory. Leaving Atlanta (the World of Coke) for Zurich (the World of Chocolate) hasn't come without challenges, incredible fun or giggles. Follow along as I chronicle our adventures as we acclimate to this new Swiss lifestyle.
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Got a Question? Want theories on Life?

Well why don't you email me then: fromatlantatozurich@gmail.com


Monday, August 30, 2010

I Know One Thing for Certain

And that is you are likely much warmer than me today.  Today it is 52 degrees and raining.  I had to hide the butter knives and vodka for fear I might do something crazy.  It is August and my two middle toes froze while running errands.  The whole city seems to be pissed off as I spotted several staring contests between strangers on the tram today.  Let's just say no one looked away and no one won.

The lack of heat wouldn't be so debilitating had I not just returned from the south of France where I was treated to 90 degree, low humidity weather.  Yeah, I am rubbing it in but I know you are all secretly relishing the fact that you are warmer than me today...much, much warmer.

On another note, you can catch me over on ACC today talking about straitjackets and stuff.
Thursday, August 19, 2010

365 Days Later - The Interview (Cue Dramatic Music)

This picture says it all...albeit incorrectly, but it is true nonetheless.

People, today marks my one year anniversary of living in Zurich, Switzerland.  In honor of this momentous occasion, I have decided to bring you some hard hitting journalism.  I am going to interview myself.  The negotiations were a bit tense at times but after several sessions of talking to myself (sometimes in public), I finally worked something out with me. The questions below are ones I would have liked to have seen answers to before moving to Zurich so consider yourself "about to be informed":

(fumbling with microphone...tap, tap, CRASH, F*$%#CK!)
Me: Kristi, such an honor to meet you. I guess what they say about blogs adding 10 pounds is true. You look so much more amazing in real life. 
Kristi: You are too, too kind.  
Me: No really, you are quite spectacular.
Kristi: You are making me blush...can we get on with this?  I have lunch with Federer.
Me: In your dreams.
Kristi: Yeah...I did see Hingis once though...(trailing off)
Me: (clearing throat) So, what were your first impressions of Zurich?
Kristi: Well, I had never been to Zurich before so I really wasn't sure what to expect.  I had done the typical "research something to death" thing so I thought I had an idea of what it would be like. No research could have prepared me for how pretty it is here.  Not only is the city on a lake, you can see the Alps in the distance.  It is truly mind blowing...even to this day.
Me: I get it, you are happy with how Zurich looks...but how does it FEEL?
Kristi: Not to be overly simplistic, but it feels "good".  I feel more and more comfortable here everyday. I love how city life mingles so easily with nature, I feel safe, the people are polite and helpful...I could see myself here a while.
Me: What have been some of the challenges adjusting to life in Zurich?
Kristi: Well, there have been several.  First and foremost is the language barrier.  While I am learning High German, the people here speak Swiss German, which for all intensive purposes is a completely different language.   I miss being able to communicate with ease and labels on products continue to give me fits.  In addition to the language barrier, this Hausfrau gig was hard to get used to at first.  Turns out a lot of my self worth was buried in my career.  It was really tough getting used to being unemployed and I was truly surprised at how difficult it was to embrace it as a gift.  I call it a gift because how many people get this chance to not work and do other things that interest them? Finally, Europe in general is expensive.  I yearn for the day I am not calculating what something costs in American dollars.  I am sick and tired of almost fainting in the meat section.  At least there would be cold pork chop there to quickly ice any injuries if I ever do physically crash down to the ground.
Me: Wow, sounds like it is tough to adjust.
Kristi: Well anything new is going to be tough to adjust to at first.  Don't let that dissuade you from moving to a new country.  That would be lamer than a Friends reunion show.  I now judge my life in terms of how often I go outside of my comfort zone vs how long I stay in it.
Me: How have you dealt with the challenges you mention above?
Kristi: Well after I briefly felt sorry for myself, I attacked them.  I have taken and continue to take High German and while it is not Swiss German, I feel like I am at least making an effort to integrate. I stay busy everyday with writing, doing a little work for my old company, doing my Hausfrau chores and spending time with the Muttleys.  As for the mind blowing cost of living here, I just remind myself of basic economics: people get paid a crap load of money here so the cost of goods naturally goes up.  Then I laugh, shake my head and mutter "nope, that didn't work...its fracking expensive here".
Me: If you had one tip for a future or existing Expat, what would it be?
Kristi: I would say to that lucky individual that attitude is EVERYTHING.  If you move to a new country scared, well then you are going to be scared. If you move to a new country sad, well then you will be sad.  If you move to a new country ready to embrace it, well then you will likely have a positive and rewarding experience.  I used to think home was where the heart was but now I think home is a state of mind.  Make your attitude your own too...be careful who you listen to and what you read, be strong enough to form your OWN opinions.
Me: Is it hard to meet people?
Kristi: It is only as hard as you make it. Zurich is an international city where 30% of people are Expats.  That means 1/3 of people here are likely just as motivated as you to meet people. Then you have access to co-workers, people you meet through clubs and neighbors.  If you aren't meeting people, then you really aren't trying hard enough...sorry, hate to get all "tough love", but it's true.
Me: What has been the best part of your Expat experience?
Kristi: There are so many "best parts" and it so hard to have just one.  Piggybacking off of what we just discussed...it would be all the amazing people I have met while over here.  I have met people from all over the world and it is so great to learn about other cultures and their perspectives on Expat life and life in general.  Being able to hop a train to Italy or France doesn't suck either. 
Me: So Kristi, what is really like to be an Expat?
Kristi: Good question, uh...Kristi.  This is a tough one to answer but I will give it a try.  Moving to a new country, the idea of it, is exciting and romantic.  When you arrive, it is pretty exciting and romantic, but then you have to get on with life. Life in a different country presents unique challenges AND opportunities.  Woven into both is a plethora of intense emotions...for the first time in a long time, I feel pretty alive.  
Me: Whoa, that last part was intense.  Did you mean that?
Kristi: Yes I did. I used to live to be comfortable, now I live to test myself.  I want to be 90 and look back on my life confident that I actually lived it.  Does that mean someone who doesn't do this isn't living?  No...it is up to each individual to decide what living means to them.
Me: Dude...you're deep.  
Kristi: Hell yeah I am.
Me: Is there anything else you want to share with your readers?
Kristi: Sure.  The Boy and I are truly happy.  This experience has been exhilarating and we aren't ready to get off the ride.  We don't know where we will be in 10 years, but for now...we love being in Zurich.
Me: Well Kristi, this interview has also been quite the ride.  Thanks for sharing and good luck with your second year.
Kristi: Thanks...great interview by the way.  You give Charlie Rose a run for his money.

If any questions weren't covered in this interview that you would like to ask and get answered, feel free to send them to: fromatlantatozurich@gmail.com.  

This post was written for AffordableCallingCards.net, a community linking Expats and soon to be Expats.  I know a lot of my readers are thinking about becoming Expats.  So when you are doing your pre-move visit, be sure to call Mom and tell her how it is going.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hiking - Swiss Style

You may or may not have heard by now, but the Boy and I are hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro this February. The Boy decided we should shake things up a bit on our second trip to Africa and figured hiking the highest freestanding mountain in the world fit the bill. I agreed enthusiastically but since I am geographically challenged, I only knew it was some bad ass mountain in Africa.  You know a mountain is bad ass when its name contains "kil" which is one "l" short of "kill"...which implies death...and come to find out, you can actually die on this mountain due to its altitude.  My initial enthusiasm thus became tempered with some good old fashioned "Kristi Anxiety Over Death" or KAOD for short, which sounds like "K-O'd", which means knocked out...making it the perfect acronym.

In preparation for the hike of our lives (I am going with "lives" instead of "deaths" here because I want to remain positive), we decided it was time to go on some real hikes. The kind that involve hiking poles, snow and a few terror induced tears (ahem...by yours truly).  Coincidentally a few months back I was introduced to my Dad's cousin who just so happens to summer in the Arosa Valley region of Switzerland. We arranged a meeting in Zurich and quickly hit it off.  She proceeded to invite me and the Boy to their home in St. Peter and voila!  Our first training session was planned, fit with seasoned hikers who just so happened to be family.

So I really wasn't sure what to expect and since our hosts were the pros, I left the planning up to them.  After a 20 minute drive from St. Peter to Arosa, we took a trail alongside a river bed that gently went upwards. "Gently" gradually became steeper and soon a snow covered ridge came into view. This was the ridge we were going to hike up and then hike down. Due to rainfall from the previous week, this portion of our hike was completely snow covered...in August. AUGUST!  This made finding the trail markers a challenge, but a fun, semi-nerve wracking one nonetheless.

We did have a secret weapon:  Gretel, the super hiking dog who somehow knew which part of the ridge to go up.  We never failed to find the markers, even if half of them were snow covered or difficult to see.  The Boy and I were taught hiking techniques on the fly and as I climbed higher and higher, my confidence began to soar.  When we reached the top of the ridge, I went to check out the trail down.  The down part is the one that always gets my adrenaline going.  It is the part that is synonymous with death and typically reduces me to a puddle of nerves and mutterings of  "WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND DOES THIS?".

Expecting to find a trail and then not finding any distinct semblance of one, the confidence that soared while going up, quickly made a long fart noise and exited my body.  I was with family and the Boy though, who promised to stick with me while I moved at a snail's pace.  I had to use my hiking poles in more unconventional ways, along with my hands, all the while side stepping slippery, muddy scree and snow.  Scree is an "m" short of what I wanted to do the first 10 minutes of our descent.  With a little bit of patience, a lot of side stepping, a sprinkle of terror induced tears and a lot of love from the Boy, I made it down the really scary part.

There were so many rewarding moments that outweighed the terror.  I conquered an intense fear of going down a mountain with no discernible trail, I realized I can do Kili because apparently the hike is less intense than this one and I formed new bonds with family.  Here are some more pics from the day and as you can see, Switzerland is pretty ugly:

Pretty part of mountain with a pretty lake and a pretty reflection
A little Edelweiss which is a rare find

And guess what!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Is Zurich Boring?

Stereotypes and labels can be pretty damaging but there are typically grains of truth from which they sprout.  Whilst living in Zurich, I have heard quite a few and one in particular really yanks my crank: Zurich is boring.  I suppose it makes me angry because it implies that I am boring because frankly, I love boring Zurich.  I think the majority of my anger though comes from the opinion that it simply isn't true.

Exhibit A:

Boring cities do not allow you to park your bike in 8 foot hedges.  This took major talent.

Exhibit B:

Boring cities don't let you park your bike in the local river.  Not so much talent involved with this parking job, just a bike and a dream.

Exhibit C: 

Boring cities don't have sections of town where it is completely legal to paint graffiti on the sides of buildings.  It is pretty trippy to see people spray-painting their hip hop machinations during the daytime.  

And finally, boring cities are not host to the world's second largest techno music festival where you can find over a million half naked people dancing to music that the untrained ear would claim "all sounds the same".  Street Parade even has an annual motto, my favorite of which being "Today is Tomorrow"...and while I vehemently disagree that today is tomorrow, I love how the event organizers attempt to make dancing to consistent beats in the streets of Zurich somehow cerebral.  The only thing truly cerebral about this day is the music may lead to a Grand Mal seizure.

So have I convinced you that Zurich isn't boring?  No? Well then how about Zurich's incredible access to all things nature, clean water, clean everything, low crime rates, incredible public transportation, sheer beauty...???  Does that help change your mind? Wait a minute, I just described a "livable city".  I suppose places you can see yourself living long term get stuck with the "boring" tag, but I will take boring, old, livable Zurich over someplace frenetic any day of the week.

I know what it is like to be done with a place but I am super careful to never disparage it because I feel it would detract from the experience I had while there and furthermore,  it would only serve to offend the people I love who still live there.  While I was out-growing Atlanta, the idea of Zurich grew on me but I never once felt inclined to diminish what Atlanta had to offer.  It didn't seem fair to admonish a city that introduced me to my husband and really good BBQ.  So if you aren't happy with a place, feel free to have those feelings but just be careful to choose your words wisely when expressing them.

Zurich is not fast paced, the "scene" won't blow your mind and you won't have random celebrity encounters (unless you consider spotting Martina Hingis in a bar with her boyfriend, both donning matching jeans with the same rhinestone detail on the back pockets, a celebrity sighting).  What you will get though is a good life and for me, that is about as exciting as it gets.

This post was written for AffordableCallingCards.net, a community linking Expats and soon to be Expats. I know a lot of my readers travel, so check out how you can get cheap calling cards overseas,which means one less thing to worry about while you are busy sipping on a Pina Colada. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Orange - Not Just a Cool Color

Last night the Boy and I dragged our tired, battered, sunburned butts* to Orange Cinema Night.  Located in Zurichhorn Park, a nightly movie is shown on the big screen between July 15th and August 15th.  The setting is stunning - the screen literally sits in lake, which is lit with twinkling lights, casting their reflections off the water's surface. The semi-comfortable seats only give you minor tingling by hour 2 and if you look really close, you can spot bats flying in front of the screen.  Hey, wildlife sightings are hard to come by here so this excited me.

We heard and read so many good things about this experience which I have to say were pretty spot on.  Because I want your experience to be a good one, here are a few tips should you decide to check it out for yourself:

1. Get your tickets early and get there early- Reserved seating is difficult to get as most of the seats are reserved for local sponsors and their lucky recipients.  We purchased our tickets too late and ended up with  "freie sitzwahl" tickets which are "first come, first serve" tickets (aka "poop out of luck" tickets).  Our seats weren't bad but we were limited to the left side, front section or the really left side, front section. Since there aren't many first come, first serve seats available, arrive early so you can get a decent seat.

2. You can BYOB or BYOF - Our bags weren't checked so if you want to save some coin, bring your own booze or food.  If you don't want to bring your own B or F, there are food and drink vendors on location.

3. Don't forget to get your free ice cream - OK, so it isn't exactly "free"...you are spending at least 20 chf per person for these tickets, but your ticket does include a free ice cream.  You can't miss it, just look for the massive blob of people who aren't forming any semblance of a line.

4. Pack rain gear and a blankie - The show goes on rain or shine and cancellations only occur in the event of a storm.  I got a little bit chilly last night so I was glad I packed my fleece jacket.

This is a "must do" if you live in Zurich so check it out...next year though since it is likely sold out for the Summer.

* "sunburned butts" is a figure of speech.  Our butts weren't sunburned, rather our necks, faces and forearms.  Our burned forearm area is particularly cool as we now look like we have Wonder Woman arm bands tattooed on our skin.  If only I had kept my Wonder Woman Underoos...I would then have the perfect costume for the Zurich Street Parade this weekend.  Oh yeah, I had these growing up.  
Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Swiss Squirrel

In the 11 months I have lived in Switzerland, I have yet to spot a squirrel.  I have been told they exist and one person was even kind enough to describe one to me: small little creatures, with big ears and shy.  In the States we call that a mouse.  The Boy swears he has spotted two - one black and one brown, but until I see one for myself, the Swiss squirrel is the equivalent of Big Foot - folklore and only to be seen after one too many drinks or after a severe blow to the head.

There is a small animal here that does remind me of the squirrel though.  It shares many of the same traits:

1. Annoying

2. Everywhere

3. Doesn't move when approached

Friends, may I present to you...THE SLUG:

EEEK!  When it rains in the summer, these bad boys are everywhere.  Walking on the sidewalk is like navigating a minefield of gelatinous-like turds as they like to come out of their grassy dens to hang around on something concrete (sort of like the teenagers who constantly loiter in the front of the BP).  If you do inadvertently step on one, they turn into something that resembles a loogie coughed up by a person with Emphysema...in other words - pretty nasty.

They can get quite large and when they do, they often resemble my dog Pedro's poopy and/or a king sized Tootsie Roll.  Their life appears to be rather sad, lonely and short as they are never in pairs and when the sun comes out, they shrivel up like a vampire.  Unlike the squirrel, they don't dart into traffic (um...they don't dart ever) and they appear to be a seasonal visitor.

For some unknown reason, my "normal" includes the daily presence of an annoying animal so for that, I couldn't be happier to share the sidewalk with the SLUG.  (insert scary Vincent Price Thriller laugh here - and don't ask me why)
Monday, August 2, 2010

I Left my Stomach in Atlanta

I only wish I could have left my hips there too...oh well, such is life, ho-hum, long exhale while staring out a window.  Two days ago I returned 10 pounds heavier from Atlanta and while it is no secret that I missed friends and family, I was shocked to learn just how much I missed good, cheap, no frills FOOD.  Eating my way through the ATL was one of the highlights of our first return trip and I can still taste the greasy goodness from our two amazing burger experiences.  You would think a good burger is easy to come by in 21st Century Europe...think again.

So let me stage the Zurich food scene: picture sausage, veal in a mushroom cream sauce (which they call Zurich Art), fried potatoes and melted cheese.  Then pan over to the bathroom that your run to after your 5th slice of Raclette.  While slices of melted cheese are tasty and all, no boiled potato, gherkin or pickled onion will enable your body to process it effectively.  I actually like all of the German influenced cuisine I listed above but I can only do so much of it before I start daydreaming about the Thai or Indian food from Atlanta which causes me to weep happy tears.  Zurich does have a decent amount of ethnic eateries but I have yet to come across one that makes me cry like a teenage girl who just saw Justin Bieber flick his weird ass bowl cut. His bowl cut is as mind blowing as watching a toilet flush in the southern hemisphere for the first time, backwards and freaky.  In all fairness to Zurich, we have found good places to eat for all budgets, although I use the word "budget" loosely.  I am so fair that I even posted some restaurant recommendations over on ACC so I could feel less guilty about bashing Zurich's food scene.

Five Guys Goodness
Oh Atlanta, you little food minx...the first night we were there, you showered us with burger kisses.  Our friends Kevin and Sus were kind enough to take us to Holeman & Finch, famous for its 10pm burger. They only make 24 of the these lovelies and we got there at 8pm in order to reserve ours.  At 10pm sharp, a  procession of servers delivered the sizzling burgers to the 24 lucky souls who got there early enough to stake claim to theirs. Unfortunately, my stomach has become a bit atrophied over the past 11 months and couldn't handle the entire burger, but the Boy came through and finished the half I could not.  Two days later we went round two with a burger from Five Guys Burgers and this time, I finished the whole thing.  It was a taste sensation.  More taste sensations in Atlanta included the Chicken 65 from my favorite Indian Restaurant Zyka, the Banh Mi from Littles in Cabbagetown, over 10 plates of awesomeness from my brother's restaurant INC Street Food and of course the honey bacon from Sun in My Belly (although it did end up causing a storm in my belly an hour later).

In stark contrast, Zurich is a classic underachiever.  It has all the potential in the world with unbelievable access to amazing produce and meats but fails to deliver with over-priced, average fair.  I still haven't figured out why this is the case but I hope with the increasing flow of us Ausslanders into this great country, we will at least get to a place where we have over-priced, awesome food.

This post was written for AffordableCallingCards.net, a community linking Expats and soon to be Expats. I know a lot of my readers travel, so check out how you can get cheap calling cards overseas,which means one less thing to worry about while you are busy sipping on a Pina Colada.