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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?

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Got SAD?

The place I was almost committed to two weeks ago during a particularly rainy and cold June day. The good news is that it is located in our neighborhood so the Boy could have visited me quite easily.

Seasonal Affective Disorder - aka SAD - A mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or, less frequently, in the summer (or SPRING but we will get to that in a moment).

Kristi's Definition of SAD - Weather, regardless of the season, that makes you want to punch the cute and cuddly Sesame Street puppet Elmo. Not that his voice doesn't wear on you after a while.

How SAD came to be, on rainy day 101 years ago, in a cold, dank Mental Health office:

"Hey Chuck, we really need a mood disorder with the acronym SAD or people will start to think we are too serious. We really need to spice up the mental health industry and play with our words more"

"Not now Felix. This torrential rain really has me down in the dumps and I am not motivated to do anything. Eating chocolate has even become a chore."

Chuck then proceeds to yell "Eureka!".

I always thought SAD was hooey. I survived my first Zurich winter with flying colors, only one hysterical outburst of crying without a reason, further proving my theory that it was some bored mental health professional's stab at mental health acronym humor. I was prepared though, mentally and physically, for the challenges of winter's weather.

Then it was time for spring and I expected clear skies, sun, warmer temps and the smell that comes with a thawing ground. It didn't happen. It seemed Zurich was under an angry cloud for 3 months straight and this time, I wasn't prepared. I did OK for two of the three months but when it became June and it was still raining, still 50 degrees, well then the crying spells and fist pumping at the sky commenced in full force. I got SAD. So much so that my spring jacket was about to become a straight jacket.

When you are dealt a blow as an Expat, like really crappy weather, how you choose to deal with it will determine your success. I tend to overreact a bit more here than I would in my former home because I have a heightened sense of "What if I fail, does that mean I am not a good Expat? Does that mean I suck at this change thing?". I realize my shortcomings, corroborated by my Swiss Vet who gives me a free mental health session every time I bring my dogs in: "Kristi, du bist zu Nervos. Calm the hell down...it isn't good for the dogs".

The crying spells turned into motivation. I finished my resume, booked meetings with friends, went to the gym more and you know what happened? SUMMER:

This is no Simon and Garfunkel bridge. This one is over happy water.

Dust off your epi-pens. The flowers and bees are out in full force.

It is hot enough now so Dooley stops every 5 minutes to do this.

The kids are now riding their scooters to school instead of swimming there.

The funny thing is, now that it is hot as all get out, the complaining about the cold, wet weather has turned into complaining about the hot weather. Satisfaction is NOT a human trait. I am happy though and willing to be uncomfortably hot if that means summer is here to stay for a while.

This post was written for AffordableCallingCards.net, a community linking Expats and soon to be Expats. In addition to being a great source of Expat information, they offer affordable calling cards, keeping you connected.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's the Same but Different

What defines a culture and makes it unique? If you look at human beings organically, you can conclude we all do the same basic things and have the same basic needs - we sleep, eat, work, procreate, celebrate, idolize, love etc. I am convinced what makes a culture unique is doing these same things either a little bit or a lotta bit differently. Don't worry, I am not going to get all anthropological or philosophical today. Quite the contrary. While comparing the US of A to Switzerland isn't as big of a stretch as say comparing the US to the indigenous peoples of Komi Siberia, there are still differences. I have lovingly handpicked a few to share with you and there isn't always a clear winner as to who does what better. That is for you to decide and experience yourself:

1. Crosswalk Behavior - I chose this because I almost came to a premature end one too many times in Atlanta. Crosswalks in Atlanta exist but I think drivers think they are just sections of yellow or white painted gravel - modern art that you can drive over and not obey. In Switzerland they take these striped sections of roads very seriously. On more than one occasion I have witnessed cars from 10 feet away screech to a halt if I am even near the crosswalk entrance. They very well could have been screeching to a halt due to my "Hausfrau Native Wear", which most haven't seen outside of the confines of a Swiss apartment, but regardless of the reason, I will take not being murdered while crossing a road. While a lot of Expats complain about the rules and red tape here, myself included and deservedly so sometimes, this is one rule the Swiss and I wholeheartedly embrace. I like being able to cross the road and get to the other side.

2. Kids Walking without Adults - We are talking little kids. Kids who are like 4 years old little. I have seen one too many "Amber Alerts" in my days back in the States. If I ever become a Mother, I may very well become that Mother who keeps their kids on a leash. While I think a safe and trusting society is wonderful, it is so different from what I am used to and I am not sure I could naturally embrace letting my toddler walk alone somewhere. We had dinner with another American couple a week ago and they said parents are frowned upon if they walk their toddlers to school. The Swiss mindset is to prepare kids as early as possible for adulthood by teaching them independence at an early age. I marvel at it and especially love the groups of little kids by themselves, holding hands while walking to school.

3. Cashier Register Loot - In the States, you can't pass through a cash register without being bombarded by magazines talking about the latest - YAWN - Hollywood breakup or five different flavors of Chapstick. It didn't annoy me, rather it gave me something to look at while waiting in line. Here I don't see as much loot, but it exists. Sometimes though the loot is different and I will never forget one particular instance while waiting in line in the COOP City. I saw several different shapes which included hearts and ovals, all with cardboard backers. My first thought was "Why are they trying to sell cookie cutters in the shampoo section of COOP?". Then it clicked...they weren't cookie cutters, rather women's nether region cut-outs to assist and aid you in the art of female grooming. My eyes widened that day like a cartoon character being strangled. If you need a more detailed description, feel free to email me.

4. Resume Etiquette - If you wish to create a Swiss Resume or Swiss CV, you are encouraged to include the following: a picture of yourself, your age, marital status and hobbies. If you are applying to a multinational company, you likely do not have to include these things however if you are applying to a Swiss company, it is recommended you do so. In the US I was a manager and at times had to interview folks for positions. If I got a resume with a photo, I cackled, showed it to co-workers who cackled with me and then chucked it in the recycling bin.

Ok, ok, ok...so these aren't scientific examples and one could say they aren't even relevant when discussing the differences between cultures. I could talk about the height of beds here or the fact you have to bring your own light fixtures when you move in and take the old ones when you move out, but I don't want you head down on your desk, soaking in a puddle of drool while reading this.

If you live or have lived in a different country, what sticks out as being different compared to your former home?

This post was written for AffordableCallingCards.net, a community linking Expats and soon to be Expats. In addition to being a great source of Expat information, they offer affordable calling cards, keeping you connected.
Friday, June 11, 2010

Hearing Cinque Terre

I have been MIA from blogging lately but I have a good reason. My com-POO-ter has been giving me fits lately, shutting down without warning, making it virtually impossible to write a post. The Boy used his IT magic and now I am back in bidness. You were probably thinking my absence was due to the fact I couldn't come up with anything you could hear in Cinque Terre. Au contraire mon frere.

In this first video, not only will you hear me rocking my German at the end, you will hear some pretty pffffft-tastic cat sounds. Oh and before you start thinking David and I talk to each other in German, think again - David and I speaking to each other in German would be like the mute talking to the mute. There was a German tour group watching the cat action with us and I wanted impress them. They were so impressed that they proceeded to ignore us and carry on their way. So with out further hubba-ba-loo, here is your first sound of Cinque Terre:

Anyone else notice one cat was white and the other was black? I bet God and the Devil get all bored and come to earth, battling out in other forms...just for kicks.

So I am sure you are unsettled by all the cat screams so let's relax. Let's do a little visualization, shall we? Picture yourself on a narrow trail set high above the sapphire blue Mediterranean. Above and below you are rows of grapevines. A butterfly landed on your shoulder and a ladybug is dancing on your nose. Then you hear this:

What the holy hell? There was Dance Club Italia going on in the middle of our hike. We are talking the middle of nowhere. My hypothesis is the locals were blowing off some steam after dealing with all of the Rick Steves Zombies. Nothing like a little YMCA to rejuvenate you.

So the Cinque Terre series has come to an end. Africa taught me to travel with all 5 of my senses so I was anxious to see if I could duplicate the experience in Cinque Terre. My experiment proved that you can do more than just see and eat your way through a place. Hopefully I have inspired you to see, taste, smell, touch and hear the hell out of your next trip.