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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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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nice Choppers

Some women have nice boobs. I have nice teeth.  Some women receive compliments of "nice rack!". I get "nice incisors!".  I have never had a cavity and the only dental procedure I had was the removal of my wisdom teeth.  Since the laughing gas only succeeded in putting my legs to sleep, I vowed to never shirk my preventative care responsibilities and risk another painful procedure. This preventative care included a teeth cleaning every six months and I never missed an appointment.  Why am I sharing this with you?  Last week I had my first cleaning in two years and I feel so ashamed...so dirty.

I am 15 months into my experience abroad, have a rudimentary knowledge of the German language and yet accomplishing simple tasks can still at times seem so hard. Never in a million years would I have waited two years to get my teeth cleaned back in the States.  I found my dentist and slightly crazy hygienist through word of mouth. As a result of receiving a recommendation, I knew my experience was going to be a good one.

Here word of mouth isn't a common practice and recommendations for doctors, dentists or dry cleaners that won't rape you of your last rappen, are sometimes difficult to come by. People tend to go to the closest doctor, dentist or clothing chemist. There is also a belief in Swiss culture that there is quality in every good or service therefore you aren't necessarily risking anything by choosing a doctor, dentist or dry cleaner using proximity as your guide.  For an American like myself, quality in goods and services varied greatly and if you chose a dentist down the street, you could very well end up with the dentist from Little Shop of Horrors.

So you are probably chomping at the bit to find out of my experience was a good one.  It was incredible and not because I am still cavity free, but because I am now officially 1 degree from Roger Federer.  My new hygienist cleaned his teeth this year. She was in his mouth!!!  Nadal can't even say he has gotten that close to Roger. There is even a good chance I have Roger DNA somewhere on my person.  Do you think shining a black light on my body would uncover some Roger DNA? All I need is a good recommendation for a black light.  Anyone have one?
Thursday, December 16, 2010

I'll Take my Nuts Extra Roasted Please

Heisse Maroni, aka "Hot Chestnuts", aka "Roasted Chestnuts" have become an obligatory subject on many a Swiss Expat Blog.  It is such a polarizing topic because you either love them or hate them. If you are an Expat and actually love them, then you may be accused of being one of those Expats who loves Switzerland so much that they blindly love anything it has to offer.

I had a lot of Heisse Maroni Angst last year because most people I knew who tried them for the first time, hated them.  They complained of weird texture and lack of taste.  It was because of these common complaints that I decided to pass by the cute wooden houses billowing smoke without offering up a glance, let alone buying a sack.

During the Spring of 2010, I focused my energy on working up the courage to try them as soon as they were available this Fall.  I am happy to report that not only did I try a hot sack of roasted chestnuts, I also loved them.  Strike that...I am PROUD to report that I loved them. Whoah...that was cathartic.  Admitting liking something that may make people gasp in horror has a way of liberating you.  And to all you naysayers out there, YES, I love Switzerland but I don't blindly love everything about it here.

I do have to admit, I can see their consistency being an issue for many.  They are sort of in between mushy and firm.  I also admit that I prefer the ones that have roasted the longest.  The extra smoky flavor really pushes the right buttons.  If you are like I once was and have "Heisse Maroni Angst", then it likely occupies all of your thoughts. I am afraid the only cure is to try one of these hot nuts.  Love them or hate them, at least you can go on living.      
Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Pizza Resistance

When I learned the Boy would not be with me for my birthday, my first reaction was self-pity.  It was short-lived however as I was determined...DETERMINED...to have a great birthday.  Instead of  being the solo guest to my pity party, I decided to throw one.  Jupiter and Mars must have been aligned because most of my friends could make it and all who attended, much to my upstairs neighbor's dismay, were ready to party with vengeance. It was a great time and I felt pretty loved.

The day after my party, the Boy returned from his business trip and surprised me with a gift that combined the two things I am currently obsessed with - David Sedaris and squirrels:

Squirrels  +  Sedaris is my Reese's Peanut Butter Cup - Two great tastes that go great together

The following Thursday was my birthday dinner with the Boy and it also happened to be Turkey Day.  Turkey Day is hands down my favorite holiday because it involves my favorite things - eating until a button on my "fat pants" ceremoniously pops off with a ping, belly rubs, football, loved ones, more belly rubs and a few cocktails consisting of my friend Barley and my other friend Hops.  It came as no surprise that I was a little sad this evening, but I put my game face on and was determined to have fun.

We decided on an Indian restaurant in Old Town and as I was chomping on my Samosa, I got to thinking that I have had one of the best birthdays ever. After I took my last bite of the crispy, deep-fried triangle of goodness, the Boy suddenly blurted out "I haven't been quite honest with you".  I just stared back and the first thing that came to my mind was - we didn't have to order the Samosas...that's the great thing about Indian food.  They have so many options which really promotes compromise. He then went on to explain that we weren't doing this and weren't doing that the coming weekend.  Following his nonsensical explanation as to why were weren't going to the Pfaffikon Casino Saturday night, he dug into my bag (which he so gentlemanly offered to carry from home) and pulled out a booklet.

This my friends was a Booklet of Love. Designed by the Boy, the Booklet of Love detailed a surprise trip to Lyon, France and our train was departing the next morning.  My jaw dropped and a little 'mosa fell from my mouth. The booklet was divided into sections with cute little markers detailing different portions of our trip.  As I was going through the booklet, I was letting out all sorts of noises and gasps and "awwwws". The kind of "awwwws" that start at one decibel and end at one significantly higher.  I am sure the diners around us thought we were getting engaged and then they spotted my crows feet.  What could possible top going to Paul Bocuse's restaurant L' Auberge du Pont de Collognes?  Homeboy was the grandfather of Nouvelle Cuisine. Then I got to the section marked with music notes and what I saw next didn't quite register at first. I knew I was staring at tickets but it took about 10 seconds before I saw the words "ARCADE FIRE".  I subsequently yelled out "OH MY GOD!" and totally started bawling in my Biryani.  I was in complete shock and this part of the birthday gift was the Pizza Resistance (or Piece de resistance for you Frenchies out there) to an already amazing two week celebration of ME.

Going to Lyon for the first time was also a great experience in itself.  Although we had drab weather, it was great wandering around their old town and walking along the Saone River.

How cute is this freaking Gargoyle?  I swear he was flirting with this guy:

Mr. Squirrel was too busy with his nuts to respond to cute Gargoyle's advances.  I have a feeling since he has been here since 1684, Mr. Cute Gargoyle has plenty of time to woo Mr. Squirrel.

Um, who doesn't?  

The Boy totally outdid himself and unfortunately for him, set the bar pretty high for next year.  I am thinking tea with Johnny Depp might be a nice follow up.
Friday, December 3, 2010

Video Didn't Kill This Radio Star

Guess what?  I know what you are thinking...Chicken Butt! Nope, something better than a chicken's butt.  I was on the radio last night!  So you wanna know why?  Chicken Thigh!  Sorry, I am so overcome by the emotion of having 3 minutes of radio fame that I am reverting back to my childhood when I thought "chicken parts rhyming with body parts" jokes were funny (um, and still do).  Anywho, I was invited to join a show called The Connectors - a weekly radio show focusing on everything Expat and is broadcast from Geneva, Switzerland.  I was asked to talk about my blog and why I blog.  It was also my golden opportunity to say "evolve" one too many times.  Check it out if you have a few minutes to kill.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Zurich - A Sociologist's Wet Dream

Today has been one of those days where I have felt pushed too far - literally and figuratively.  It all started when I boarded the bus this morning.  On my bus there are two types of seat designs, seats of four where two seats face two seats and the other design consisting of two seats next to each other.  I chose to sit in a group of four seats and sat diagonal from an older woman.  The bus started to fill and I moved over to sit directly across from the older woman so I could free up a seat for someone boarding. The older woman didn't budge and literally sat in her seat like she was lounging comfortably in a Lazy Boy recliner.  All she was missing was a built in cup holder and a bag of smoked almonds. Her lounging style meant I was scrunched up against the bus window with my feet and legs having little place to go.  I looked like a 36 year old fetus.  When I gave her the "Really?" look, she just stared straight ahead and gave me the "F You, winner winner chicken dinner" look.

My destination this morning was the gym and once I disembarked the bus, with moderate to severe cramping, I hobbled to the nearest tram stop for the next leg of my trip. My tram had arrived and what happened next happens EVERY time I board a tram in the city.  Flocks of older people come from nowhere and storm the door, trying to get on before any passenger has the chance to get off.  It is shocking, annoying and funny all at the same time.  This morning was no different except this time I was hellbent on getting on when it was my turn.  Cue an old lady in a fur coat, which seemed to have come from a grizzly bear, who cut in front of me and saw out of the corner of her eye that I wasn't having any of that.  She then proceeded to stick out her elbow. This time I actually said "Are you kidding me?" but she just scurried on the tram without a moment's hesitation.

These two events really ticked me off but they also got me thinking.  If I had a gun pointed at my head and was forced to divulge which group of people had the highest "asshole quotient" in Zurich, I would say the older generation.  More specifically, women aged 70 and over.  Before you start brandishing me as an Ageist, hear me out. I started thinking, why in the world are these older women so rude?  Why must they push and shove and cut in line and give you dirty looks when boarding public transportation?  Why aren't the Swiss women more of a domineering presence in the international basketball arena? Because these beeyatches can box the hell out.

The Boy and I discussed a few possibilities last weekend.  I even posed the "maybe it is because they are the descendants of world wars...they always had to fight for what they had and perhaps it has manifested in their everyday life".  But the Swiss have seen little, if any war.  I am sure they have seen the effects trickle into their society over the years and there have certainly been times of famine or hardship.  All cultures have experienced bad times.  Then I saw something on the tram that made this hypothesis null.  An elderly woman who was fitted with a cane was having a hard time boarding the tram.  A younger woman turned around and smiled at her but proceeded to board the tram in front of her.  When I saw her turn around and smile at this incapacitated woman, I thought for sure she was about to give her a helping hand.  Instead, it was more important for the younger woman to board the tram vs help this struggling woman.  I then witnessed the same older woman get off the tram and again, no one helped her.

Independence is fiercely revered in Switzerland and it is taught at a very young age. While it is adorable to see little 4 year old kids hold hands and go to school without adult supervision, it is more a lesson in self reliance being taught.  Swiss independence is something to be admired and yet I can't help but think it comes at the expense of compassion and manners.  Perhaps by the time these women have reached their 70's, they are so fiercely independent and so used to not being helped, that they could give a rat's ass if they cut some young whippersnapper in line.

The Boy and I have heard more than once that us Americans rely too heavily on others and that we are "too nice" allowing ourselves to get pushed over.  By no means do I think Americans have cornered the market on how to treat people but I do always come away from a visit to the US thinking "God, everyone is SO nice!".  For the longest time, I thought a lot of the negative experiences I have had here were the result of not knowing the language but all of the examples above required no conversation at all.  I was satisfied with my new hypothesis, the Swiss are fiercely independent...at all costs.

On the bus ride home, as I was patting myself on the back for figuring old Swiss women and the Swiss in general out, I witnessed a young boy and his mother eating lunch.  The young boy was eating a banana and a portion of it fell to the ground.  I thought to myself, surely this boy will pick up the banana that just fell to the ground...nope.  Then I thought, surely his mother will tell him to pick up what he had just dropped...nope...and quit calling me Shirley!  Argh, back to the "try to figure the Swiss out" drawing board because not picking up 5 inches of banana has absolutely nothing to do with independence.