Dienstag, 10. Januar 2017

Swiss FOOD

OK; the traditional cuisine in Switzerland isn't all that exciting, but they can do a lot of stuff with cheese! Of course, the chocolate is great but in general the cuisine is fairly conventional meat and potatoes fare-lots of potatoes....but it's gotten a lot better in the past 20 years especially in terms of restaurant choices.

Speaking of restaurants...Coming from America where wait staff at restaurants don't get paid a decent wage and rely on tips to make any money so give you good service, I was somewhat taken aback by the somewhat...hmmmm... “lackadaisical” service in many Swiss restaurants. I mean it seemed like they were doing me a favor actually coming to take my order. And when I was ready to leave it seemed like everyone had at that precise moment decided to take their smoke break.....maybe it was my accent...

But more on the subject of food....the Swiss take food everywhere!

Does any other group of people take food everywhere they go?! Maybe it's a European thing...maybe I just grew up in Fast-Food Land where there is either a McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell etc on every corner and off every highway exit.....but it took me years in Switzerland to remember to pack food if we were going for a walk that would last more than 15 minutes...everyone brings a picnic! But-oh my god-the Swiss people feed their kids all the time! Breakfast, 9 O'clock snack, hot lunch, 4 O'clock snack, dinner, bedtime snack-and CANDY! My one son has his birthday in September and when he was younger all his buddies brought sugar to his little party so he got a stash of sugar that could have lasted through Christmas, BUT NO! The other neighborhood kids started doing Halloween Trick or Treat a few years ago so, not only did my son get a bunch of candy in September, he got to add to it in October and again in December starting with St. Niklaus day on the 6th.      Later on in December the school went Christmas caroling to all the old people in the village, a very nice tradition, but they again got TONS of sweets!! Sometimes money as well! (This is Switzerland after all.) Not to mention the cookies and candy flung around hither and thither at Christmas time. So, by now, his ongoing stash was topped up until at least Easter-when-guess what? More sugar.....what's a mom to do?!

Speaking of being a mom here....

Montag, 9. Januar 2017

Life in Switzerland: An Introduction
I'm an American-which you can tell after I speak 3 words-I moved to Switzerland around 20 years ago for a job and stayed! My first piece of advice to anyone who thinks of moving to a foreign country where you don't speak the local language is to learn to at least ask for an alcoholic drink-these 3 words saved my life: “A beer please/Ein Bier, bitte!”. That way-even when things weren't going as smoothly as I'd thought they would, I didn't notice so much! But as a side note specific to Switzerland: Do NOT order a mixed drink or your entire monthly salary may disappear in one night!

OK; here's the deal; I have absolutely no talent for foreign languages. It's pretty amazing how devastatingly obvious this is -to everyone!

Nevertheless, when I first moved to Switzerland, I was your typical American who thought everyone spoke at least some English...Well, one of my first lessons regarding my American ignorance—or arrogance- came from working as a musical choreographer for a theater director that assumed I spoke German! He couldn't believe that not everyone spoke German! And he only spoke to me in German- it's not that I didn't want to learn to speak German, even disregarding my profound linguistic handicap, but I was totally confused! In my defense, I was working as a ballet master with a company of dancers that came from all over the world and the company language was English. Nevertheless, it took about about 5 years until I could distinguish Swiss-german from High german and don't you believe anyone who says they are the same language-NOT TRUE! And not only that; you can believe that you are finally getting a handle on Swiss-German then you travel to a different canton and -again-can't understand a word!! This is because every canton has a different dialect and even sometimes the born and bred Swiss can't understand each other! I haven't even gotten to the fact that there are 4 official languages in Switzerland. The German speaking school kids have to learn French-which they generally hate and the native French speakers have to learn German with the same feeling. There is a strong movement in some cantons pushing for English as the 2nd language but that isn't the case in Bern where I live. However, when my son's 8th grade class did a little project with some of their Swiss counterparts from a French speaking canton-they all spoke English-and this was officially sanctioned!!

But I'd like to make a distinction between the Germans and the Swiss. Germany is a very big country and there have been a few Germans who have gone out of their way to tell me that they have never been to America and have no desire to go. (Well, I guess I can understand that at this point.)The Swiss are another story. First of all, the Swiss love their vacations and love to travel. Many people have between 5 and 12 weeks off per year (paid vacation time, I might add...). What this means is that many Swiss have been to the U.S. Inevitably they will ask where I am from...well, considering the fact that I left my family at 14 to go to school and moved from Ohio to NC, back to Ohio, to Switzerland, to NYC, to Pennsylvania, to Denver, back to Switzerland-I never know what to say. However-no matter what-the Swiss that ask where I'm from have probably done a tour of the US and generally gone to: NYC, Miami, Las Vegas, LA, San Francisco and maybe Chicago. Well, I've only been to 2 of those places...anyway, I feel people are inevitably disappointed that I don't say I am from NY or California-I don't know why. I have perversely decided to tell everyone I'm from Ohio even though I've now lived in Bern longer than anywhere else I've lived in my life. Ohio just does not register as one of the sexy states, I guess. But I use this issue as a way to keep from adding to the Swiss sense of insecurity and to let people know that I don't find Switzerland boring....