A week's worth of change


Well, we made it to Saturday, our first full week as expats. This time last week, we were walking into our temporary home, all of 700 square feet, with three Swiss women all telling us what to do, and what NOT to do. My exhaustion was rather overwhelming, in such that I forgot most of what these ladies told us ... But they left detailed notes and off they went to leave us to our own confusion. 

Switzerland is no joke when it comes to rules. And during our first week here, I had moments where I was convinced we would either be fined, or kicked out after breaking almost all of them:

The garbage has to be perfectly thrown away, in the correct receptacles and blue bags, and dragged out to the curb at the correct time of day, on a specific day ... or ... they fine you. They'll even go through your trash too, if they suspect you're hiding a plastic bottle in there. Recycling must be taken to specific places, some on specific days, and must be organized and neatly bundled, or else they'll beat you down with another fine. Even when I go to toss something in a public trash bin, I do a quick glance around, to make sure I'm not going to be scolded. 

No noise between the hours of 10pm - 7am. You shouldn't really watch TV, cook anything, run the dishwasher, use the washing machine, nothing. This is almost unfair to people with jet-lagged children, who wake up at 3 AM screaming, "PAPAAAAA !!!!" as loud as can be, then allow him to watch cartoons on the iPad. Oh, and no laundry is to be done on Sundays. Nothing's open either. On Sunday, you must rest, something I'm sure I will get use to.

The public transit ticketing system has semi-confusing rules around a single fare, depending on how many times a day you'll ride, whether you pay taxes or not, and what zone you're traveling in and out of ... makes sense. Except, they NEVER look at your ticket. Or make you scan it, or wave it around. They trust you. However, if you ever DO get checked, and you DO happen to have the wrong ticket ... it's bad trouble. That, and no eating or drinking ever on the train. They'll get you.

After breaking these rules, and learning to relax a bit, it appears that Switzerland has amazing discoveries too, of course: 

The train system here is incredibly convenient. It's clean and fast and always on time. It runs all over, in and out of the city, and it's also quite simple to navigate. There's even a dedicated place for easy on-and-off strollering, so you aren't hassling with all that crap. 

The CHEESE. It's just decadent. So rich, and beautifully packaged. 

Todd, my saltine cracker connoisseur, has decided the German WASA brand saltines here are the best he's ever tasted, so I'm happy for him there. And Dijon mustard is also off the hook, another huge bonus for our simple culinary family.

Easter is a VERY big deal. Everywhere you go there are mountains of Easter candy, chocolate, decorations ... You get a sugar rush just looking at it all. The grocery stores are overwhelmed with it, and in some cases, if you weren't sure you were actually IN a grocery store, you'd think you were in a lavish candy shop. I can't imagine what Christmas will look like. 

This one will shock you ... the bank application process, at UBS, was outstanding. Like, so lovely that you'd think we were celebrities being bribed to join a club. We had an appointment, and were quickly escorted to a nice, spacious room, and brought fancy bottled waters and cappuccinos. And fancy swiss chocolates, individually wrapped. They also gave Nels a special gift, and beautiful colored pencils and paper to occupy him while we waited. 

There is really no crime here. It's very safe everywhere, even in the dark, lonely alleys at 8:00 at night, when it's cold and rainy. And you're lost. No homeless either. 

As for the differences? Well, there are many, but a few I realized right away, that will later seem silly I'm sure:

San Francisco's "10¢ bags" make nothing compared to Basel. Bags here are the equivalent to 50¢, plus they move you through the checkout line in a mad rush. No one helps you bag, and if you don't get out of the way quickly, you'll be trampled on by the next three customers, who've already whisked their tiny bounties into their totes. I would say this will just take time to learn, and as someone who already religiously brings bags with her everywhere, my first time to the Coop (the grocery store) I had nothing. So now I have 4 expensive paper bags. 

I can't find plain old simple Cheerios. They have some American cereal here, even Cheerios, but they are Multi-grain Cheerios, and these taste like cookies. 

The washing machines suck. They are more energy efficient (good, yes) but they are very tiny. Teeny. And they wash the clothes for days, it seems. And dryers aren't really useful, nor do they dry the clothes quickly. It might be even faster to hang dry. At the same time, dry cleaning is REALLY pricey. One shirt costs roughly $4.50 ! So that's a troubled area for my dapper guy. 

With all the change we have endured over the past two weeks, I can say that I really am done ripping off the "band-aids". All that emotional stinging hurts. And with Oxford absent, I haven't had anyone to lick my face, nor protect me from the (inevitable) trash police.