Posts Tagged ‘expat in switzerland’

Biking in Switzerland

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

By Chantal Panozzo

Bikers take over the roads at a SlowUp event in Switzerland

Bikers take over the roads at a SlowUp event in Switzerland

The police in Switzerland will do anything to keep their jobs. Crime rates are low, so things that would never be considered criminal in other countries get top priority here: trash procedures must be strictly observed or you may face a CFH 250 fine just for putting your bag out early, people flushing toilets after 10 p.m. may be investigated, and then there are those equally crazy people riding bikes.

A few weeks ago in Zurich, police had nothing better to do than to stop every biker and check to see if they had their “velovignette” sticker. These are registration stickers (yes, you must register your bike), available at the Migros customer service desk as well as at many sports stores and the post office. The stickers must be purchased yearly if you ride a bike in Switzerland. They only cost five francs, but if you don’t have one, the mistake could end up costing you a lot more: 40 francs.

The velovignette sticker provides the rider with liability insurance in case of a crash. It’s also supposed to make finding and returning stolen bicycles easier.  The sticker system has been in place for fifty years but for many expats, it’s a new concept.

Besides a little sticker shock, Switzerland is a great country for bikers. Most roads have marked bike paths, hundreds of mountain trails beg for attention, and from April to September, numerous SlowUp events are held throughout the country.

I’m particularly partial to SlowUp events because they allow me to see parts of the country I otherwise wouldn’t see. Every other week or so, about 30-60 kilometers of roads are closed to motor vehicles on a Sunday. Taking over the roads instead, bikers and inline skaters form a giant street party and free granola bars and apple juice are typically offered along the route.

If you’re a biker in Switzerland, where do you like to ride?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland who has written for a variety of publications on two continents. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

Finding your place in a new country

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
Searching for yourself can be tough

Searching for yourself can be tough

By Chantal Panozzo

Moving abroad can be difficult. Suddenly you’re far away from friends and family and the ways of life that you knew best. It can be isolating. It can be confusing. And if you’re a trailing spouse who has given up your job so your spouse can advance his, it can feel like you’ve lost your identity.

So how do you gain that identity back?

By focusing on what you love. By giving yourself goals to accomplish. By becoming that hidden person you always wanted to be.

For me, this meant focusing on my writing. Giving myself goals so that I would write a book while also getting to know fellow writers. Writing a blog also helped me accomplish this. So has founding a group and event.

Part of my work as a writer abroad meant co-founding a writing workshop. It’s called the  Zurich Writers Workshop and the first event will be held October 1-3, 2010. It will feature workshops in both fiction and creative non-fiction writing. The instructors will include New York Times Bestselling Author Susan Jane Gilman and University of Oxford Fiction Tutor Amal Chatterjee. You’re invited.

Other expats I know have found their place by taking art or language classes, creating greeting cards and selling them at local markets, or taking leadership roles in already established clubs like the American Women’s Club of Zurich. I know expats who have also learned to play the alphorn and made Swiss friends in the process, found part-time jobs volunteering, and others who focus on entering sporting events like triathlons and bike races. And then of course, there’s always the option of looking for a job that will allow you to continue the career you had before. Just remember to have patience. No matter what you focus on, developing a new identity takes time.

Have you found your identity in your adopted country? If so, what was key for you?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland who has written for a variety of publications on two continents. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

Great Swiss Cities

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Forget about Zurich. Take the train here.

By Chantal Panozzo

Ah, the great Swiss cities. High standards of living. Clean streets. Safe for children. In the 2010 Mercer Quality of Living survey, three Swiss cities made the top 10.  And I’ve got three words for that: Blah. Blah. Blah.

Yes, this is all true. Yes, Switzerland is wonderful. But we’ve heard it all before and all of these facts about perfection are starting to bore me.

It’s time to have fun. Fun in Switzerland? Yes. It is possible. So in this post we will not be talking Zurich, Geneva, or Bern. We will be talking about Bitsch. And Bubikon. And Locarno FART. These are all proper Swiss cities. Cities so great, they make you get out your camera before you even leave the train station.

And there’s more: Buttikon. Wankdorf. Weggis. Wow. You have to admit, we expats in Switzerland live in a great country.

My little Swiss town even celebrates a thing called Badenfahrt where you can buy a shirt that says “Baden” on the front and “Fahrt” on the back. Yes. They wear them proudly. And no, I am not above bathroom humor.

But it makes me wonder—what English words do German and French speakers find hilarious? One of my Swiss friends likes the word “saliva.” He thinks it sounds like the name of a transvestite. Another Swiss friend cringes at the word “pickle” because it sounds like the German word for “pimple.”

Oh, and to sum it all up, I have had multiple opportunities to shop at Anis in Wunderland in Zurich, but if you live far away, never fear, you can just visit their website: www.anismodel.ch. Oh, and I live on the Badstrasse. Which, in German, is quite pleasant, but auf Englisch, it is probably not such a good thing.

What’s your favorite Swiss city?

Budget Travel in Switzerland

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

By Chantal Panozzo

Save money in Switzerland. Really.

Save money in Switzerland. Really.

Chinese food, $25. 1-hour train ride, $60. Night in a Swiss hotel, $200. How the heck can someone travel on a budget in Switzerland?

After all, Switzerland recently was reported as having the highest hotel rates in Europe. It’s tough to find anything under $200 a night, let alone $150. Even on the Swiss Budget Hotels website, “budget” is considered the prices I quoted above. Yes.

So what’s a traveler to do?

Travel like a European. By staying longer, you’ll save more.

What?

Yes.

The key to making a vacation affordable in Switzerland is to rent an apartment.  But since most apartments are only available for a minimum of seven nights, you need to stop vacationing like an American with your head cut off and start vacationing like a lazy European that doesn’t have anywhere to be except in a chair enjoying the scenery. And staying seven nights in an apartment will be cheaper than a long weekend at a hotel. Guaranteed. Staying a week will also guarantee you at least a few days of decent weather too.

In the resort town of Bettmeralp near the Aletsch glacier, an apartment can be found for 2 people for around CHF 500 total for 7-nights. An apartment also means you’ll have a kitchen so you can cook your own food and forgo the restaurants where a “good deal” for a meal for two is CHF 60. Some apartments are also available with free Internet, which means no fees at Internet cafés, and many also have washing facilities so you can vacation longer but pack lighter.

Another hint: don’t pay full price for your train/lift tickets. Find deals through local tourism offices, Rail Away offers, and if you live in Switzerland, make sure you at least have the ½ price card.

How do you save money when traveling in Switzerland?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad. She’s also the co-founder of the Zurich Writers Workshop.

Vacation like a European

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

By Chantal Panozzo

Sitting in one spot can be tough for an American

Staying in one spot can be tough for an American

My husband and I have been in Switzerland for four years now so it’s time to try something a little scary: to vacation like a European. In other words, go to one place (and one place only!) for an entire week with nothing on the agenda but to relax.

Relax? We’re Americans. Do we know how to do this?

I admit, I have gotten a little better at relaxing since moving abroad. I no longer have the urge to say, “I’m so busy!” just to make myself feel worthy. But still. A whole week of vacation in one location? One? This will be a big experiment. This will tell us if we really are becoming Swiss.

Americans are notorious for their checklist vacations. One glance at the Big Ben and they’ve moved on to the Eiffel Tower. But years of hearing Swiss and German colleagues insult my vacation plans—“You’re only going to Spain for 10 days and visiting THREE whole cities”—has taken its toll.  So here’s my next vacation plan: there is none.

We’re renting an apartment in the Alps for a week. That’s all I know. Maybe we’ll hike, bike, rent a paddleboat, read, cook…I’ll stop myself now before I turn into a full-blown American and plan the whole thing.

In Switzerland, where hotels are the most expensive in Europe, it pays to stay in a place for a week. In many cases, it’s cheaper to go for a week than a long weekend. For example, in the resort town of Bettmeralp, 2 people can get an apartment for an entire week for CHF 500. But one night at a hotel will cost this same couple CHF 200. Another reason, perhaps, that the Europeans choose the vacation style that they do.

Have you ever gone on a vacation and stayed in one place for an entire week?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

Four great day trips just over the Swiss border

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
The old town in Waldshut, Germany is great for shopping.

The old town in Waldshut, Germany is great for shopping.

by Chantal Panozzo

No matter how long I live in Switzerland, I always feel a rush when I cross a border, even if it’s just for the day. Grocery shopping in Germany, hiking in Lichtenstein, dining in France, part of the fun of living in a country that borders five others is being able to country-hop. Below are four suggestions to make the most of your next border crossing.

Waldshut, Germany: An adorable, postcard perfect town just 40 minutes by train from Zurich. Geraniums spill from windows in the car-free old town where shopping deals can be found on clothes, bakeries offer tempting things like Nusszopf (nut bread), and ice cream cones are only 1 Euro. 1 Euro. Yes. We are not in Switzerland anymore. And right near the train tracks, take your pick, there are three huge grocery stores just waiting to temp you with their huge selection and reasonable prices.

Lake Como, Italy: Less than 30 minutes by train from Lugano, Como and its small resort towns cluster around Lake Como. You can visit a new one each time you cross the border: George Clooney can be found in Bellagio, the Vezio castle is yours to climb in Varenna, and the cathedral awaits in Como. And if you’re feeling fashionable, Milan is just another short 30-minute train ride away.

Vaduz, Lichtenstein: Why go to Lichtenstein? To say you went, of course. While you’re in Vaduz, be sure to buy a few stamps before you embark on a 2.5 hour round-trip hike, beginning and ending at the Rheinpark Stadium.

Eguisheim, France: Not far from Basel, Eguisheim, France is one of the most charming towns in the Alsace. Brightly colored houses all seem to compete for a gardening award, bakeries serve dome-shaped cakes called kougelhopfs, and a walk in the vineyards is just steps away.

Where do you like to border-hop?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

Top Four Things I Love About Switzerland

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
Switzerland is beautiful, safe, and clean.

Switzerland is beautiful, safe, and clean.

By Chantal Panozzo

We only came to live in Switzerland for three years. Now we’ve been here for four and are planning to stay for five. I have many friends that have also extended their stays. But why? What is it about Switzerland that makes so many expats outstay their original contracts?

One: I feel safe

I go jogging by the river. I go hiking in the woods. I take trains at midnight and walk home. And I’ve never once felt unsafe. I’ve never once felt uneasy. Switzerland just doesn’t have much crime. The police are so bored, they make it their mission to fine people for putting their garbage out too early. What a problem to have.

Two: The country is beautiful and clean

The lakes are so clean you can swim in them. The rivers too. Everything in this country sparkles—even the trash cans. You have to give the Swiss credit. They really know how to keep their little country nice. As I’m writing this, the street sweeper is just coming by. Yes.

Three: The great outdoors

Along with cleanliness, the Swiss take great pride in outdoor activities. Hiking paths are never far from your front door—whether you live in the city or not. There are thousands of kilometers or marked footpaths, bike paths, and even rollerblading paths. I know of no other country on earth that has been able to successfully integrate nature, city living, and public transportation as seamlessly as Switzerland.

Four: Public transportation

I don’t own a car and I can get to the mountain hut in the middle of nowhere. The Swiss transportation network is that good. Trains go up 3000-meter mountains. Buses take you to towns in the middle of nowhere. Cable cars meet trains where trains can’t go. And boats connect to you too. Plus, if you really want to drive, the car-sharing program is available and affordable.

Oh, Switzerland. You’re so great.

What do you love about living in Switzerland?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland who has written for a variety of publications on two continents. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

More Ways to Save Money in Switzerland

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010
Saving money can be tough in Switzerland

Saving money can be tough in Switzerland

By Chantal Panozzo

You think I’d be over the shock by now. Just past my fourth anniversary of living in Switzerland, you think I’d just fork over the $50 for two take-out pizzas without blinking. Sadly, I still blink. And not just for pizza. $15 to watch a street festival? $25 for a few blank DVDs? $6 for water? Water?

I’ve written about saving money in Switzerland before, but I’m always learning new tricks the longer I live here. So here are a few more ways that you can save money in Switzerland:

One: Invest in a Sigg bottle. Ever since I bought my Sigg bottle back in December, I’ve cut way back on my beverage costs. I simply fill it up with tap water before leaving home and then avoid buying bottled drinks when I’m at festivals, eating at department store buffets like Manor, and hiking. My bottle is now over six months old and still as good as new. And besides saving money, you’re also doing something good for the environment.

Two: Get those REKA checks. Many international companies in Switzerland offer you the opportunity to purchase REKA checks at a discount of 20% (if your company doesn’t, you can also buy them at COOP, but only at a discount of 3%). I had never tried them until this year, being skeptical about actually using them. Now I’m regretting having waited so long. Here’s the deal: I got CHF 1000 worth of REKA checks for CHF 800. The checks, which look like monopoly money, can be used at the SBB/CFF/FFS to buy international tickets and tickets within Switzerland (they even work in ticket machines). They can also be used at restaurants like Manor and Wagamama, for many Swiss museums, and at hotels. For more info visit the REKA website or my blog about life in Switzerland.

Three: January and July. These are the two sale months in Switzerland and July is almost upon us. So wait to buy big items and be rewarded with sales as high at 80%. Some stores have started putting out the sale stuff already. My husband just got three pairs of hiking pants for the price of one at the Sport Outlet in Wettingen.

How do you save money in Switzerland?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland who has written for a variety of publications on two continents. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

How to stay cool in Switzerland

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
Jump in Lake Zurich. People do that.

Jump in Lake Zurich. People do that.

By Chantal Panozzo

I’m not complaining about the heat. I’ve been dying for summer ever since, oh, last fall, but when it actually gets hot in Switzerland, it can be hard to deal with for one reason: no air conditioning.

Whether I’m sweating in a conference room, on a train, or in a store, I always look around at the other people and wonder what’s wrong with them.

The Swiss don’t seem to sweat. They shut the window on the train when I open it, they wear stiletto boots in the summer, and then they all sit there in long pants watching me sweat in my tank top.

Ok. Maybe I am complaining about the heat.

I don’t know if I can’t deal with hot because I grew up with A/C and my body is now in denial, but it’s a strange phenomenon. Anyhow. The point is that some of us expats in Switzerland may need a little cooling off. So here are a few suggestions of where to go and what to do:

One: The local swimming pool. Most communities in Switzerland have fantastic facilities—clean, inexpensive (yes), and in beautiful settings—next to lakes, on hilltops, or beside rivers. Check your local city’s website to locate yours.

Two: Drink a local beer. Many towns in Switzerland have their own breweries and distribute their beer only locally. For example, in Baden, they produce Müller beer and it’s hard to find outside the city. But you can enjoy a glass at the beer garden, right next to the Müller Brewery.

Three: Float down the river. In Zurich, Baden, Bern and other Swiss cities, there are banks on their respective rivers that are used as “beaches” and there are also designated sections of each river on which you can float on a raft along with the current.

Four: Water-ski. Only the Swiss would combine a ski lift with a lake so you can water-ski on Lake Neuchatel while a rope tow pulls you along at 18 miles an hour. I haven’t tried it since I can’t even ski on snow, but for those of you that can, have fun.

Where do you go to cool off in Switzerland?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland who has written for a variety of publications on two continents. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

Language Confusion in Switzerland

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010
Language confusion in Switzerland is nothing new

Language confusion in Switzerland is nothing new

By Chantal Panozzo

Language can be a tricky thing in a country like Switzerland. After all, the tiny country with a population of 7 million has four official languages and many more unofficial dialects. In case you find it confusing, here’s a little guide to help you understand what region you’re in:

Here’s how you know you’re in the German-speaking region:

-People from Germany are as confused as you.

-They write in one language and talk in another.

-There is a lot of fog.

-People don’t understand the people from the next town over because the dialects are that different. But this is on purpose. Secrecy is big in Switzerland—not just in banks.

-How you say “hello” is analyzed to determine what town you’re from.

-If you are not on time you are not worthy.

-Everyone’s eating either wurst or wurst.

Here’s how you know you’re in the French-speaking region:

-The written language is exactly like the spoken one.

-The French-speaking Swiss don’t understand Swiss German and this frustrates them. The Swiss Germans like it this way.

-Everyone speaks French or French.

-Almost every town is on a lake.

-The French Swiss make the watches. The German Swiss obey them.

Here’s how you know you’re in the Italian-speaking region:

-People talk with their hands.

-The buildings are colors like pink, yellow, and orange.

-People eat pizza or pizza.

-Many speak German as a second language. The German that the actual Germans can understand.

-You can actually see the sun.

Here’s how you know you’re in the Romansh-speaking region:

-You think you hear Italian. You think you hear German. You think you hear Latin. But you don’t understand anything.

-There are no young people around.

-You are in the Alps.

-There are a lot of cows.

-Everyone speaks at least one other language.

How about you? How do you determine what section of Switzerland you’re in?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland who has written for a variety of publications on two continents. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

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