It was another good week in Switzerland. Julie worked another 60 hour week, but we dodged a bullet; she didn’t have to work on Saturday. I wanted to check out a another city in Switzerland named Basel. Basel is very close to both the French and the German Borders. However, Julie had a different idea. She wanted to check out a German city by the name of Konstanz. So off to Konstanz we went. I wasn’t that upset. I mean I have never been to Germany before, so now I have another country checked off the list.
I should have known that Julie would have some devious motives for visiting Konstanz. It turns out that Konstanz is basically the shopping mall for this part of Switzerland. I literally mean the whole city is the mall. I know we did not go everywhere, but what we saw of the place, it is almost nothing but shops. There was even a 4 story shopping mall like back in the US. Even some of the same stores! What makes Konstanz such a popular shopping destination? Two things: 1) . Everything is simply cheaper in Germany than in Switzerland. 2) . You can get a big discount on VAT and European Union Taxes if you have a Swiss Residency card.
A friend showed me a price tag from something she had purchased in Konstanz. The top of the price tag was just like any tag in the US. It had size information, and information about the clothing. The bottom of the price tag was different, though. There were four sections that could be removed based on the country the item was selling. This is just an example, but in Switzerland the cost was 125 Swiss Francs. In Great Britain, 89 Pound Sterling, in France 99 Euros, and in Germany 90 Euros. The theory on the price tag is the cheaper prices get ripped off, so the buyer doesn’t see how much the item will cost somewhere else. For the most part everything we looked at was cheaper in Germany than in Switzerland.
The real interesting thing came in form of a tax rebate. Julie and I have been doing quite a bit of hiking here. We needed backpacks that were lighter, than the “city” backpacks we carry everyday with our computers, etc… So we checked out a sporting goods store in Konstanz. We found what we were looking for, and our total purchases came out to roughly 315 Euros. Here is the wild part. We went to the customs office at the train station, got our receipt stamped after showing our residency cards. We walked back to the store and simply presented the stamped receipt. The sales person handed us back about 50 Euros!!! So we were able to get an additional discount of about 17%. I had found the same backpacks at a store in Zurich, and the cost was almost 20% higher BEFORE the tax discount.
Unfortunately, we will probably be going back to Konstanz very soon. Apparantly, for the last 30 years I have been an embarrassment to my wife. She never commented about the way I dress. (Well maybe that is not entirely true, BUT it did not seem to matter that much.) She didn’t care if I ran to Menard’s in jeans that had oil and paint stains. However, since I have gotten over here she critiques my clothing choices practically every day. Not sure what she expects. I own three pair of jeans, 3 pair of khaki pants, a dozen or so shirts, six or seven sweaters, two suits, and two sport coats. Seems like an awful lot of clothes to me. Apparently, though my comfortable “loose cut” jeans and no tuck shirts are not in style over here; so she is really putting a lot of pressure on me to go shopping again. 🙂
There were two differences I noticed between the two countries right off the bat. Now Remember, this is the ONE city in Germany I have visited; so I do not want to paint a broad brush. The first thing I noticed is that Switzerland is cleaner. There is not as much trash on the street, the train stations are neater, and things just look clean in Switzerland. The second thing were homeless people. In the almost two months I have lived here; I have not seen one homeless person on the streets. I am sure somewhere in Switzerland there is a homeless problem, I simply have not seen one person living on the street. However, immediately across the border, we saw many people living on the streets. I do not know if the social programs are better in der Schweiz, or if the homeless are simply shuffled off someplace else. Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing more of Germany. Julie and I bought train tickets today for Frankfurt. Julie has to go there for work meetings, so I am going to tag along for three or four days as well!
Today, we had another rest day. We went for a walk to Thalwil. While I was on my run this morning, I came across some kind of carnival that was set up. So we thought we would check it out. Unfortunately, we walked there at noon to get something to eat, but nothing was going to open up until 5:00. I was not in the mood to do much else today. I was tired, because for the second Sunday in a row, I stayed up past 1:00 AM watching Indiana play football. I am kind of bummed, because IU will be going bowling this year. My Dad and I have gone to the last two bowls, but I do not think I will be able to make this year. We might actually be home for the game, but with the added costs of flying to the US for Christmas, and flying the kids back here for a couple of weeks after the Holidays, our travel budget will be shot. 😦