I thought I would get this written earlier; so before I get into the meat of this post: HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!!!
Reading the news this week I came across two stories that really got me thinking. The two stories have nothing in common, other than the fact I used to live in one place, and I now live in the other.
dateline Green Bay WI
In a nutshell Green Bay started to freeze over, so people had to get out on the hard water and fish. A pretty large group were in one area, and the wind picked up. Next thing these people know they are no longer connected to the shore, and are floating out into the middle of the bay. At least one person was smart enough to have a cell phone with them; so they called 911. Five government agencies had to respond to rescue the fishermen. (I say men because there might have been some women on the ice, but typically these stories are all men, because we are the ones that are dumb enough to be first on the ice.)
What amazes me about this story, is that I am no longer amazed. This seemed to happen at least once a year while we lived in Wisconsin. I seem to remember it happening more at the end of the season, because most people do not think about how fast the ice starts to get bad in the spring. Yes, the ice might still be 12 inches thick, but in the spring the ice gets soft and honeycombed; so the thickness is very deceiving.
It took me years before I would finally drive one of my vehicles out on Lake Winnebago. I never lost that sick feeling I would get in my stomach whenever I was in my truck, though. No matter how cold it was my window was always down. I wanted to be able to get out of the vehicle as quickly as possible if it started to go down!
My friends and I would go out ice fishing and sturgeon spearing every year; some years the ice was more secure than others, but it was really the picture below that would ease my fears.
For some reason I was never as worried about getting OFF the ice as I was driving on the ice!
Getting back to the story. This story makes me angry every time I hear it. I was not angry that people were rescued. I do get angry about the fact that (to my knowledge) the individuals that choose to put themselves in that situation never got a bill for the cost of the rescue. Fire Departments in the area have spent 100’s of thousands of dollars or more on special boats and other equipment that allow the first responders to get from shore, across the water, on to the ice floe, and then back to shore. I always thought the people should have been responsible for at least some of that cost.
I think the other reason this story resonated so much is that I really miss ice fishing. This weekend we would be heading up to the border of Minnesota and Canada for four days of ice fishing, cross country skiing, and fellowship with some of our best and longest friends. Have fun on the Gunflint!
Dateline Gambarogno, CH
For years I have been reading stories about small towns in Europe offering homes for 1 Euro. These stories almost always happen in small towns that have had an economic collapse for one reason or the other. The reality is the old saying “if it sounds too good to be true it probably is…” comes into play strongly. These are homes that have been abandoned for years or decades. The cost to bring them to a state where they can be lived in can be in the high tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The icing on this cake is that if you are approved you have a very limited time to start and finish the remodeling projects.
The latest story I saw was from the village of Gambarogno. This village is in the Italian portion of Switzerland. The village is trying to sell “rustici”, these are old stone houses. They are probably hundreds of years old, but have been abandoned for a long time.
Julie and I have visited the area once. We hiked through one village that had a lot of these old stone homes. They were mesmerizing. We were so mesmerized by the houses we did not even take any pictures. 🙂
This story resonated with me for two reasons. The first being it is true example of the old saying. The homes are advertised as having a “lake view” with a lot of other attributes that lead the reader to think that these are perfect weekend getaway or holiday homes that just need a little TLC to bring back to life. NOT SO FAST. A follow up article was an interview with a person who paid the 1 CHF and started the process of taking ownership.
She went down to see the properties and discovered the following: Yes, many of them technically have a lake view, but the lake is very far away, and at most you can see a sliver of the lake. There is no road leading to the houses. It is an hour hike from the nearest parking spot. There is no electricity running to the homes, nor does the community have any plans to run electricity to the homes; even worse the community will not allow you to put solar panels on the roofs because that would take away the authenticity of the home. There is no water. Most of the homes do not have roofs any longer and are little more than ruins. Finally, even if all you want is a hiking shack with no amenities; you have to rent a helicopter to get building materials up to the house. This alone will add thousands to the cost of refurbishing the buildings.
The second reason the story appealed to me was this quote;
“I have nothing against German-speaking Swiss tourists who buy a rustico,” Della Santa told SRF.
“But I don’t like to see people coming who have absolutely no desire to integrate, who don’t speak a single word of Italian.
“Anyone who buys a one-franc rustico must be interested in the history of the place. This is not for people who just want a holiday home in the sun.”
This quote showed exactly what living in Switzerland is like. Let me explain.
In many ways I get the feeling that Switzerland is bi-polar. Out on the streets the people in Switzerland are smiling and extremely friendly. They will bend over backwards to help a visitor. The country realizes what tourism brings to the table, and act appropriately. Before the pandemic, I found that almost 9% of Switzerland’s GDP was due to tourism. I do not mean to imply that the people are friendly just because of the money tourists bring in. Where we live tourism is really not a big deal, but most people give a smile and friendly greeting on the street. Then you try and compare the hoops that Switzerland makes people jump through to actually move here, and you get the feeling that non Swiss people are expected to keep off the grass.
In all the European Union countries it is very easy to just pick up and move. It is almost the same as moving from one state to another in the US. However, even for EU citizens it is not easy to just pick up and move to Switzerland. An EU citizen can move without pre approval, but they have 14 days to register with the town they move to. However, before getting a residency permit, they either have to enter into an employment contract, or be able to show the ability to live without income for the duration of your permit. This basically means showing enough savings to last you for five years. If you lose your job, you can only stay in Switzerland for six months to look for another job. So meeting this is simply difficult but not impossible. The immigration policies are the biggest sticking point between Switzerland and the EU. In fact treaty talks broke off this past summer because the EU wants more access, and Switzerland wants things even more restricted. Trying to live in Switzerland for someone not from the EU is even harder. Basically the only way it can happen is for a company to sponsor your permit application, or simply be incredibly wealthy. 🙂 Even then it is hard, as Switzerland only allows about 4000 residency permits every year to non EU citizens.
Getting back to the quote. The mayor of this village expresses it very clearly for all of Switzerland. It is not enough to simply want to live here. We want you to become one of us and diversity is not appreciated.
One of the other American’s we have met has lived abroad extensively. She and her husband are on their third (I believe) assignment outside the US. She explained to us that this has by far been the hardest assignment they have had. Outside of other ExPats she has been unable to make any local friends. I do not think our friend has an introverted bone in her body. She will reach out to any and everyone she meets. It just goes to show how hard it is to “fit in” here in Switzerland if you are not Swiss.
I do not intend for this to be negative. I am 100% sure that a lot of what I have experienced living here would be the same if I were European and moved to the United States for a short time. What struck me about that quote was the simple fact that it was said out loud. I think most countries treat ExPats and Immigrants differently than citizens, but they would put on a different face and say in public that everyone is welcome. That just isn’t the way things are done here.
I still have not decided if that is a good thing or a bad thing. 🙂
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Our visits with the children are almost over. George left last weekend, and Kaylee leaves in three days. We love seeing the kids, but the weeks after they leave are harder, because we realize how little we get to see them now. I am sure that is the same problem all our empty nest friends experience. It just seems worse when you know it is a 10 hour flight and thousands of dollars to be able to see them again. We are looking forward to May, as we head back to the US for graduations.
I will have another post this week of our visit to Basel, the Lindt Museum, and hiking.
Talk to you soon!