Blog

12 Juni 2021

Well yesterday was another one of those days that reminded me just how bad we were at planning this move. We are going to Zermatt the last weekend of the month. This way Julie gets to have a nice week off before she starts 6 weeks of pure heck in getting all of the annual filing done for her company. We are not going to be camping, but we will hiking every day that it is NOT raining. Julie was talking about cooking and eating while we were hiking. Unfortunately, all our backpacking equipment is in the locker back in WI. 🙁

Between George and Kaylee, I spent over a dozen years in Boy Scouts and Venturing. I had all of my backpacking stuff in a ruck and literally had it laying out with all the stuff we shipped over here. When Julie first brought up the idea of moving here. I dreamed about taking time each year and backpacking through the Alps. I quickly realized that this was going to be a solo adventure, as there was NO WAY Julie was going to be doing that kind of hiking with me. I still got everything ready to go, but the night before the movers came I decided that this dream would never happen; so I took all my gear to storage. I simply figured that since storage was going to be at a premium, and I would never use the sleeping gear I would not need anything else. I should have just brought over the pocket rocket stove, and the lightweight cooking gear. Instead I spent an hour or so this morning buying another stove, a pot, lid, and frying pan. All so that we can have some good picnic lunches gazing at the Matterhorn! Oh well, it is only money, and we now will have fondu on the mountain side.

Friday night we had dinner with our friends Sarah and Francois. Those of you from Mitchell might remember Sarah (Ewald). She and Rhonda were inseparable in our younger days. It does remind me of what a small world we live; when Julie started talking about the move I realized that there was someone we knew living in the area. Anyway, we did a dinner cruise on the lake. What a great way to spend an evening, and it was actually one of the cheaper restaurants we have visited. We did a “Hot Stone” dinner. You order your food raw, and it is brought out to you along with a very very hot hunk of granite. You simply cut your food, and cook it on the stone. The food is very tasty, and it allows you to visit with your dinner companions in between bites. This is one of the activities, that we will do with visitors. Especially when the weather is almost perfect.

Julie

Saturday I spent the day putting up window and door screens. There is not air conditioning here, so we keep a lot of windows and doors open. We have also learned to adjust the window shutters during the day. In the morning, we close the shutters on the east side of the house, and then in the afternoon close the shutters on the west side. That really does a good job of regulating the temperature inside the house. For some reason, screens have never been a standard window accessory; so I bought a bunch of outdoor double sided tape, and some screen. With the size of the spiders around here, I would have thought every window and door would have a screen, but I guess Swiss people are not bothered by spiders. I also found a magnetic door screen. You attach the screen to the frame of the door with double sided tape, and then the middle of the screen is a opening held closed by magnets, but you can easily go in and out through the screen. The magnets are not super strong, so when the wind is strong, the screen tends to blow open, but when the wind is strong you do not have the same problem with bugs anyway! Julie wanted me to put more screens on windows, but there are only a couple of windows I could work on. Technically we are on the ground floor, but that is only true at the front of the apartment building, along the sides and back of the building we are the 2nd floor of the building. Since each window has two openings, I had to leave one screen less, so I could climb in and out from the ledge. Oh well, between the few windows and the doors I put the screens on, we are now able to get a very nice cross breeze going through the apartment. Kaylee’s cat was not quite sure what to think about the screens. It took her a couple of hours before she realized she can go in and out just by pushing at the opening.

S


Today (Sunday) we took a drive to the town of Glarus. Yes, Wisconsin, people, this is the namesake for New Glarus. I did not see any spotted cows, however. Glarus is a small city. The city itself first appears in history in the 1100’s, but there was probably some kind of settlement there for a few hundred years before that. The area was part of a land grant to the catholic diocese of Zürich in 878. The other historical fact about the town is that it was destroyed by fire in May of 1861. The town is in a very narrow valley between two mountain ranges. The valley acts as a giant funnel for the wind, and a fire started on one of the mountain sides, and the wind helped the fire spread uncontrolled through the town. The town does not have the old time charm of a lot of Swiss towns, but it is a nice place just the same. We will have to go back early some morning, and do some hiking around the mountain peaks.

Next week Julie and I both go in for our 2nd COIVD vaccination. This works out well for Julie. The vaccination will be in full affect when we go to Zermatt, and when we return she will also go back to the office every day. At least that is the plan right now. The government on Friday announced that unless something changes. Restrictions will once again loosen on the 28th of June. On this day, people from outside the EU area will be allowed to visit as tourists again. Assuming you have a vaccination. If you are not vaccinated, you will not be allowed entrance. Here is where it is kind of a leaky faucet, though. Other European countries, I believe, are allowing people to enter without a vaccine. So if you come into those countries, you can still enter Switzerland by rail, or auto, and there will not be anyone at the border. However, if you get caught without a vaccine, I assume, they will kick you out pretty quickly. So US people, get your vaccine passport, and come visit!

Other restrictions being lifted this month concern mask wearing and venue size. My understanding is that masks will not be needed outside at all. Right now, we have to wear a mask at train and bus stations, as well as outdoor dining areas (You can take the mask off at your table.). There have not been any hints as to when indoor mask wearing will go away. Julie and I were talking last night, that we will probably continue to carry masks with us even though we may not wear them. Riding on the trains in the winter, sounds like you are in a typhoid ward of a hospital. So I can see myself wearing a mask on the train even when it is no longer required. Venue sizes will increase to 3,000 and 5,000 but you will have to show your Covid passport for entrance.

I hope you all have a great week. I’ll talk to you soon.

Enjoy the pictures:

8 Juni 2021

another election

In other posts I have talked about Switzerland’s penchant for voting. The country tries to practice as close to a direct democracy as possible. It is relatively easy to get an initiative on a nationwide ballot; so there are multiple elections every year. I do find some of the initiatives very strange. For example, in the last election one of the questions on the ballot was “Should the Air Force upgrade their fleet of fighter jets?” I find it very strange that citizens would have this much control over a national issue, but in this case it gets even more strange. The vote did pass but by a very slim margin, and the opponents have already said they will try and stop the purchase once the decision has made over which fighter jet to purchase. This was done successfully about 8 years ago. The government decided to buy fighters from Switzerland, but a group pushed a referendum to not release the money, and it passed; so the purchase was never made.

There are three seemingly big questions on the ballot for next week. The first is to abolish the Federal Governments ability to pass restrictions in regards to a pandemic. This would take away the governments ability to put in place things like lockdowns, mask requirements, or the vaccine passports. Instead all of these functions would go to the individual cantons. The next two questions all concern agriculture.

The first of these two would make Switzerland the first country in the world to outlaw all synthetic pesticides. The law goes even a step further to say no foodstuffs can be imported from countries that allow the use of synthetic pesticides. The second agriculture question concerns “drinking water.” I put quotes around the words, because there is really a whole lot more going on in the second question, but it is worded this way to garner support. One thing you have to know is that agriculture is very heavily subsidized here. How else, could a farmer make a living on less than ten acres of land, and only a handful of cows? This law would not allow any subsidies to be given to a farmer that uses pesticides, herbicides, anti-biotics, or “cannot feed their livestock off of fodder produced by themselves. This law would also stop the practice of spreading manure on the fields.

I will admit, I have not studied any of the questions on the ballot with any real effort. That being said, just on the surface I find these three questions to be very silly. The USA proved that in times of a pandemic there needs to be a federal reaction. Viruses, do not stop magically at borders on a map; so one canton (or state) having a strong response, is negated by the neighboring canton (or state) having a weak response. The pesticide question does seem to make a lot of sense. However, when you throw the part in that no food can be imported unless the trading partner also bans pesticides you are setting the country up for starvation. From what I can see, the only products that Switzerland can be self sufficient with are dairy products. Possibly with meat as well, but I kind of doubt it. The only local grown produce I see regularly in the store is asparagus, but much of that comes across the border from Germany. There is not that much good farmland in Switzerland. The country could never feed itself, and rules that make this even harder seem foolish. Especially when you look at the fourth question on the ballot, which is to reduce C02 emissions to half of the 1990 level in the next 9 years. It will be really hard to reduce C02 if truck traffic has to increase to import food from other countries.

I will be very interested to see how the vote comes out.

weekend recap

The weather this past weekend was once again pretty awful. We were able to get a few hours without rain, and we were able to take a nice long city hike. We toured a park near the neighborhood of Enge. Enge is a small neighborhood that sits right at the corner of the lake. I think the green space around Zürich is one of the things I am most impressed by. There are dozens of parks around the city that are meticulously maintained.

The weather did stop me from meeting some new people. I had arranged to go on a bike ride with some people I have met on TikTok. :). Unfortunately, the rain meant that everyone began to back out, because it did not look like we would even have two hours rain free. I was able to get in a short ride Saturday morning. It is a hard route though, It is uphill for about 15 kilometers, and then I just turn around and head back home. It takes me over an hour to ride the first 15 kilometers, but then it is all downhill the 2nd half; so it only takes about 20 minutes to cover the same distance! I really hope some of my Southern Indiana friends get the chance to come visit me. I want to show them that Southern Indiana is relatively flat compared to here! Oh and unpopular opinion, Popeyes is still better than Chick-Fil-A!

I learned another good culinary lesson last night. Taste the peppers before you cut them up and add them to your dish!! :). Julie bought some pepperoni (You learn very quickly here that you do not order a pepperoni pizza!) in the store on Saturday. I figured since she does not like spicy food, that she knew the peppers were mild. I wanted to add some color to the dish I made last night, so I cut up one of the peppers. OH MY GOD!! Julie and I both had heart burn all last night. The pepper wasn’t much larger than a couple of grapes, but WOW!!!! She is barely speaking to me today, because she thinks I intentionally tried to poison her. I did warn her after I realized how spicy the dish was, but…….

Finally some COVID news. I was reading the paper this morning where the EU has officially launched their COVID passport. Even though Switzerland is not part of the EU the country is going along with the passport. It officially rolled out yesterday, and it is supposed to have full implementation by 1 July. Apparently, the passport will allow full travel between any country in the EU (plus Switzerland) without quarantine. Because Europe also has their vaccine skeptics. The passport is also able to be used with COVID tests. The stink over here is that the people not wishing to get the vaccine are being discriminated against because the tests are not free. In fact, in most countries the tests are pretty pricey if you want them for travel. Every where in Europe the tests are free if they are mandated by a doctor due to symptoms, but if you want one for travel the tests cost well over $100, and you need two tests depending on how long you are traveling. The covid tests are only accepted for about 48 hours. Honestly, I think the discrimination talk is simply crap. The vaccines are being given for free! So you can get the free vaccine, and travel for 9 months, or you can pay for the tests if you want to travel. It seems to me a fair trade off, and I really wish my heimatland would get their act together. Here are the last lines from an article about travel.

“Talks have been under way with the United States, for some sort of mutual recognition of vaccination status.

But have run up against the problem that there is no single federally backed certificated in the US, only a myriad of state and private vaccination cards almost impossible to authenticate abroad.”

I really need someone on that side of the Atlantic to get their act together. The kids are all coming in August, my parents in September, and Julie’s are scheduled for October. I think they will be able to come, but every day that there is no announcement about travel for US residents I get a little more worried!

Talk to you again soon!

2 Juni, 2021

It has been another quiet week over here. We had a really nice weekend. I woke up Saturday morning, had a little breakfast, and then took off on my first real bike ride of the year. I decided I did not want hills, so I rode around the lake. Bicycle transportation is very important over here, and even though most of the bike traffic on the highway is recreation it is still really nice to have bike lanes. There is only part of the ride that is not a set bike lane, and that is right at the foot of the lake near the opera house. There are signs everywhere that lay out where the bike route is supposed to be, but I am being completely honest in that I have NEVER figured it out. Each corner seems to have signs that contradict the other signs. That is one reason I always try and leave very early if I am going around the lake. I want to get through Zürich before the traffic picks up!

Saturday evening we met some friends downtown for dinner. I do not why we have not done this before, but instead of gorging ourselves we wound up ordering a bunch of different appetizers to share, and then each couple split an entree. It certainly did not make it any less expensive, but we got the chance to sample a lot of different things. Julie says she found a new favorite restaurant, but I think LaPasta still wins out because of the cheesecake!

Sunday we took the train to the city of Zug. One thing you do have to get used to here is the cantons seem to share the name of the major city in the canton. So it would be like the Wisconsin being named Madison since that is the capital or the state of Indianapolis. Half of the cantons share the name of its capital city.

Anyway, just outside Zug is Zugerberg. At the top of the mountain are miles of hiking and biking trails. We had gone up to the top when the kids were here in the beginning of 2020. Finally we took the time to go back. It was a wonderful afternoon spent hiking and picnicking. I can’t speak for Julie, but I felt a little strange, because we were one of the only couples without kids. You can drive, hike, or take a train to the top. Parking is scarce so we decided to take the train. The video below is of the train ride down the mountain. Julie took the video on her phone. I did speed up the video to 2x the normal speed. The trip down is almost 7 minutes. The train is a funicular train. Which means there are two trains that work together. There is one cable for the two trains, and as one cable pulls the train up the hill, the other end helps to lower the other train. As you watch the video, you will see the trains meet right in the middle of the ride.

Baking bread

I decided that I needed to learn something else this year; so for my birthday Julie bought me an enameled dutch oven. I am going to learn how to bake bread. In some ways this is probably a giant waste of money. I mean the breads we can buy at the store or bakery are amazing. I have only tried making a couple of loaves, but I can already tell that part of this process is simply to give me something to do. :). The process is not hard, but it is time consuming. From start to finish it takes between 5 and 6 hours for one loaf of bread. That does include about 4 – 4 1/2 hours of just letting the yeast do its thing; so you are able to do other things at the same time. It does make the apartment smell really good.

My first loaf of bread
finished product

The first loaf came out shaped a little strangely, but it was delicious. It made a wonderful sandwich.

The bottom line is that I am finding a lot of things to keep busy, but still need to find a job. I am doing something this weekend, that I would have thrown a fit if I learned my kids had done this. I had a man contact me via Tik Tok. I had made some videos about riding my bike, and he has invited me on a group bicycle ride this weekend. We are going to ride from Zürich to the border of France. It is a little over 100 kilometers, and then we will take a train back. This is literally the first time since the pandemic started that I have a chance to try and meet some new people. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the rain will hold off. After three solid weeks of rain, we have a week of beautiful weather. The sun is shining and the temperatures are in high 60’s low 70’s.

My final thoughts as I end this post. I am really looking forward to August. George and Gabby are coming to see us the first 1/2 of August, and then Kaylee is coming over the 2nd half of the month. It is going to be really good to give the kids a squeeze. Hopefully, the virus trends continue to fall; so Switzerland goes ahead and opens up. The government has said, they will be rolling out the virus passports at the beginning of next week. I am hoping when they do this there will be an announcement as to when the borders will open for travel from North America.

Not that many pictures from this week, but I hope you enjoy them anyway. Talk to you soon!

27 Mai. 2021

Well I have a birthday coming up soon, and has got me thinking about retirement. Julie and I were reading an article in the paper last week about saving for retirement. The article was gushing about the fact that here in Switzerland a 50 year old needs to be saving 14% of your salary to be able to retire comfortably. The article then went on to compare other countries in Europe and the United States.

Italy 28 percent

Germany 30 percent

United States 42 percent

France 44 percent

This has really been bothering Julie and I. Over the 30 plus years of working we have been able to save a pretty good nest egg, but we have been saving NO WHERE near 42% of our salaries. I was finally able to track down the study, it was very mis leading. Basically they are assuming that the mythical 50 year old in their study will work for another 17 years, and has not saved a penny to this point. That makes a HUGE difference. If you start saving for retirement from your first paycheck, it makes a huge difference in what percentage of your paycheck you need to save when you are older. I admit, I do not know much about the Swiss retirement system, but I wonder how close to a current lifestyle you would be able to live, if you only saved 14% of your salary for the last 17 years of work? Especially here, where it is pretty darn expensive!!

I did learn more about the Swiss retirement system I found it pretty interesting. There are three pillars that make up the system.

Pillar 1: This is most similar to what in the US we would call Social Security. The difference being, that it is paid 100% by the employee. Where in the US it is a combined contribution. From what I can tell, the amount taken out of your paycheck is pretty fixed. This contribution results in a maximum payment of around 26,000 CHF per year.

Pillar 2: This would be similar to a 401K in the US. It is paid for by a combination of employer and employee contributions. This is a MANDATORY contribution for every employee making over 20,000 CHF per year. From what I can tell, the law calls for a 50/50 split between employee and employer, but many employers fund more than the required minimum. This part is kind of strange for Julie and I. We will wind up getting a portion of this back in a lump sum when we move back to the US. It helps us a little, because the Swiss tax on this will be lower than the income tax, but of Course Uncle SAM is going to get their cut, so as US citizens we get screwed. We paid US tax on it before we contributed, and then we will get taxed on it again as income when it is paid out. :(. Side note: The US is one of only two countries that require their citizens to pay income tax when they live in another country. I’ve also learned that we are fed a big line of BS when we are told that taxes are so much lower in the US than other countries.

Pillar 3: This is a really good deal, though it is all optional, and funded 100% by the employee. What makes it a good deal is that money invested here is given a tax deduction when you contribute, and it is tax free when you go to withdrawal it. Assuming you have met the time and age requirements. So for a really young person, this by far the best way to save for retirement. The tax advantages, are to me, very hard to believe, but that is because I am blinded by the US, where one way or another we paying tax on the money. I do think it makes a lot of sense to encourage investments for retirement to give you a break on the taxes. That is a lot of encouragement to plan.

COVID updates

Well, earlier this week the Government announced some more changes to the COVID protocols. Starting 31 Mai, restaurants can open up for indoor dining again. We still have to wear masks when moving around the restaurant. Other than immediate family, there can be no more than 4 people at a table. The homeoffice rule, becomes a recommendation instead of a requirement. There is one big catch to the recommendation, however. A company that wants to have their office employees back at work MUST develop a testing protocol where every employee is tested at least once per week. What I cannot find anywhere is who pays for the testing? What I found even more silly about the testing requirement is that the government gives us free one test per week, but they will not count that test for a company testing protocol. So we do not know if Julie will be working from home next week, or not. Her company is having a big meeting on Friday, where they are supposedly going to explain the rules. It should be interesting.

Other restriction news: If you are vaccinated, and you travel abroad will be exempted from testing and from quarantine upon their return. That is actually a kind of big deal, because the COVID test is 120 CHF for travel purposes, and your insurance will not cover it. Still no news as to lifting the border restrictions from the America’s, but we think it will be sometime mid – late June. There were some changes in regards to event size. The way I am reading the rules is 100 people can meet inside and 300 outside, but then there is a sentence in the release that says up to 50% of the capacity. So I think they are saying that if the seating of the venue is 500, then you can have 250 people in attendance? It doesn’t make any sense to me, but honestly, we don’t often go to places inside; so I may never know! Not even 20% of the population has been fully vaccinated, but the government is still insisting that everyone who wants a vaccination will be vaccinated by July.

The really good news is that the virus is on a pretty significant improvement trend. Of course we were that same way a year ago, and look what happened, then. I think the vaccines will make a big difference, though, and we will not have the same problems we had in the fall. This week the number of new cases dropped below 1000 per day for the first time since October. The hospitals are well under capacity. One thing I have not seen mentioned anywhere is when the mask requirements for transportation will lighten up. I keep thinking they address it when the COVID passport is rolled out, but who knows. All we can do is wait and wee what happens.

Switzerland and the EU

In other big news this week. The Belarus Government is trying to use Switzerland as part of their justification for hijacking the flight this week. The Belarus Government has announced that Switzerland alerted them that there was a bomb on the flight; which meant they could legally divert the flight to arrest the dissident. The Swiss government is not playing ball, and has been pretty adamant that no one from Switzerland called them about a bomb.

Switzerland broke off talks with the EU this week. The talks were trying to set up some treaty agreements to modernize treaties that were written almost 20 years ago. The talks have been going no where fast. The two parties started talking about the issues 13 years ago, and have not been able to come to any agreements. Basically it boils down to movement of people. THE EU has free movement across borders including setting up residency in other countries. This was one of the big motivations to Brexit, and the Swiss are every bit as worried about foreign people moving here as the Brits are. This one is going to be very interesting to me. In a lot of ways, the UK market is much bigger and more important than the Swiss markets, but it is the UK struggling not the EU after Brexit took place. I think Switzerland will quickly find that the EU is more important to them, than Switzerland is to the EU.

I freely admit I do not understand all that is going on between the EU and Switzerland. I do think Switzerland is fighting way outside their weight class, though. The Swiss have every right to set their own immigration policies, and even though they have implemented these policies very much in favor of the EU, they should not have to change them any more unless they want. On the flip side the EU has every right to play hardball and make it more difficult for the Swiss to do business with the EU. I am enjoying following this story. In the long run, I think what happens, is that both groups simply continue to live with the agreements that were signed. Neither side wins, and neither side loses. I know I have not been here that long, and have a lot to learn, but I just don’t see the Swiss giving up any more of their independence to the EU.

I hope you have a great week. Talk to you soon.

Holiday Monday Musings

24 mai 2021

Today is a holiday in Switzerland. For my non-church going friends the holiday is known as Pentecost. The percentages of religious people are very similar in Switzerland to the US. In Switzerland approximately 63% of the population is Christian. Which is almost identical to the US. The difference comes into catholic vs protestant. In the US it is about 42% protestant to 21% catholic. Here the percentage of catholics is slightly higher at about 35% of the population. The real difference comes into play in the number of different protestant denominations. In Switzerland 23% of the population belongs to the Swiss Reformed Church. Where in the US the largest protestant denomination only makes up a little more than 5% of the US population. Anyway, I just find it strange that the whole country celebrates a lot more religious holidays than the US does. I am sure a big part of that is the US having as part of their constitution that the government cannot impose religious practices on their citizens. It is actually quite striking to learn the parallels between the two countries in regards to religion. The percentages that identify with a religion are almost identical. The difference seems to have come into play with the number of people that claim atheism. In Switzerland that number is now around 30% of the population, where in the US that number is about 3 – 4%. So here people have given up on God completely, where in the US people have simply given up on church.

The weekend was supposed to have awful weather so we choose to stay around the apartment. I did not want to spend a lot of money on a hotel or apartment if it was going to rain all weekend. We have had our share of rain, but we have also had some great weather to get out and about.

Saturday, we took a ferry to the other side of the lake, and went for a hike. Earlier in the week, we had watched a ferris wheel go up, and start running. Somehow ( 🙂 ) I managed to ensure that our hike included going by the ferris wheel. I wasn’t sure if it was a local fair or carnival, but I knew we wanted to check it out. It turns out that it is a kind of roaming semi permanent fixture around the lake.

After our 7 mile hike, we decided to take the train downtown for a bit. We strolled down the Bahnhofstrasse and went into our favorite book store. OrrellFüssli is a huge book store. It reminds me of the giant book store that Tom Hanks’ family owned in You’ve Got Mail. It is four stories tall. The top floor is the English Department. So Julie goes to buy books (I prefer my kindle.) and I check out the English Treats Section. I scored! I found pickle relish ( which is completely different over here), malt vinegar, and some Hershey’s Syrup for ice cream. I have been looking for malt vinegar for over a year. Vinegar is a huge thing here, but it is all Balsamic. I was missing the malt vinegar on my french fries. I probably should have bought two bottles so it will last a long time, but I did not want to be greedy; so I will simply use it sparingly!

My Third best swiss purchase

So I have lived here close to 20 months now. If you remember back to 2019. Julie and I sold the house, and got rid of almost everything we owned for the move over here. I never knew that I was attached to a pillow until moving, though. The last thing I did before leaving Greenville, was throw my pillow, and bed sheets into a garbage bag. It turns out, I should have brought the pillow with me. I have missed that thing for almost two years now. Saturday afternoon, as we were roaming around I came across the pillow section in a store. I made a quick decision and bought a pillow. Julie thought that I had lost my mind. Especially when she saw how much it cost. I explained to her, that I have cycled through every single pillow we have in the apartment, and I had found only one that I liked. However, after I discovered it was a My Pillow pillow, I threw it in the garbage. I was afraid the Mike Lindell crazy had been sewn into the stuffing, and it would be like a leech into my brain while I was sleeping!!!!! So a couple of hundred francs later (no exaggeration) I am sleeping like the dead at night! I think the one thing I am worried about, is Julie tried it yesterday to take a nap, and she sleeps with 5 pillows. I am afraid that my one pillow purchase is going to cost us a plane trip back home. Speaking of plane trips.

We are so excited, both kids have made reservations to come see us in August. They won’t be here at the same time, but it is going to be so damn sweet to hug my kids again! Yes, Gabby, you will get a hug, too! Which as everyone knows is a big thing for me, because I am not much of a hugger! I also booked a flight home for November. My good friends the Eierman’s have said I can join them again for the Wisconsin Gun Deer Season. So I am going to be flying home for some deer hunting this year? I wonder if I have to buy an out of state license, or if my Wisconsin license is still proof of residency since I vote there? I guess I should check that out! I will also get to see Mom and Dad, and my Sisters as I will spend Thanksgiving Weekend in Southern Indiana. Which leads me to another rant about travel.

Julie and I figured we would be flying back to the US two or three times per year. That would have been pretty accurate except COVID has played a big role the last 12 months. So I signed up for a couple of the frequent flyer programs. I figured for the first time in my life I might actually fly enough that they would pay off. United Airlines, this rant is directed at you. So I logged into my United account and checked flights home for Christmas. It was going to cost over $4500 per ticket. That seemed really high, so I logged into Kayak and checked. The price was down to about $3700. Then I went back to the United page NOT logged into my account, and the price was $3800. Is there anyone that can explain why and how, the most expensive ticket was quoted to the account that has shown loyalty to the airlines by signing up for frequent flyer miles? That makes zero sense to me. Hopefully, Swiss airlines will soon have their normal flights scheduled, I really like flying Swiss. The food is outstanding.

rants over back to the weekend

So Sunday, the weather lady said the morning was supposed to be cloudy but no rain. We decided to take the bus downtown and go to the Zürich Botanical Garden. What a wonderful place to visit. We had the most calming walk right next to a stream in a very crowded area of Zürkch. It felt like we were out in the country. I found the perfect apartment to rent right next to a bus stop for Julie to get to work, and a waterfall. It would be the perfect little apartment. Of course it is probably less than 1/4 the size of the place we have now; so Julie wasn’t in to making a move. :(. Anyway, we loved the garden, and can’t wait to go back and visit. Unfortunately, the clouds decided to open up soon after our arrival, so we did not spend a lot of time there. We did stop and listen to the most amazing frogs I have ever heard. These are about 1/2 the size of a bull frog from back home, but wow were these things loud!

Once the rain chased us out of the Garden we decided to take a tram back downtown to catch a train home. Julie wanted to swing by and see if our favorite restaurant was open for carry out. It turns out they have put some tables outside so we sat down and had lunch. I had the most fantastic pizza I have ever had. Pizza in Europe is a completely different experience than in the US, but this as the best pizza EVER!!!! It was tomato, buffalo mozzarella, avocado, and red onion jelly. I was like a little boy. Julie says I gushed about that pizza for hours yesterday. She was right. I told the owner of the restaurant that I could die happy now. I have GOT to figure out how to recreate that experience. It is a good thing that LaPasta is not convenient to get to. Otherwise I would now be eating there a couple of times each week, and I would probably gain another 100 pounds…

So that was our holiday weekend in a nutshell. I hope you enjoy the pictures below.

I will talk to you soon.

Immigration

I have had immigration on my mind a lot the last couple of days. I honestly do not know where I am going to go with this post. I am guessing this is going to be one that I write, and then come back and revisit multiple times. Here are the things that began percolating in my brain.

I read an article, that was discussing how far away from “home” the average american lives. The “average” american lives within 18 miles of where they were raised. Less than 20% of americans live more than a three hour drive from their parents.

Last week I got into an online discussion of the difference between an immigrant and an expat. The dictionary definition of an expat: someone who lives outside their home country. The dictionary definition of an immigrant is: someone who comes to a different country with the intention of living permanently. I admit my knowledge is pretty limited, but it also seems to me that only British and American citizens ever use the term expat. Note: I consider myself an expat, because I plan to return to the US. The time frame of our return has probably changed, but we still plan to move back.

Also last week we had to renew our residency permits, and I have gotten into a lot of discussions over that practice. In the US we treat people a lot differently when they want to come based on what country they are moving from. Switzerland is the same way. There is a very visible difference between someone moving here from an EU country vs a non EU country.

Finally, a few days ago an article came out that listed Switzerland 30th out of 59 countries in regards to livability for immigrants and expats. https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/expats–love-hate-relationship-with-switzerland-continues/46612988

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/do-you-agree-with-a-recent-survey-of-expats-that-switzerland-is-beautiful-but-it-s-tough-to-settle-in-and-make-friends-/46627210 The one part of the article that really did make me laugh out loud is that 99% of the people surveyed were happy with Switzerland’s natural environment. I was surprised that was not rounded to 100%. The one phrase that Julie and I use all the time is, “We live in a postcard.” This article has received a lot of different feedback. All of the people that have moved here agree the article is correct. All of the people that have lived here their entire life, or have NEVER lived here think the article is hogwash. NEWSFLASH for the citizens: Your comments tend to demonstrate why the article is correct!! 🙂

Close to Home

The article about living close to home really got Julie and I thinking. I became non typical right after college. I started about 70 miles from home, then within 6 months was living almost 700 miles from home. Julie waited until we got married, but then she too moved away. Julie’s brother, after Law School, has never lived within 500 miles of where he grew up. Two of my sisters lived away for a while, and I guess technically are farther than 18 miles, but not by much. My third sister has been more like me. She moved away right after college, and never looked back. I contrast that to some of our best friends back in Wisconsin, the matriarch and patriarch of the family moved about 75 miles from where they were raised, but ALL of their kids have stayed within 5 miles (?) of the house they were raised. The third generation of that family has been a little more mobile, but not much. Only one of that generation has left Wisconsin. And most of the third generation still lives within 20 – 25 miles of Oshkosh.

The other big question is what does our living in Switzerland mean for our kids? We might have been able to get a residency permit for our daughter, but I am not sure about that. If she had been in High School when we moved it would have been no problem, but since we cannot declare her as a dependent in Switzerland I think getting a permit would have been hard. So what will be their tie, if any to finding a place to settle down? Greenville, WI is where they were raised, but I would say the odds of them moving back within 100 miles are next to zero. My oldest has left the state for law school, and his girlfriend is living in Kansas City. Will he stay in Indiana after school, or move there? My daughter is wanting to attend medical school after she graduates university. She is talking about practicing rural medicine; so even if she stays in Wisconsin, she will not be within 18 miles of Greenville. Heck, we do not even know where we are going to be when we are done here? We have a top choice, but that all depends on Julie’s status with her company. Do we leave here, and she is unemployed, or do we leave here and she still is working? That one variable changes any potential destination drastically.

I can certainly see the benefits of living close to family. Especially as our parents age. I know Julie and her brother are very thankful that I was able to fly back to the US last summer and help out their parents. However, if either Julie or her brother lived close to her parents it would not have been an issue. I am glad that two of my sisters are very close to home for that time my parents start needing assistance. I am sure that Julie and I will not be able to rely on our kids living close, unless we choose to move by them. Even that is not a sure thing, however, as I think our two kids are going to be very mobile. I can see them moving multiple times in their lives and careers.

difficulties

Our experiences in moving to a new country are not unique. I am pretty sure that everyone who has picked up and moved to a new place have experienced much of what Julie and I have experienced. I also am pretty sure that people wanting to move to the “land of the free and the home of the brave” experience just as many, if not more difficulties in moving.

It seems to be the most difficult part of moving to Switzerland actually occurs before you establish residency. Whether you are moving here from the EU or from someplace else, before you can establish residency you either have to have a signed contract for a job, or be able to prove that you can afford to live here for the length of the permit. Once you are approved, there really is not any difficulties in keeping your residency legal. All you have to do is stay employed and stay out of trouble. I have written many times before this of the process Julie’s company had to go through to get approval for her, and I also have written about differences between EU and NON-EU peoples.

Living here can be lonely, but it isn’t difficult. Everyone basically leaves you alone. One thing I have learned from being involved in a couple of online communities is that the French speaking part is the most open to foreigners. The German speaking areas are the most hostile to foreigners. One of the comments in the articles I linked earlier said it very well, that the German speaking areas of the country are hostile to anyone that moves in, Even if they are moving from a different german speaking canton. 🙂

I do think a lot of the difficulties we have experienced are due more to our stage of life than anything. Let’s face it by the time you hit your mid 50’s you are pretty set in your ways, and change becomes harder. If we were 30 years younger, I think our experiences would be completely different.

Migration

I relate very well to the article about Switzerland and immigrants, There are some real positives about moving to Switzerland. There are some real negatives as well. The article spent a lot of time talking about the economics of Switzerland. I freely admit I play into some of that. I LOVE getting the reactions from people when they hear how much it costs to go out to eat. Even at a fast food place. That being said the high prices are offset by high salaries. Not everyone is wealthy here. Like every other country a significant percentage of people struggle to get by every month. This might sound crazy, but my impression is that the people that struggle the most here, are the 2nd and 3rd generations of immigrant families. The first generation does well. First off to be able to get status, here, you have to show that you have means of support. This of course goes away for the next generation, and this is where living in Switzerland can be difficult.


However, my experience is that it is NOT much different than places we lived in the US. When we lived in the Twin Cities. We were lucky enough to have one friend from college that was also there. She introduced us to her roommates, and we have remained good friends ever since. Julie and I never met one person that lived in our apartment complexes, and when we bought our first house, we made friends with one neighbor couple who was our age, but then they got transferred. We made some other friends in the Twin Cities, but it was a pretty small group.

Similarly when we moved to Wisconsin we knew one couple before we moved and that one couple was the nucleus around most of the friendships we acquired. We lived in the same house for 25 years, and although we were friendly with our neighbors, we were not “friends” with any of them, and it took years with some of them before we even learned their names. It was a strange dynamic. As we would clean each other’s driveways after a blizzard, but we never got together for social activities. Once again, the friends we made in Wisconsin came from the one couple we knew, or from being involved in our church. We also found having the kids around made a difference. When we moved into our neighborhood, we were the only young couple that did not have kids, and 25 years when we left, we were one of only three houses in the neighborhood whose kids had grown and left. We made a lot of friends through our kid’s activities. I do wonder if having young kids would have allowed us to meet more people here?

Of course a big chunk of our problem with settling in is us. Not knowing the area Julie wanted to move into this great apartment. Part of the problem is that we are alone. There is not an expat community here and due to covid, there has been zero chance to try and get involved with anything. The language barrier has also made things more difficult. Yes, I am trying to learn German, but until things open up again, I do not have the chance to learn the language that people in our neighborhood speak. They can understand my simple german phrases, but unless they speak in formal german in reply I cannot understand more than a couple of words they are speaking. I also think Julie is having an easier time fitting in than me. She still meets and talks with people daily, but I am able to get around easier due to my better language skills.

I should probably STOP thinking about when we move back to the US, but how easy will another migration be? If we move back to NE Wisconsin, the transition will probably be very easy. After all we did spend 25 years there, and our absolute best friends are all in Wisconsin. Moving back home to Southern Indiana, will probably be easier on me than Julie. We have some friends there and we would be moving back to the farm I grew up. I am not sure Julie is cut out for country life. :). Or will it be closer to Chicago, as she stays working at their US main office? This one could be hard for both of us. We do know a few people that live there, so that always makes it a little easier, but Chicago is a HUGE place, and simply knowing someone doesn’t mean we will see them very often.

I do think the migration back to the US will be a lot easier than moving here. For one reason, we don’t have to learn a new language! We are looking at staying in the midwest, where we both lived most of our lives.

I apologize if this post has seemed whiny, or depressing. I probably shouldn’t write when it has been raining for 40 straight days and nights! That is only a slight exaggeration! As I have been going over this post today, I have been watching a Ferris Wheel go up across the lake. Hopefully the rain will hold off tomorrow, and we can take a ferry across and check out the fair! That will probably put me in a better mood! Take care and talk to you soon!

20 May 2021

Not a whole lot of writing in this post. The only thing that has happened since I wrote last, is that Julie and I got the first doses of the Covid Vaccine, and IT NEVER STOPS RAINING!!!!

I guess that last statement is a little inaccurate. It is not currently raining now, but so far May has been miserable. It has not rained every day this month, but the rain has been a lot more frequent than the sun shine. In fact I was reading an article yesterday that talked about the two local food crops (asparagus and strawberries) are basically over before they even got started. The fields are so wet that everything is simply drowning before it can be picked.

We have a three day weekend again this week, but the weather has been so lousy that we have decided to simply stay at home. It doesn’t make any sense to pay for an apartment or hotel room when it is going to rain every day. Oh well, staying at home will allow Julie to get all her summer clothes out of the basement. She may not be able to wear them this year, but at least they will be available!

We keep waiting for news on when things will open up again for travel. Apparently, Greece and Italy have opened up to North American travelers, but so far not a word on Switzerland. The strangest thing I have read is that the final decision on the electronic vaccine passports will be made on 18 June. What made it strange is that they are going to start rolling it out on 7 June? I guess I would have thought the final decisions would have already been made before they start rolling it out. The one thing they have been adamant about is that it will only be needed for international travel and large events. They are not going to require it for travel within the country, shopping, or smaller public events. The government is also calling it a certificate of non-contagiousness. So I guess that means you have been vaccinated, or you have to be tested for anti-bodies periodically.

I came across this news article yesterday, and I have to admit I am intrigued. If I can convince Julie to let me leave for a week or so, I might check it out:

Swiss mountain farmers are looking for volunteers

Normally, scores of volunteers from abroad help Alpine farmers in their daily chores. But due to travel restrictions, this year the farmers are hoping help will come from within the country.

Caritas, an organisation helping to find about 1,400 urgently needed volunteers, is looking for “people who appreciate the insight into a new world, who are looking for a connection to nature, and who want to secure the livelihood of mountain farmers”.

The tasks include harvesting hay, looking after animals, helping around the house, and other chores.

Anyone wishing to work on a mountain farm for at least a week must be at least 18 years old and physically fit. It is also important that applicants have not visited a risk area 10 days before the assignment, Caritas said.

The last of the pictures from our Vevey weekend. Hope you have a great weekend talk to you soon!