Monday, November 30, 2009

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful

Our first snow in Zurich. It has been a very long time since we have lived in a place with a real winter. Thank goodness for the fireplace.

...and since we've no place to go -- let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Syabu Syabu

We got a recommendation a while back from a fellow Googler telling us about the best Japanese restaurant in Zurich, Samurai, and how we have to try Syabu Syabu some night. Just from this statement I had a gillion questions (what's new?). 1. Ok, really...a great restaurant in Zurich. Let's just say you don't come here for the food. 2. Japanese? You have perked my interest. 3. Did you just say the name of a whale? Is that what I am supposed to eat there? Even with all the skepticism, we talk our adventurous friends into trying this so called Syabu Syabu in celebration of our anniversary.

All I knew going into this meal was that you had to call the restaurant prior to the meal and let them know you were being dare devils for the night and that it was a bit pricey (but usual Swiss dining standards). Also knew it had something to do with a big bowl of boiling water and something about having to cook your own meat. Sounds good enough, right?

We asked for some initial instructions. Before you start playing, they drop a bunch of veggies in the water to cook. Gave you a couple dipping sauces and a plate of raw meat. You grab some meat with your chopsticks, put it in the water til it browns, dip it in a sauce, and eat. Add veggies and rice if you prefer. I love foods that are hands on. Very simple. Very healthy.

By the end of the meal, all the meat was gone, veggies were bought and cooked multiple times, and my tummy was full. Add a couple Sapporos, good friends, a Mom, a wonderful husband, and it makes for a great anniversary night.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Guest Post: 5 Great Things About Being an Expat in Switzerland

by Chantal Panozzo

In honor of the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I’d like to talk about some stuff that’s pretty great about being an expat in Switzerland.
  1. The Swiss know how to integrate nature with city life. This means a hiking trail is never more than 5-10 minutes away from just about anywhere. I love that. Now if I could just hike faster than the retirees, everything would be perfect.
  1. The country is beautiful. I mean come on, even the garbage cans shine. You just don’t see this kind of thing in other countries. Not to mention the lakes that are so clean you can swim in them. Even the dogs here smell nice. Oh, and my gutter is so shiny from my neighbor’s gardening boot camp that I can drink out of it. Talk about a beautiful life.
  1. You don’t need a car. The train connects to the bus that connects to the cable car that connects to that perfect little mountain restaurant in the middle of nowhere where people are having an energy drink and a bio yogurt. Just don’t get used to it or you’ll find yourself in other countries completely pissed as to why you can’t get to that little farming town of 500 via public transport.
  1. Location, location, location. Central Europe. You’re in it. I’ve seen most of Europe now, and I love revisiting the places I’ve been again and again. Because then instead of coming to a city all American style with a checklist of things to see, I let the cities come to me.
  1. Nice work, if you can get it. Those of us that have jobs (or used to have jobs—but don’t worry, unemployment pays too) know that Swiss salaries are good. When you can make as much money at a part-time job that you made working full-time in the States, well, let’s just say it’s going to be hard to leave.
Chantal Panozzo is a writer and blogger. Besides keeping her own blogs, One Big Yodel and Writer Abroad, she also blogs for a new expat community blog. This blog offers affordable calling cards in Switzerland as well as information about living abroad in Switzerland and many other countries.

Friday, November 27, 2009

American Mommy in Zurich - Letter Three

Week 3 was a big travel week - in and outside of Switzerland (so I'm afraid that this is an even longer letter than the last two!!). On Saturday morning Deb and I left to go to München (Munich, Germany), four hours by train. (Josh and his mom Pam had a nice mother-son weekend at home.) Great train ride (definitely not like Amtrak - they actually follow their schedule to the minute). We had breakfast in the dining car (again, head and shoulders above Amtrak - white tablecloths and all). If you allow yourself, you can meet some of the most interesting people on the train. A very nice (and very cute) young man sat down across from us (the trains are set up with two seats across from each other). Turned out that this 29-year old is from Mexico and has been working in Geneva for two years. Got his Masters in Economics from Harvard. He is now working on his PhD in his "spare" time with a professor in Munich. So he was on his way to meet with his professor for the weekend. Their meetings are while they snowboard!! They go down the slopes, then discuss his thesis on the way back up. He told us about the American-style football league in Europe. Deb LOVES NFL so she was really excited. He plays for the Geneva Seahawks. So the funny story is that there is a rule that no more than one American at a time can be on the field playing for a team. They actually mark the Americans' helmets with a large letter "A" to identify them!! So his helmet has an "A" but he wants an "M" for Mexican!! Deb kept teasing me that I wanted to fix him up with someone because he was smart, athletic, adorable and so personable. He travels to Central and South America for his job. But after his third year job commitment, he wants to move back to Monterrey, know of any single women who speak Spanish and willing to relocate??? (I'm still trying even though I have no idea what his name even is.)

We were extremely surprised when we arrived in Munich that the train station there is SMOKE-FREE. Have I mentioned how all of the Europeans smoke all the time?? Of course, you walk right outside of the station and you can't see or breathe. We checked into our hotel and set off to explore. A few blocks away was the Karlsplatz and it was PACKED with Saturday afternoon shoppers!! We walked amongst the crowds to the Marienplatz and then just wandered and wandered and wandered, looking at churches and government buildings and my favorite, the Viktuelienmarkt (an outdoor food market that was quite interesting). It was so crowded everywhere and just packed in the streets. I guess EVERYONE comes to Munich and shops there on Saturdays. We had a great time in Munich but it was definitely not our favorite city or a city that either of us thought we'd ever have any interest in going back to - unless it was for Oktoberfest (we could put up with the crowds for that)!! Munich seems a little schizophrenic - very old, massive buildings that have been converted to ugly, uncharming stores. Most other cities have also added shops to the ground floors of their old buildings, but Munich did it kind of crassly. The other thing that really hit us was the presence of Polizei everywhere - and lots of them. And in comparison to Switzerland which is sooooo clean, Munich was kind of dirty - trash overflowing in the trash cans on the streets, etc. Even with all of these considerations, we did have a very nice time and were glad that we went - my first time in Germany outside of the Frankfort airport and Deb says that doesn't count.

The most fun that we had - aside from lunch at the Hofbrau Haus - was shopping for Deb's dirndl. You know, Heidi clothes!! The TIGHT embroidered dresses with the little white puffy shirts underneath with lots of cleavage showing and the eyelet apron. She looks quite cute of course. When she tried it on, she couldn't get it zipped up so we asked the salesclerk for a larger size and she just said, "No, this fits," and yanked up the zipper. I think Deb can wear it if she doesn't eat anything - or breathe for that matter. I'm sure she'll blog on her dirndl so keep reading her blog for the post - and picture. Now Josh just needs to get his Lederhosen and they're set for their next party!! That, I want to see. Dinner that night was Italian. When we asked the concierge about restaurants and then told him I needed vegetarian, he switched his recommendation from Bavarian to Italian!! After dinner, we turned on the TV and what was on, but the German version of American Idol - and they were awful! They even have their own version of Simon Cowell.

Small world time. Having bagels the next morning at Coffee Fellows, we met an American who is in Munich working on a project for two weeks. Turns out he used to be a professor at the University of Iowa!! He told us about his book, The Oxford Project. When we got ready to leave, he gave us his business card - Peter Feldstein. I knew it - I'm in Munich, Germany and I find a Jewish guy from Iowa!! Check out The Oxford Project ( Also while we were there, we saw someone wearing a University of Texas Longhorns hat and another kid wearing a Minnesota t-shirt!

I'm used to clocks everywhere after a few weeks in Switzerland, but in Munich, there are CUCKOO clocks everywhere. Every size imaginable. Deb looked at buying one but I reminded her about the "Cuckoo, cuckoo" that they do over and over again - and make you crazy. The best clock there was on the Rathaus (the New Town Hall), the Glockenspiel. Every day at 11 a.m. it chimes and re-enacts two stories from the 16th century. It consists of 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures. The top half of the Glockenspiel tells the story of the marriage of the local Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lothringen. In honour of the happy couple there is a joust with life-sized knights on horseback representing Bavaria and Lothringen. The Bavarian knight wins every time of course. This is then followed by the bottom half and second story - Schäfflerstanz (the coopers' dance). In the 16th century a particularly bad period of the plague hit town and everyone went into hiding. The first people to dare go back onto the streets were barrel makers who performed a big dance to show that it was okay to come out again. The whole show lasts about 15 minutes. At the very end, a very small golden bird at the top of the Glockenspiel chirps three times, marking the end of the spectacle.

We walked and walked and walked - saw Maximilian this and Maximilian that - statues, streets, castles. Ended up walking through the English Gardens. I would describe them as the Central Park of Munich. There was a group of men and women who were surfing in the Isar River. They were great - wet suits from head to toe. Signs saying "Surfen und Baden Verboten" didn't stop them obviously. There are some videos on YouTube if you search for "Munich English Gardens Surfing".

Time for real Bavarian food - and real Bavarian beer! I of course had water but Deb said it was great - and BIG, huge steins of it. I think the stein was about as big as Deb - we figured about 3-4 beers - and little Deborah finished the whole thing. Deb had a platter of brats/weiners and sauerkraut and I had my favorite spetzle. It came with Käse (cheese) and Zwiebel (onions). My treat was a giant, hot, fresh Bretzel (not misspelled - that's what they're called here). The band was playing up a storm (think oom-pa-pa) and lots of people were dressed in their Sunday best - they really do dress like in the movies. You share tables and just have a wonderful, joyful time eating and drinking. This was the Germany I expected. I can't even imagine what it must be like during Oktoberfest. They even have a room where people have their personal biersteins locked up and I understand you have to get on a long waiting list to get one. Hard core beer drinkers in Bavaria.

We decided that we were tired and ready to just sit and have some coffee or tea - and maybe try a German dessert. So off to another Bavarian beer hall, the Weisses Brayhaus. Deb tried to order an apfelstrudel with vanilla ice cream but the very cute waitress in broken English shook her head no and pointed to another dessert. We thought that meant that they were out of strudel. She started to almost faint on the spot telling us in sign language how much better this other dessert was. Swooning was probably the right description. So we ordered the Kaiserschmarm. She was so right! OMG! A caramelized pancake with rum-soaked raisins, split into smaller pieces while frying and served with hausgemachten (a good word to learn to look for - homemade) applesauce. Wow!!! She was so right. (I said that already, didn't i??)

Back to Zurich. Pam went home on Monday morning so we were back to one Mommy at the Peterthals. Monday we had lunch at Google (sound like a broken record??) because Stella the Pug had a lunch date there with Emma the Pug. Deb and I then had the fun job of finding a laser printer in stores with no English. We did it. But then came the shlep to the bus, on the bus, and UP THE HILL. You know how big those printer boxes are. How did they ever get all of their apartment furnished and carried up those hills???

Tuesday, back to the train station. This time we trained it twice and then took a bus to Vals, spa-land. Ahhhhh.....mineral baths. Hotel Alpina Vals was our home until Thursday and it was a very nice vacation. The snow-covered Alps were everywhere you looked. Charming town. As I told Deb, I could just feel my blood pressure and heart rate slow down. to the baths!

Therme Spa is quite unique in its design. Vals is a very quaint small town that commissioned a famous architect to design a building suitable for their famous mineral baths. The building is built into the mountain all out of local Valser quartzite and very dark and modern and linear, with little nooks and crannies everywhere, all with different temperatures of the waters. We started in 32° C which was like a very nice warm bath. There were also baths in 34° C, 36° C (indoor and outdoor), 42° C and then the ice pool at 14° C (57.2° F) very appropriately named. My toes went in after the Fire Pool (107.6° F) but that's it. Some people actually emerged their whole bodies in it and then went back into the hot bath. There were the usual, but kind of bizarre, wet and dry saunas and even a nude bathing area. Deb wouldn't let me go in - maybe it's because the people who went in right before that were these little old man and his wife. Our favorite was the "grotto" bath at 34° C - a small square secluded, quiet area with nice gentle whirlpool jets. The next day we went back after a nice long walk and also had foot massages in their spa. (Kurt, you are so much better than Jenny was!!!)

Of course I have to tell you about the food in Vals. Our hotel served us dinner and breakfast since we had a package with half pension. We did not expect 4-course gourmet dinners. Wow! Our waitress was the best and so accommodating to make sure my meals were vegetarian, even without us notifying them before we arrived. Our second night there she even had written out the menu in English so she'd get it all correct and had veggie options already selected for me. We had some wonderful pumpkin soup (Kürbissuppe) and apple-pumpkin soup (Apfel-Kürbissuppe). Again, cream and butter...I'm trying to find a recipe and make it "healthy" - oh, and taste yummy too.

On Thursday we reversed our route and walked to the bus stop and took a bus and then a train and then another train and then a tram and then walked up the hills to Deb's and then back down again and back on a tram to a bus and walked to her friend's to pick up Stella (and yes, then back on a bus to a tram to the hills to the apartment)! We had just over 24 hours to recuperate and pack and leave again (and deliver Stella to another friend's to dogsit), this time for a long weekend in Prague. Deb says we're staying put after that.

Next week we are going to try making a few recipes before I leave. Any suggestions??? And still on my list before I go home is Cheese Fondue - so many foods to try; so little time!

Coming home Monday...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey Day: Google to the Rescue

I was just complaining about Josh having to work today and tomorrow. I mean, seriously, it is Thanksgiving. Doesn't everyone get that day off even if you don't live in the States? Isn't that part of his employment package? It should be standard. You are American. You get Turkey Day off and Black Friday. What a weird feeling sending him off to the office when he doesn't even have meetings scheduled.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am thankful that Google has pulled through and is serving up a turkey feast for lunch today. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Think of us when you are gobbling away at your stuffing and cranberry sauce while watching football. Not jealous at all.

*Just so you don't worry about us, Mom smuggled in some Stove Top Stuffing and Oceanspray Jellied Cranberry Sauce from home. Only the good stuff for her baby.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

American Mommy in Zurich - Letter Two

Nothing like a Week 2 letter appearing at the start of Week 4. All I can say is that she is a Luskey and for her...this is right on schedule.


I am working on at least pronouncing the German words correctly. Not an easy language....but learning some of the words that are used over and over again - like Gleis (platform as in train platform) and verbotten (forbidden)! Deb has me starting with counting from one to ten. (That actually helped me know how much my latte was at the museum. Didn't have to ask her to speak in English.) Baby if I could understand what's HIGH German and what's SWISS German.

Another big week in my adventures in Zurich/Switzerland/Europe. Josh's mom Pam was also here so the Peterthals had TWO mommies to deal with. Lucky Deb and Josh!!

So many interesting events this week. As I read my notes, I see a theme here - FOOD! It just turned out that way this week. Food and TRAVEL!!  Lots of travel - and lots of new foods to taste. It's more than just the food, though - it's a way to really absorb the culture - and the calories. Everything here seems to either have milk, butter and/or cream - but made with milk from "happy" cows. Oh, yeah, potatoes are also very big here.

On Saturday, we went to ExpoVina (12 ships docked in Lake Zurich) with wine tasting from all over the world. $20 to get in and all the wine you wanted!! I had water and a Diet Coke!! But I also split a Swiss "cheese pie" called Chäschüechli. I think that means little cheese pie. After going from boat to boat, we went to some friends' house for Mac n Cheese!

On Sunday after a run/walk on the Sihl River, we all went to Korperwelten, the "Body Worlds" exhibit (since almost nothing is open here on Sundays). Really interesting and so much fun to read all about the workings of our bodies in either German or French. Again, my French came in handy but it must have taken me at least an hour longer than it should have because of my time needed to translate. They just don't teach you the words for "stroke" or "menopause" in French class. Dinner was as Swiss as you could get - Zeughauskeller for Kalbsgeschnetzeltes (sliced veal and mushrooms in a creamy white wine sauce) served over rösti (like incredible hash browns), kind of. I had spinach and ricotta tortellini (not too many vegetarian choices on the menu).

On Monday, we all (Stella included - Switzerland is VERY dog-friendly) bundled up and headed to the tram to go to St. Gallen and Appenzell for the day. We got to the tram and Stella, even in her nice warm jacket, started shaking and shivering so Deb stayed home with her and Josh took both of the mommies for a day trip. I told Deb it wasn't nice of her to get Stella all wet to make her shiver - she could have just told us that she didn't want to go! St. Gallen was nice - didn't really have much time there. But Appenzell was just so very charming - as my Dave described it, right off the Swiss Mix box! This is the Switzerland that everyone envisions. But it was eerily quiet as we walked along trying to find Hotel Traube for their famous mac n cheese. It finally hit us that no one was out and about and everything was closed so I guess Appenzell shuts down on Sundays AND Mondays. We found a place for coffee and after finding a cheese shop and sampling a few (and buying three), we found a Bäckerei that was open. We ordered Käse Zweibelkuchen (cheese/onion quiche) and grün salat (green salad) and wonderful Warme Schokolade (hot, actually warm, chocolate) and latte macchiatos. And to top it off, we had to have some of their special lebkuchen (gingerbread with almond filling) and apfelkuchen. We scoured the few stores that were open for a cow bell (read Deb's account of the cow bells) and then boarded a train and then another train to return back to Zurich. Great day. BEAUTIFUL part of Switzerland. Thank you, Josh, for being such a patient son/son-in-law.

Tuesday was shopping on Bahnhofstrasse, the Rodeo Drive of Zurich. However, we shopped at H & M!!! Chinese food for lunch in the basement of Jelmoli again. Then Pam and I went on our own on the bus to the grocery and electronics stores and then back to Deb and Josh's. Made it without any incidences! Figured out what I needed and how to get it and pay for it and then get back home! Just like an old pro. The transit system here is so amazing. You can get almost anywhere in such a short time. The interesting part is that it's all on the honor system but you better have your pass on you just in case. Back at the apartment, Pam made Toll House cookies with her smuggled-in chocolate chips and the new hand mixer we had bought. We killed the hand mixer -what does Daewoo know about mixing cookies?? Deb took it back and told the clerk that "Ist kaputt!"

Wednesday, Hausfrau Day for Deb. Laundry day. So I took over as the tour guide for the day. My first true test of my knowledge of the city and how to get around. We met Josh at Google and he walked us to the train station and saw us off. We took the S4 to Selnau and then changed to the S10 for Uetliberg. Piece of cake - except the S10 only went as far as Triemli. So we got off and waited for the next S10 to continue up to Uetliberg. We had been waiting for a clear day because from Uetliberg, you can see all of Zurich. It was really gorgeous. After that, we took the train back to the main train station (the HB) and walked down Bahnhofstrasse and through winding little streets in Old Town to see the Chagall stained glass windows at Frau Münster. They are beautiful and we had to take advantage of the sunny day. I found our way to "the best bratwurst stand" in Zurich and we ate with the locals. Back to Bellevue and we took the tram to the Kunsthaus (Art Museum). Then back on the trams to the apartment. I had done it! Gotten us there and back and everywhere in between. If you can read a time schedule and system map, you can figure everything out. Luckily, I can do that. Back to home and clean clothes!

Thursday was Google lunch (#3 or #4??) and then the grocery store and then Pam made her famous veggie lasagna. Google had a special "Daughter's lunch menu" so we had fish sticks, hot dogs, spaghetti - very cute to see some of the daughters there for lunch with dad/mom.  We took Pam to Freitag to buy a bag made out of all recycled materials - truck tarps, seatbelts, and tire tubes. Cool place. We also went to a great little funky antique shop with the coolest old giant clock from a train station. Deb is trying to figure out how to get it home and wired in the States. All four of us went to the Opernhaus that night for the opera "Madama Butterfly". What a treat. The opera house was built in 1891 and is as you would imagine it - ornate and beautiful (but not designed to see very well from every seat we found out). Imagine it - being at the Opera in Switzerland watching an opera set in Japan about an American soldier and sung in Italian with German subtitles!!! I had advised Deb to read the synopsis before we went - that was very good advice!!

Friday the 13th, Josh took off another day from work for another day trip. We started the day with Pam making us Swedish pancakes! All we needed were fresh lingonberries. Again all of us set off (Stella included) for Luzern and then on another small train for Alpnachstad. We bought tickets to ride the steepest cogwheel train in the world and went from 1450 ft. to 7000 ft at a 48% incline. Read Deb's blog for comments and pictures. Stella did great until her feet got wet in the ice. So Deb and I headed in for lunch. What did she have?? You guessed it - mac n cheese with a twist, called Alpine Macaroni (mac, cheese, potatoes). I had the first of many bowls of suppe in Switzerland. The soups are wonderful and after looking up some of the recipes, I found out why - cream and butter!! Very funny that our train was five minutes late and Deb started going crazy!! I guess she has become more "Swiss" than she thinks. That evening we met a bunch of Deb and Josh's friends to celebrate their anniversary - at a Japanese restaurant having "syabu syabu".

Back to Zurich just in time to pack for a weekend in Munich!! Week 3 update coming soon (we leave for Prague tomorrow morning for four days). Tschuss!

*Stephen (aka Dad) has decided to blog a response to my letters, sometimes even before I write the letter! Read his responses at


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Prague or Not...

That is the question. This morning started out with its own set of
problems. You would think after 6 months of living here I would know
which trains take me to the Flughafen, but I guess you would be wrong.

After racing with suitcases in hand and Mom almost spilling coffee all
over herself we made it to the train we thought was going to the
airport. Luckily I noticed only two stops too late that this train was
actually going to Nowhereswil, Switzerland. We switch trains heading
back to Oerlikon only to get stuck taking a bus that makes a billion
stops with the oldest, slowest people ever on its way (finally) to the

Again we race with suitcases in hand (no coffee this time - one less
obstacle) to get to our gate just in time to find out it is delayed.
Gotta love that.

I guess my complaining did the trick! We are boarding. Looks like we
are going to Prague after all.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fountain of Youth?

On my way to visit Josh (and probably grab a free lunch) at his work, I always walk past this fountain in the parking lot. I realize there are a bunch of fountains all over Zurich, but this one is different. No matter what time of day or what day of the week, there will be cars lined up waiting to get their turn at filling up their car full of empty bottles with this precious water. No joke. People go crazy for this stuff. And, I am not talking about one bottle or two. They brings crates of bottles.

At first we just figured it was the restaurants refilling their bottled water that they resell for 5 CHF instead of letting you drink tap water. Come to find out there is actually a special spring below this fountain. The water has a very different taste than the bottled water here. I tried it (of course) and it just tasted very mineraly.

What's all the excitement for? Just made me think of all the reasons we purify our water.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Steepest Cogwheel Train - Mt. Pilatus

With the perfect excuse of having to take both Moms to see some mountains, Josh and I got to finally check out the Pilatus Bahnen aka The Steepest Cogwheel Train in the world!

(pause for you to catch your breath)

It takes a couple train rides to get there, but well worth the time. Zurich to Luzern to Alpnachstad to Mt. Pilatus. Just another day for the Peterthals.

On the way up the mountain, there are signs telling you how steep you are going -- like you couldn't tell. The steepest point was a 48% incline. Even crazier were the people hiking up alongside the train tracks.

We reach the top, bust out Stella's new argyle sweater, and start walking to one of the lookouts. What an amazing site. I swear these Alps just never get old. I guess growing up in the plains of South Dakota can do this to a person.
I only got to stay outside for about a half a second since our princess of a dog started shaking uncontrollably. Poor mopsli (little pug) doesn't like the snow.

I did get to enjoy the views from inside with a hearty bowl of Aelplermagronen and a glass of wein. Nothing wrong with a little macaroni, cheese, potatoes, and some crispy goodness on top.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Guest Post: Is Switzerland an easy country for expats?

By Chantal Panozzo

A few days ago, I was preparing for a radio interview and one of the
questions was, “Is Switzerland an easy country for expats?”

My answer? Yes and no.

Yes, because it’s easy to find support groups of other expats and make
friends through the expat community.

Here are some of them:

Swiss Expat Bloggers (

International Men’s Club Zurich (

British Residents’ Associate of Switzerland (

Zurich Comedy Club (

Zurich International Women’s Association (

But I also think that Switzerland can be a hard country for expats
because the Swiss culture doesn’t make it easy to feel a part of. It’s
hard to make friends with the Swiss people because they are so
private—I’ve learned from the few Swiss friends I do have that even
the Swiss have trouble making Swiss friends. It’s not just us. It’s
the way the culture is. So don’t feel bad. One of my Swiss friends
just started a new job in Zurich and couldn’t believe no one talked to
him the first few weeks he was there. No one said, “let’s go to
lunch.” He had to ask first. This is typical. And he doesn’t like it

Another reason Switzerland can be difficult for expats is because of
the language. Especially in the German section, the language can be a
barrier no matter what version you learn, because you can’t win. You
learn High German and change every der, den, das, dem, denen, and des
into a “duh”, but you’re still labeled as a outsider no matter how
good those duh’s get. And correct me if I’m wrong, but Swiss German
seems like a hard language to learn because it’s not written at all.
So take your choice—be able to read your Swiss mail and your Swiss
newspaper and communicate with all of Germany or Austria, or learn a
Swiss dialect and be able to talk to the 2,000 people in your town but
not be able to read and write. Hmm.

But enough about what I think. Do you think Switzerland is an easy
country for expats to live in? Why or why not?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer and blogger. Besides keeping her own blog,
One Big Yodel ( and Writer Abroad
( she also blogs for a new expat community
blog ( This blog offers
affordable calling cards in Switzerland
( as well as
information about living in abroad in Switzerland and many other

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ladies that Lunch in Rapperswil

My friends from Austin joke about my life out here. How will I spend my days? Will I turn into one of those "ladies that lunch" in Europe? I hate to admit it...actually, I love to admit it...I have been known to occasionally be a lady that lunches. Since I am such a giver and my mom is out here for the month of November wanting to experience all that the hausfrau life has to offer, I figure she needed to have this experience too.

After a few days of playing hausfrau, we decide to venture out and do some sightseeing in Rapperswil -- of course having lunch while we are there. It is at the southern edge of the Zurichsee about a 40-minute train ride away.

Mind you that we haven't done any research about what to do in Rapperswil. I had read one short blog post on my one-stop Swiss travel blog, Swisstory about the city, but we were basically going in with our eyes closed. Another fun thing to do when living here. Just jump on a train and go. Mom is really getting the full experience.

The day couldn't have been better.

Sun shining. Alps on one side, water on the other, castle in the middle. We literally stepped off the train, crossed the street and were in the heart of the Altstadt (old city). We could hear the latte macchiatos calling our names.

We grabbed a relaxing lunch along the shore (which I ordered all in Deutsch). Soaked in some rays and then set off to explore the city a bit. We took in the usual Swiss city sites including a castle, a church, and some cobblestone streets. But, more importantly we had our ladies that lunch in Europe day. I have a feeling there might be a few more of these in our future.

*Dad, I hope you know Mom is getting pretty used to this lifestyle. Not sure she is coming back home.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gobble, Gobble

Uh huh. That says 104.50 CHF (about the same in dollars) for 5.806 kg (12.7 lbs) of bird. How much without the giblets?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hair Coloring by Picture

I would have to say my hair color has always been somewhat of a signature for me. I have been dying my hair every shade under the sun since I was a freshman in high school. I have prided myself on never knowing what my real hair color is and never knowing if there is any gray.

You have heard me say over and over again that Switzerland is so ridiculously expensive. Well, going to the salon is no exception to the rule. The place down the street from my flat charges between 135-165 CHF just for a cut. So, since we have moved here almost 6 months ago, my hair hasn't been touched. For some reason this feels like my way to keep control over our expenses. I feel like I have some sort of power over the system. I know this sounds lame, but now that I am a hausfrau, this is my little way of "paying" for our next weekend excursion.

I can only be so strong though. I have still not cut my hair, but it might have been Mom's first day in town that we went and bought hair dye. This was an adventure in and of itself. Imagine yourself surrounded by box after box of hair dye all in a different language. That was the first challenge. Just figuring out which to buy. Luckily, between my mom's French (that she hasn't used since college) and my beginner German we found the non-permanent, washout variety.

Next, we had to decipher the instructions. It almost felt like breaking a code. We were dying laughing at ourselves. Mom would be interpreting the French, me the German, but when we get to a sentence in bold, red lettering with the word "Achtung!" next to it we broke down and used the old trusty Google translate just to verify our guess. I think it took us about two hours to get through one page of directions. But, we did it!

The actual coloring process went smoothly and I am back to a beautiful, dunkle schokolade color. Thank goodness. And, all this hotness for only 20 CHF.

For any expat with similar hair needs and tight wallet strings, I have included our translation of the instructions. Just know, these are for those individuals who have NOT colored their hair in over three months. We used L'oreal Casting Creme Gloss #323 Dunkle Schokolade -- the same shade as Penelope Cruz.

Put gloves on. Cover exposed area around you.

1. Take casting creme gloss tube and mix into the the white "milch" tube.
2. Put applicator tip on.
3. Shake it.
4. After all mixed up, take off cover on the tip.

Application (if haven't colored hair in the past 3 months):
1. Wet hair. No shampoo. Towel dry.
2. Apply strand by strand the mixture through the tube applicator (duh)
3. Distribute all over. Use all the gunk.
4. "Impregnate" or massage into all the hair.

**Have a glass of wine and wait 20 minutes**

1. Add a little lukewarm water and work it through your hair.
2. Rinse til it runs clear.
3. Massage a generous amount of the Royal Jelly.
4. Wait 2 minutes.
5. Rinse with lukewarm water completely.
6. Save extra Royal Jelly and use as conditioner to prolong coloring.

If you think you did a crappy job, go buy your natural color and do it again!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

The street vendors are smart here. Right when the weather starts to change and become colder, the ice cream carts suddenly changed into "Heisse Marroni" stands overnight. The gelato stands are only a faint memory now. It seems like on every corner there is this cute, little stand with one man in charge of cooking the nuts and the other taking care of the crowds. You would think they were giving away gold at these places, but no...just "hot chestnuts".

I have been telling myself, "I have to try these. I have to try these. Next time I see a stand, I will grab a quick 100 grams just to try them". It's just something you should do when living here, right? I have read other blogs talking about their love of the Marroni and all the different forms it comes in. If just the nuts weren't enough for you, a lot of restaurants have these strange-looking desserts with chestnut spaghetti noodle thingys on top of a pie crust or just served up in a bowl like a sundae, even with the whipped cream on top.

I have to tell you, the Marroni is not for me. I was out and about with my mom the other day. We stumble upon one of these stands. We are both so excited to actually taste these things. We order our hundert grams, peel off the shell, and take a bite. It has sort of this mushy texture, not really a nut flavor or any real flavor for that matter. There was just not much going on with these nuts. Plenty of other things I would rather be spending my time eating for sure. People here do say it is an acquired taste and that it grows on you. I think you start liking them when you have stopped remembering how good bbq and queso taste. And, believe me...I am not there yet.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

American Mommy in Zurich - Letter One

My mom has decided to live with us in Zurich for a month. Lucky us! Part of her duties while here (besides being the maid, cook, hair colorist, and doggie au pair) is to be a guest blogger. We will be featuring a letter a week of her adventures and impressions as an American Mommy in Zurich.

Dear friends,

I don't even know where to start but I promised an update to a few "very select" friends. Deb has made me promise that I will also add some comments on her blog and I'll let you know when I do. Life in Zurich has been WONDERFUL! It doesn't seem like I'm living in Switzerland...then I go on the streets and everyone is talking German and all the street names have jillions of letters that end in "strasse" or "platz" or "weg" - and I KNOW I am in Schweiz. I am trying very hard to learn a few words here and there but mainly to be able to at least pronounce the words correctly. Today I even went to the store all by myself and returned an item with a clerk who spoke no English!!!

My flights here were amazingly smooth. Even landed an hour early. Then the adventure truly began. Deb and I took the train and then a tram to Bahnhof Enge (the train station of her "canton" in Zurich, Enge). OMG. I had to go in one of those little tiny photo booths and take my passport pictures so I could go get a month transportation pass for zone 10 and the surrounding areas....see I'm learning something. That's Zurich and any zone that touches zone 10...make sense?? Of course! We laughed so hard because you must not smile and look straight into the camera and keep your eyes level and have your face line up in this oval on the screen - and remember all of the instructions are in German so I think I'm doing it right - the pics are sooooo bad but who cares?? It got me my bus, tram, boat, train pass for a month!!

Off to Deb's on Tram 7...I'm learning!! Get off at Brunaustrasse and then up, up, up the hills with all my bags to Deb and Josh's apartment. Stella the Pug went berserk when she saw me like we hadn't seen each other for hundreds of years. Lots of pug kisses (sorry, Max - I do miss you!!). Then I started unpacking (I will show you pictures once Deb downloads them). I could bring 2 suitcases up to 70 lbs. but mine only weighed a very heavy 53 and 57 lbs. (plus my small carry-on). You'd think I had brought lots of clothes and shoes for a month, right?? Not so. I am wearing the same three outfits. The suitcases were filled to capacity with "stuff" requested from the States. Are you ready for the list???? Kraft Mac 'n Cheese and Velveeta (remember I am in the land of cheese but I had to bring these!!), Hot Tamales (and not the Tex Mex kind), vitamins, ibuprophen, vitamin C and sugar-free cough drops, vanilla extract, and the list goes on and on....wait until you see the picture of her stash!! On top of all of these items, I also brought things that Deb ordered and had delivered to me - camera battery, rainboots, Uggs, and more shoes. Didn't leave much room for clothes for me so hence the three outfits and a coat and jacket and workout items (which so far have only been used to lounge around the house or on "Hausfrau Day"). Chad, I promise to be better next week - I have been walking tons and no matter which direction you go from her apartment, it is downhill which means it's uphill on the way back (like when you walk the dog, have full suitcases, or bags from the grocery store)!

Being here for a month, I actually got a shelf in the bathroom medicine cabinet and in the hall closet for my stuff. I unpacked and Deb then caught me up on some of the oddities about Zurich living. They are very conscious about recycling and it costs $2 per bag of garbage so you don't empty the garbage any more than necessary. Which means when you have "stinky" food, you put it in a Baggie in the freezer and not in the trash. When the garbage is finally stuffed full, then you put it in the trash before taking it outside!! You know how all houses have little quirks?? Usually you have a warn a house guest about how to jiggle the handle on the toilet or something else, but Deb then informed me that the water level in the toilet is very low and so there is a brush next to it and it is not just to clean it out once a week - no more description is necessary, I'm sure!! (Remind me when I get home and I'll tell you what the signs at Google said about the toilet brushes!!) Through all of this, Deb and I are in hysterics - maybe it was jetlag or maybe it's just because it is very, very funny.

Bus 33. Off to The Coop (pronounced cope, not co-op). That's their mega-grocery store/Target (kind of but definitely not in price). Have I mentioned yet how incredibly expensive EVERYTHING is in Zurich?? just wouldn't believe it. (Dave and Tina, bring lots of money with you in December.) Next lesson learned - Deb would only let us take one handbasket per person at the grocery store. Why?? Because remember when I told you about going uphill to get back to Deb and Josh's??? Never buy more than you can carry - and don't buy heavy food! I won't tell you everything but just wait until you read Deb's blog ( "follow" her) about our experience buying hair dye and then even better is preparing to dye her hair and actually doing it. All I can say is that my last French class from 1974 really came in handy. Eileen, even though it came out really great, you don't have to worry about me becoming your competition and I still want YOU to color MY hair for me!! I had to come 4700 miles (or 7500 km) to dye my daughter's hair!!! I guess I'll now have to come back every 8-12 weeks! What a mother doesn't sacrifice for her children. We ate lunch 1 (of many I'm sure) at Google where Josh works.

On Tuesday, Deb and I went to Jumbo (Jume-bo) which is kind of like an Ace Hardware - a lot of stuff and such an interesting assortment but no fireplace grate. Off to Jelmoli (Yel-moe-lee - the J is pronounced like a Y), a super department store right off of Bahnhofstrasse, the fancy, shmancy shopping area (all overpriced even by Zurich standards). The best part about Jelmoli was the basement (level negative 1; the ground floor is 0; the 2nd floor is level 1; etc.). It was filled with the most unbelievable assortment of gourmet foods and take-away foods (or you could eat there). Amazing!!! Sushi, Italian, breads, olive bar, steaks). We decided to see if they had a turkey since Thanksgiving is coming up. Deb had not seen a turkey in Zurich yet. We found one - frozen hard as a rock - about 15 lbs - for 103 CHF!!!! So no turkey for us!! We ate some incredible CHINESE food while we were there. Makes sense to me - go to Switzerland to eat some of the best Chinese food I've ever had. makes perfect sense. Only one problem was that when we went to pay for lunch, Deb pulled out her credit card and he said only cash!! I had not exchanged money yet and Deb didn't have enough francs on her. Luckily, she had Euros which were accepted. Thank goodness. When you are in Zurich, you must carry large sums of cash - so many places don't accept credit cards. It is very strange to someone who never has money on her. So after lunch, we went to the bank and got me 200 CHF (about $200). I never even have $5 on me at home!! It all still feels like Monopoly money though. While we were in Jelmoli, we also bought tickets to see "Madame Butterfly" at the Opera House next week!! Can't wait! So will it be in Italian with German titles??? I think I better read the synopsis of the opera before then. On the way home, we decided that we had to try some of the heissi marroni (roasted chestnuts). Let me just save you 3 CHF...don't try them!!!! These stands seem to have popped up all over the place where ice cream/gelatto stands where we I was here in July.

The weather has been either gorgeous or very rainy or windy or not or sunny or cloudy or all of the above in the same day. The people all wear scarves, pretty heavy coats and BOOTS - aren't they used to cold weather??? Overall, it's been great. We have begun to plan some side trips for the upcoming weeks. For sure we are going to Prague and we're also looking at Munich and/or Salzburg. We will also take some little side trips, usually day trips except for the one planned for two nights at a spa - "taking" the waters (mineral baths). CAN'T WAIT!!!! Since Wednesday is Deb's day to use the washer and dryer (see her blog for more info on that), we spent Wednesday at home having "Hausfrau Day" - cleaning, washing, watching the Roomba vaccuum...turned out the weather was pretty crummy that day so it was nice and relaxing staying home - and it was Deb and Josh's 3rd Anniversary and we spent it cleaning!! That evening though we met her friend Stacie (from Tulsa, Oklahoma married to Hanspeter from Switzerland) at the movie theater. An interesting experience. $18 for a ticket; $10 for a large popcorn. Reserved seating. We walked into the theatre to see "Julie and Julia" in English with German and French subtitles and the theatre was sooooo tiny - maybe 50 seats!! They sell TVs larger than the movie screen. But we LOVED the movie. Laughed so hard - Meryl Streep is the best Julia Child. It was great. I had been warned but right in the middle of the movie, mid-sentence I think, they break for an intermission. They needed to sell more $10 popcorn I guess. Afterwards, we went out for drinks and a very nice - but smoky - bar. EVERYONE smokes here. We took our tram back home and on the way home, there was a (don't know what his title is) guy who checks everyone for their transportation passes. (It is the honor system here but if you get caught, it can be a very steep penalty.) Deb looked and looked for hers but it must have been at home so she was given a citation. Deb was busted!! That meant that the next morning we had to stop at the office at the train station to show her pass - and she had to pay 5 CHF (Swiss francs, about $5). She has now been paroled and is free again to travel on the trams, buses and trains!

Yesterday, Thursday, Deb. Stella and I took the train to Rapperswil at the other end of the Zurichsee (Lake Zurich). It was such a delightful afternoon. We had lunch by the seashore at a very nice sidewalk cafe - salad, pizza and latte machiatos!! Then we walked around Altstadt (Old Town), saw the old castle, looked one way toward the Sea and the other way to the Alps! Not bad, huh??? A very quaint, lovely town and only 35-40 minutes from the main train station in Zurich. Stella acted like she was Queen for the Day but crashed on the train on the way home - snoring and all. (Another story for later is the buck and his mating rituals....very interesting, not a sight you see every day!)

This brings me up to today. Josh's mom Pam flew in today so Deb went to meet her at the flughafen (airport) while I went off on my own to The Coop. First time to find the bus stop, get on the right bus, get off at the correct stop, find the mall and shop!!! And then get back on the right bus, off at the right stop and find my way back home from the bus stop, use the key, etc., etc., etc. I did it!!!! Deb taught me to ask "Sprechen sie English?" Limited myself to buying only 3 types of cheese (plus cottage cheese, does that count too??) and two loaves of bread. Many nights we start off with a "fromage platter" - fruit, bread, crackers and cheeses and then we're too full to eat dinner. Sometimes that's it and sometimes we eat some cereal (museli is wonderful here). I was quite proud of myself. Even came home and got Stella and walked with her to the train station and back. Not bad, huh???? Pam came and it was back for lunch #2 at Google!! So now Hotel Peterthal (Peterson + Rosenthal = Peterthal) is full!! I have moved from the guest room to an air mattress on the floor in the living room - and I'm loving it!!! I love being in Zurich but I am even happier that I am able to spend this kind of time and have these experiences with Deb and Josh. This is very special time that I know I'll never, ever forget. This is the best B & B in Europe. Way above 5 stars - even on an air mattress!!

Tomorrow is tasting on 12 boats on Lake Zurich or something like that. The fun continues. I know I wrote almost a book...never intended to do that but so much has already happened and I don't want to forget any of it. I do miss all of you but I am afraid that the month is going to fly by.

Love to all. Auf wiedersehen!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What Does GOOGLE Know About You?

For everyone wondering if Josh really works over here or if we just travel around Europe all the time, here is the proof. It is launch day! Check out Google Dashboard. Find out what Google really has on you. I am sure he would love to hear your feedback. Make sure to leave a comment.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Berlin Sightseeing

I wanted to post some of Josh's beautiful black and whites from this past trip to Berlin. I wish we had gotten more time to explore the city, but with the race looming over our heads we had to save our strength (and our legs) to make it to the finish.

The Berlin Wall, of course. It sort of stops you in your tracks. It blows my mind that this is real and that the fall of the Berlin Wall wasn't that long ago, in 1989. One part of the graffiti got my eye...just one word -- Why?

Directly behind this part of the wall was the Topography of Terror exhibit. I don't know if it was quite what I expected, but something touched me here. Again, it was really just one small part of this memorial. Surprisingly, it wasn't the pictures of the Jews being forced out of their businesses or the constant humiliation they had to undergo day in and day out, but this one diagram depicting all of the cities that sent Jews to the concentration camp, Auschwitz. Just writing this now makes my eyes water. I must have stood in front of this picture forever. It just reinforces my need to visit Auschwitz. Pushing Poland up the list of must sees before moving back.

You probably recognize this. Checkpoint Charlie. And, for only one Euro you can have your picture taken with the guards.

There is this area of town known as the Museum Insel (Island) where, you can probably guess, there are a handful of these monsterous museums. Just walking around the buildings is probably enough art for the day. We had heard from my Uncle Kenny to go and see the Pergamon. I guess we weren't the only ones with an Uncle who also pointed them in this direction. The line just kept going and going. Sad to say, but this just wasn't in the cards for us.

Runner up was the Alte Nationalgalerie.

Probably not my favorite museum, but still beautiful and the perfect size to get through in a couple hours. It was nice to just sit on the benches, let our legs and feet rest, and take in the art. Now that I know how busy it can get, I would definitely purchase tickets in advance.

Germany has been a surprise. Berlin has such an interesting culture and so much history. We realized before going that we wouldn't be able to squeeze everything in this round. I see another trip in our future. I do have to say the area of town we stayed in and our hotel were awesome. Highly, highly recommend. Anyone thinking of going, check out The Hotel Circus off us Rosenthaler Platz (How can you go wrong with the name Rosenthal!). Not in the touristy Mitte. Great food and entertainment at every corner.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Race Day

Whoo, hoo! We did it! As you know, we signed up for the Nike+ 10k Human Race a few months back mainly as an excuse to check out Berlin, but also for bragging rights of having run 6.25 miles. We even put together a little team. We roped in a couple of our new expat friends here in Zurich and convinced my dad to sign up and run back in South Dakota. So fun. Our first race ever, together, and in Berlin.

We checked out the starting point at Brandenburg Gate earlier in the day. It got my heart racing. The adrenaline was streaming pumping through my veins. I could already feel my heart in my throat and I still had another four hours before the gun went off. The waiting was the worst. Knowing you can't just go run right then. You have to wait, and wait, and wait. Anticipation will kill you.

I wouldn't say that the event went all that smoothly. Not knowing what to expect was probably better than having participated in a bunch of other races before. We had to find our pace time entry point. Too bad the area they was marked off for the 60 minute runners wasn't large enough to fit everyone, so we bunched up with the overflow outside of the metal fence area. After the race started 20 minutes late (I guess because the roads hadn't been completely emptied), we stumbled through our little gate entrance as the slower people shuffled by. I think we probably walked the first kilometer of the race. It was ridiculous. Once we finally rounded the first few blocks and the lead runner passed us, things started to open up and we had a little space to get around people. It was insane. There were about 6,000 people running this race. Now imagine that many people running on these small European streets. Nightmare.

I was so worried about my music list before I left. I laugh now. I barely even heard what was playing. The race went by so fast. On my final stretch back to the Gate, I was thinking how quickly this race seemed to pass by. I couldn't have been running for an hour. No way. With all the craziness at the start, somehow this was a great run for me. I realize I didn't come in under an hour, but being able to just finish the run was an accomplishment for me. I am not a runner by any means.

The crowd of runners was definitely a distraction, but the people lined up along the streets cheering all of us on was a huge boost. This race did teach me something. I think I need to run something further. Don't you? Can you see a half marathon in my future? I am not making any promises, but if anyone knows of a solid beginner half in Europe...let me know. I may be interested.