Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Answering some Questions.

Alright. Now that I'm done with tons of yard work, ironing my husbands shirts (I left mine for another day and lo' and behold - already there are more of his to be done), kids are in bed and I am NOT going to sit and read when I should be working on homework, I will answer a few questions. These are primarily from a good family friend who was here visiting recently.

"Some of the things I found interesting after visiting were the differences as to how food is marketed vs. US . Things like paying for parking at the market, having to pay for the shopping cart, the fact checkers sit vs. standing. The colorful eggs, the fact milk is on the shelf (not in the refrigerated section), how it is packaged and the reasons why those differences exist [if known]. You covered bread issues, what you cannot buy that you miss, and recycle issues very well which gives 'us' a sense of differences. Are any of these differences above due to land use and/or production? How much is government controlled?

I'll do my best with this topic. And will use US $ equivalent - as the Swissfranc and US $ are within .02 - .03 cents of each other - really, it's no problem. I'll convert it for you!

1. There are few places where you have free parking - I typically pay .50 for 1/2 to 1 hour at most stores/grocery, $3-$5 for train parking and $5 - $12 for mall parking. I once made the mistake of staying at the grocery store parking lot to do a bunch of things in town, including lunch, and ended up paying $12 for going over 3 hrs. If I had left before the 3 hr mark it would only have been $3. It pays to move your car around, however inconvenient.

2. The shopping carts are in their stalls all locked together. A $2 coin (the franc doesn't become paper until the $10 denomination) unlocks the little chain and then you get your $2 coin back when you return the cart. The only inconvenience this ever causes is sometimes, I'm caught without the right coin. There is generally a change machine nearby OR I may opt to buy fewer items and use a hand-basket instead.

3. This ? wasn't asked but since I'm on the grocery topic. There is a .30 charge for paper bags and there are only tiny plastic bags available for small items. I re-use all my bags and keep a bag full of them in the car. I've also been known to lug a litre of milk, banana's and cheese home in my purse - don't laugh!!!!!
We also bag our own groceries - I have a hard time watching someone do it for me in the US now.
AND - we weigh our own produce (each item has a number - ex. carrots are #71 at Coop) on scales which then pop out a little bar coded price tag. It is sooooo embarassing when you've forgotten to weigh your apples and are holding up the line.

4. Checkers do sit in the grocery. I'd imagine this beats standing up for 6 - 8 hrs. Probably better on the legs, feet and back.

5. Colorful eggs. They have "piknik" eggs here. Hard-boiled , sealed and good for about 3 weeks - not refrigerated. They are the best thing for hiking and the girls like them for lunch. I do refrigerate mine when I get them home. Because I've been trained to do so. I know some US families won't get them. Why not? They're perfectly good and I don't have to do my own hard boiled eggs.

6. Milk. There is some milk sold on the regular grocery shelf and some in the refrigerator section. The milk on the shelf is UHT milk (high heat pasteurized). It usually has a 6 week expiration date and does not require refrigeration until opened. This is great to have when you are out of town for 2 weeks, returning on a Sat. afternoon and the grocery stores are closed until Monday morning. It does have a slightly different taste to it (like the difference between CA and IA milk - I have my preference - CA cows are happy cows) and we typically buy the fresh milk for everyday use. The fresh milk here doesn't last as long as the milk in the States though. I could buy a gallon of milk that had a good 2 weeks before the expiration date - here, it can be up to a week but sometimes it's only 3 -4 days.

7. I miss buying shredded Mexican cheese mix, HV Ranch dressing mix (thanks to all who contribute to our supply - Rachel's little Dutch friend asked where she could get some so her mom could make dip for carrots!), Jalapeno peppers, brownie & cake mix and familiar family drugs/vitamins.

8. Recycling is huge. As is throwing things away. There is no "throw it out on the curb" pickup twice a year here. You have to take it yourself, get the vehicle weighed before and after and then paying your little dump fee. However, the Hauptsammlung does not smell like a dump so this is a good thing. But the place to take the glass - where we throw them all away by color and aluminum - is different than the place to take the plastics and well, it all is a chore.

Switzerland is a land-locked country which utilizes it's space efficiently and they don't want to look at landfills. They burn (somehow it's supposed to be efficient and do it in a way so as not to mess up the Ozone layer) what they can and recycle a large bit. Packaging is kept to a minimum. If you buy a pair of shoes, they ask if you want the box or just a small bag. We probably throw out 1/3 the amount of garbage we used to per month. Even the food packaging is less.

9. Of course, everything is government controlled! In general, what they are controlling makes sense. Most of the 'rules' are for the good of the general public and not the individual. They maintain a close watch over quality of food production and imports. Bart was just reading how they are temporarily lifting their ban on the import of potatoes for the EuroCup in June. They are afraid they'll have a run on french fries. That explained alot - I always wondered why I can only find 2 kinds of potatoes in the store - neither are new (red) potatoes or Idaho russets! Apparently, there are potato diseases out there that Switzerland doesn't want to catch. While their potatoes work well for Roesti, they are missing something when cooking other dishes.

I'll have a post re: Euro'08 soon although no one in the US seems to care much about European Football. aka - Soccer.

10. Rules, rules and more rules. At least the rules are either spelled out for you or are common sense. Many of the people here are more frustrated in going to the States as many rules are not clear and there is not much graciousness for lack of knowing all the rules.

The rules here that allow for camera's to take pic's of my car speeding down the street is the same law that keeps it safe for pedestrians and kids to still walk to school. So I accept my part by driving the speed limit and stopping at the crosswalks - because this is a pedestrian right-of-way country. If a citizen sees someone doing something wrong, they can take a picture, go to the police and the police will investigate. It may sound nosy but the crimes against persons here are very low - they have a low tolerance for these things. So while I don't always like the feeling that someone might be "telling on me", I'm also not afraid of a lawsuit because I have a pool in my backyard without a 6 foot fence enclosing it. Because in Switzerland, if an accident occurred, it is an accident as long as we did not deliberately contribute to the incident. I hope that all made sense. If not, let me know. It can be hard to explain.

A country without litigation lawyers. Because they still take personal responsibility for their actions. That's all I'm going to say about that.

OK. I think that's enough for now. There were more questions which I will tackle later. Have to get to my homework - which includes adding to the shopping list for Bart's Orlando trip!

1 comment:

Julie said...

California cows are happy cows? I WON'T be passing that information on to Laura E.! : ) How does milk taste "happier" anyhow?

Love the info. about Swiss life. I'd be missing my mexican cheese blend if I waz you, too! Have you eaten any mexican food in Switzerland. We went to eat mexican in Estonia and it wasn't half bad.

Hey, about the trip...we'd love for you to go. Ben and Makila are back from their trip so I'll get exact details from Ben. Carol Dexter and I are not going to go for as long as Ben and Kevin (they leave Oct 8th-Oct 17th), so I want you to know those dates (maybe 11th or 12th through the 17th, but don't quote me!). Another idea Carol and I had, if the arrangements don't work out for your girls, is to fly into to Switzerland a little early and hang out with you, if that's possible. So that is what I know about the trip for now. Sorry I've been slow about the details, every time I approach Kevin, I realize that Ben is the go-to guy! Anyway, we'll keep praying that it can all come together one way or another!
Love you, friend!