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Showing posts from 2012

10 Fun Things to Do Outside on a Snowy Winter Day

Snowman - Rolf Handke  / pixelio.de The last few days have been really cold in Switzerland. It's become a routine to put on warm winter boots, a warm hat, a scarf, a warm winter coat and mittens before leaving the house. Without them it probably would be rather unpleasant outside. However, the cold also has advantages. It's cold enough for the ghastly gray rain to turn into beautiful white snow. And when the sun breaks through the clouds the winter day is perfect for some fun activities outside. 10 Fun Things to Do Outside on a Snowy Winter Day Obviously, one of the main winter outdoor activities in Switzerland is skiing. Almost every Swiss child learns it from an early age. It's like learning to swim or to ride a bike - it's simply part of a Swiss childhood. Yet, there are many other fun things you can do outside on a snowy winter day in Switzerland. Here are some suggestions: Go skiing or snowboarding in one of the many ski resorts in Switzerland; if you

Hot Spicy Wine that Glows

Hot Glühwein - Joujou  / pixelio.de I don't think there is a better way to start a winter Sunday than what I'm doing right now. It's snowing outside and I'm sitting inside with a hot cup of black coffee and some Christmas cookies. But what would be the perfect ending to a snowy December Sunday? I'll tell you in a moment. What to Drink at a Christmas Market in Switzerland December is Christmas market season in Switzerland . In almost every bigger city there is a place or a street filled with booths that sell all kinds of handcrafted gifts, candles, spices and Christmas food. If you get cold while walking around you can buy a cup of hot punch or Glühwein  to warm you up. Glühwein, which literally means 'glow wine', is basically hot wine with Christmas spices added to give it a special flavor.  A small sip will warm you up from the inside and the hot cup warms your cold fingers. Add some Christmas music, the smell of cookies and light snowfall and you

How to Spot a Swiss Person

As an expat one usually spots fellow expats right away. It's not only the language or the looks of people but rather the little peculiarities of life that seem so normal at home that give us away while abroad. Obviously, it's a cliche that all people from the same place (country, city, continent) behave in the same way and I am far from making that claim. However, growing up in a certain surrounding does rub off on people's behavior and some similarities can certainly be observed. This is also true for Swiss people. According to the Swiss stereotype, we are a clean, punctual and strictly organized people.  However, there are many exceptions like my Swiss friend who is always late or my brother whose room was a total mess while growing up. Yet, although they do not fit the description of a typical Swiss person, they still have some traits that give them away as Swiss. The same is probably true for myself - if I like it or not. 10 Signs you are dealing with a Swiss Person

How to Say 'Santa Claus' in Swiss German

Christmas Cookies -  Joujou  / pixelio.de Christmas is only a bit more than a month away and advent season is about to start. Soon streets in every town will be lit up with Christmas lights and filled Christmas songs. High time to brush up your Swiss German language skills for the Christmas season with this short glossary of Christmas terms. Swiss German Words for the Christmas Season Advent (advent, the season before Christmas) Adventschranz (advent wreath, usually with 4 candles) Adventskalender (Christmas calendar) Adventsmärt (advent market) Ängel (angels) Cherze (candle) Cherzezieh (making candles) Chrischtbaum (Christmas tree) Chrischtchindli (Christ child) Chrippe (manger) Erdnüssli (peanut, typical gift from Santa) Fitze ( Santa's stick that he uses to hit bad behaving children) Grittibänz (bread roll in the shape of a man) Gschänkli (gift, gifts) Guetzli (cookie, cookies) Hirte (shepherds) Liechterchetti (chain of lights) Mandarinli

Which Language Should You Learn When Moving to Switzerland

Language - Gerd Altmann  / pixelio.de One of the issues most expats are dealing with is language. Unless you move inside your own language region (e.g. from England to the US) you will be facing a new language in your day to day to life. Buying groceries or ordering a meal suddenly become challenging new aspects of your life. Is English sufficient?  Now, one could argue that in this age of globalization a decent knowledge of English will be sufficient to master all these situations. This is probably true for most larger cities around the world that are the home to many internationals. However, as soon as you move a bit farther into the suburbs or into the small towns you'll notice that English becomes less useful.  The situation in Switzerland is similar. In the big cities such as Zurich, Geneva or Basle you don't necessarily need to know the local language. English works fine for work and living and even the government offices offer most services in English as

Hot Roasted Chestnuts Called 'Marroni'

It's the time of the year again when days are getting shorter and the weather seemingly colder and colder every week. October and November in Switzerland typically have only a few sunny moments and a lot of gray, foggy and wet days. Spending time outside in this season usually includes splashing into puddles with your rubber boots or jumping through piles of fallen leaves - which is fun once you get yourself out of the house! Cold Season Charms The colder season also offers other charms. Drinking hot tea or cider, cuddling under a blanket and watching tv or taking a hot bath are definitely more fun when it's cold and gray outside. And with the cold weather, another thing is popping up in almost every town in Switzerland: a  marroni vendor . What are 'Marroni'? When a Swiss person refers to marroni they mean an edible chestnut that is roasted in a large pan. (As opposed to non edible chestnuts which are called 'Kastanien' in Switzerland.) You usually eat

Chilbi in Thalwil

Chilbi is the Swiss equivalent of an annual fair mostly held in the fall season. During fall, almost every city and larger town organizes it's own Chilbi. Rollercoasters and other fun rides are nowadays the most prominent feature of a Chilbi. However, there is almost always a good number of food stands, bar and booths selling all kinds of stuff. Mostly it's the local clubs and associations that set up and run the booths and make-shift restaurants since this is a great way to increase their annual budget. Chilbi - Jens Bredehorn  / pixelio.de When I think about Chilbi , I usually have this picture of warm weather, fair ground music and people crowding the streets in my head. Imagine the aire filled with chatter, laughter of children and the smell of Magenbrot or cotton candy. This weekend, however, the usual Chilbi atmosphere was replaced by a rather Christmassy set up. On Saturday snow started falling all over Switzerland and temperatures dropped rapidly. Think about

High German or Swiss German?

Today, we've been talking about the differences between High German (standard German) and Swiss German at the office. We all agreed that despite being somewhat similar in vocabulary and grammar the two languages are very different. Yes, two LANGUAGES! Swiss German is not a dialect of German despite the misleading name. You don't believe me? Here are two reasons you should. The existence of an obligatory non-word in Swiss German There is a non-word called " goge " in Swiss German. This words does not have any meaning on its own but absolutely must appear in front of every infinitive verb in Swiss German. There is no counterpart to this in Standard German. Examples: Ich gang gern goge poschte = I like to shop Er isch goge tschutte = He went to play soccer Obligatory definite article before first names in Swiss German Another very unique characteristic of the Swiss German language is the definite article " de " or " die " (usually shortene

Europe's Highest Salaries

There are many different reasons people decide to move to a foreign country. I am not talking about refugees of any kind, since they usually do not have a choice to leave their homes. I am talking about people who are actually living quite comfortably but then decide to pack up their things and move to another corner of the world. Some move for ideological reasons, some for love, some for adventure, some simply for a change in their daily routine, and some - obviously - move for a job . Actually, I believe that there is a large percentage of American and European expats whose relocation is job related. I do not have a statistic on that though. When considering a move abroad one should definitely take the local job market and salary situation into account. This is where Switzerland is at its best: very low unemployment rate (under 5%) and high salaries . In Europe only Denmark features higher average annual salaries than Switzerland. Europe's Highest Salaries (2015) Switz

Swiss German Tongue Twisters

Swiss German can be a funny language. The most famous Swiss word 'Chuchichäschtli'   (phonetic: [ˈχʊχːiˌχæʃːtli] ) is a good example for a uniquely Swiss word. It even has its very own Wikipedia article ! Thousands of foreigners have tried themselves at saying 'little kitchen cupboard' in Swiss German and many have failed to say it correctly. Also the famous diminutive suffix '-li' is a well known character of Swiss German: Guetzli, Blüemli, Zügli and Chätzli are just a few examples. In fact, the '-li' is so famous that it made it into a German Rivella commercial a few years ago. I imagine some of these Swiss German words must sound quite funny to foreign ears. Funny sounding Swiss German tongue twisters There are also quite a few funny Swiss German phrases in various Swiss dialects. The more advanced speakers of Swiss German or those who are not afraid of a linguistic challenge can test their Swiss German skills with the following Swiss Germa

How to Cycle Around Lake Zurich

If you think about it, it is a bit strange that Switzerland is considered a nation of cyclists. Think about the topography of Switzerland: there aren't really any larger flat areas and what we Swiss call flat would be considered quite steep hills in other countries . Despite the obvious difficulties this causes for cyclists, almost every Swiss owns a bicycle and many people use it quite frequently, e.g. to go to work or to do their shopping. Personally, I am somewhat in between the frequent users and the 'sometimes users'. If it's sunny I'll ride my bike to work but if it rains I prefer to sit in a dry bus in the morning. Wouldn't you as well?! My bike  A Bike Ride Around Lake Zurich Today, I took my bicycle on a somewhat longer journey. Since it was warm and sunny outside I decided to use this chance and finally make a bicycle tour around Lake Zurich . Yes, I rode around all of the Untersee (the lower part of Lake Zurich between Rapperswil and Zurich

Knabenschiessen in Zurich

It's time again for another of Zurich's very unique holidays this weekend. Next to the traditional Sechseleuten  (an annual festival that marks the beginning of spring) there is the Zürcher Knabenschiessen that always takes place on the second weekend of September. What is the Knabenschiessen? Literally, the name Knabenschiessen means ' young boys shooting competition'  and this is what it was originally all about. In 1889, the first Knabenschiessen took place in Zurich. About 500 boys aged 13 through 17 took part in the competition. The winner received a necklace of coins and after the competition all participants marched through the city with flags and drums. Some drinks were offered to them but I honestly do not know if they were alcoholic or not. The shooting competition of young boys and girls is still one of the central events of this holiday. However, the competition has lost some of its fame to the fun fairs, rides, booths with food, music events and more

A Very Healthy Country

Bloomberg has recently published a list of worlds healthiest countries . And guess who made it almost to the top of the list? Exactly! Switzerland was chosen the 4th healthiest country in the world! This doesn't surprise me since Switzerland is well known for it's populations healthy eating habits . Who beat Switzerland in healthy living? On top of my head I would have thought that the Scandinavian countries like Sweden or Norway would be right at the top of the list. Great health systems and a modern lifestyle should do its trick, right?! However, none of them are found ahead of Switzerland. Sweden is placed 6th and Norway 9th - still very good though. The top three healthiest countries of the world are definitely not what you'd think they'd be. Maybe with the exception of Iceland as #3 healthiest country. But I don't think anybody would have guessed Italy to be the second healthiest country of the world. I mean, how healthy can pasta and pizza be? Maybe the r

Swiss Golf called Hornussen

Young Swiss Hornusser There is probably no sport more typically Swiss than Schwingen , the Swiss style of wrestling in sawdust . However, another traditional Swiss sport is worth a mention and that is Hornussen . Swiss Golf called Hornussen Hornussen is not only the name of a Swiss village but also of this interesting sport that looks a bit like a Swiss version of baseball or cricket . It is almost exclusively played in Switzerland with a few German cities joining the fun. Surprisingly there are also some South Africans who are playing and they actually call the game "Swiss Golf" . How is Hornussen played? The game of Hornussen is quite simple: The hitter hits the " Nouss " (the ball) in order to make it fly into the opponents playing field or even farther. For this purpose the Nouss is placed on a piece of wood and hit with a long flexible stick that resembles a fishing rod. The opposing team then tries to catch the Nouss with pieces of clapboard (that l

Sailing in Switzerland

Sailing - Katharina Wieland Müller  / pixelio.de Remember Alinghi ?  The Swiss sailing boat that won the Americas Cup in 2003 and 2004? Well, maybe you aren't into sailing or were not interested in anything Swiss back then. I remember the first victory in 2003 very clearly. It was all over the news and everyone was saying "Now, who is still claiming that a land-locked country cannot bring forth excellent sailors?!". Sailing - A Popular Sport in Switzerland This year we also had some sailors at the olympics but they did not excel at their sport. Nevertheless, sailing is quite popular in Switzerland. Of course not as much as soccer or ice hockey but popular enough to flood lake Zurich with sailing boats once a week. If you've ever been around lake Zurich on a sunny and warm Sunday, you must have noticed the great number of white sails moving quietly over the water. Thousands of sailing boats are registered in the canton of Zurich alone and besides lake Zurich th

Selling Items Lost on Swiss Trains

Ever wondered what happens to all the things lost and forgotten on the many trains and busses in Switzerland? I always imagined some giant storehouses with tons of old stuff simply aging and collecting dust. That wouldn't be very Swiss though, would it? Especially with all the dirt and dust since we are generally such clean freaks. Turns out that many public transportation companies sell their lost and found items to a shop in Zurich that makes a business out of selling lost items. lost and found -  brit berlin  / pixelio.de The Shop of Lost Items About 60'000 items reach the lost and found shop every month. And there are some very funny, some expensive and some very strange items for sale there. If you have a look at their online shop  you'll understand what I mean. Currently on sale are: different kinds of jewelry sex toys second hand underwear paintings clothes sports gear a machine for counting bank notes There's two central questions that have

How to Make 1st of August Buns

It's coming up soon: the  Swiss national holiday 1st of August . Fire works, picnics, brunches, speeches by politicians and warm summer weather will hopefully all be part of this fun holiday this year. Origins of 1st of August Celebrations in Switzerland 1st of August in Switzerland commemorates the founding of the original Swiss federation by the "original cantons" (= Urkantone) Uri, Schwyz, Nidwalden and Obwalden in the first half of August 1291. Nota that there are only three Urkantone since Nidwalden and Obwalden are the two halves of the canton Unterwalden.   However, this date does not mark Swiss independence but rather the start of a the several century long formation of the Swiss nation. In fact, it was made a national holiday in as late as 1891 more than six centuries after the fact. 1st of August Bun  How 1st of August is celebrated today Although it is nice to remember the beginnings of Switzerland and to think of some of the legends surrounding

10 Fun Things to Do on a Summer Day in Zurich

Summer - Peter Heinrich  / pixelio.de Summer is finally here. And it's high time! After some mediocre summer weather sunny days have arrived. The whole next week is gonna be sunny and warm - up to 30 C! Many people are away on their summer vacations but for those sticking around Zurich like myself, here are some ideas to make use of this excellent weather. 10 Fun Things to Do on a Summer Day in Zurich Go swimming in Lake Zurich or the Limmat river . There are plenty of public baths, public pools or places you can go swimming fro free in and around Zurich.  Take a stroll through the Niederdorf and buy some cold and sweet ice cream at Dieci Gelati . Visit the Zoo  and observe the animals with an ice cold drink in hand. Go up Üetliberg . Enjoy the great view and the relaxing atmosphere on this hill overlooking Zurich. This is a great starting point for short hikes as well. Take a boat ride on Lake Zurich and get some wind to chill you. Rent a pedal boat  and combine the

Most Popular Swiss Baby Names

If I ask people to give me an example of a typical Swiss name, most would probably name Heidi. Made famous through the stories of the little girl living in the Swiss alps, the name has turned into something uniquely Swiss. Although I learned that people outside of Switzerland sometimes name their children Heidi as well. However, most Swiss consider Heidi a very old and unmodern name that belongs to our grandparents generation. Ueli, Walter, Rösli, Annemarie - all these names are slowly disappearing from Swiss phonebooks and index of names. Some are undoubtedly beautiful but simply won't do anymore. I mean, who is calling their children Eugene or Earnest these days?! You might ask, are there any original Swiss names still popular with parents? How about all the beautiful names from Grisons like Flurin, Zegna or Gian? They definitely are still in use but others seem more popular. These are the baby names that were most popular in Switzerland in 2008-2010 : Most Popular Gi

Swimming in Swiss Lakes and Rivers

Summer has arrived and the weather is warm enough to make Swiss people flock to the various rivers and lakes for a refreshing swim. Swimming in lakes and rivers is one of most popular (and definitely cheapest) pastimes here in Switzerland. Swiss swimmers can choose between ice cold mountain lakes, several bigger rivers, some creeks, and quite a number of large lakes (e.g. Lake Zurich, Lake Geneva, Lake Constance). Switzerland has no sea coast but in my opinion the lakes definitely make up for it. And fresh water is so much more refreshing than salt water! Swiss Paradise - daniel stricker  / pixelio.de Here in Switzerland, old and young swim in rivers and lakes. It's simply part of growing up and living here. There are also several public swimming events on Swiss lakes. The most famous is probably the crossing of Lake Zurich that takes place every year where hundreds of people swim together across the lake. This years event will take place on July 3rd 2019. So, if you are

10 Fun Things to Do on a Rainy Day in Switzerland

Rainy Day - Uschi Dreilucker / pixelio.de The weather has been so so these last few days and will remain rainy and rather cold. No swimming in one of the many lakes of Switzerland, going on a nice bike trip or playing soccer outside unless you are willing to endure some heavy rain. 10 Fun Things to Do on a Rainy Day in Switzerland However, there are plenty of fun things to do in Switzerland even on rainy days. Here's the list of my current favorite rainy day activities: Alpamare : Biggest water park of Switzerland with dozens of water slides and pools. It's open all year round since most of the baths and slides are indoors. It is perfect for a rainy day since there are usually less people than on a sunny day. Zoo Zurich : The famous zoo in Zurich features bears, elephants, monkeys, tigers and the mazoala hall (a tropical glass house). Many animals can be visited in their houses. Swiss National Museum : The Swiss National Museum in Zurich gives an overview over th

Online Clothes Shopping in Switzerland

Don't tell me you haven't noticed. If you're anywhere in or near Switzerland you must have seen at least one ad or commercial for Zalando. Advertisements for Zalando shoes or clothes have been flooding newspapers, television and the internet. A very funny one is the Zalando game show commercial . So what's the big deal? Is Zalando really better or cheaper than other online stores? I asked myself exactly this question when I embarked on my Zalando-testing journey. a selection of Zalando dresses Why I wanted to shop at Zalando Since I've been trying to buy a cute and colorful summer dress without success, I decided to try online clothes shopping for a change. I've ordered stuff online before but mostly books or household items. To order clothes online was gonna be a totally new experience. Little did I know that it can be just as tiring as going shopping in the real world. Where I went online clothes shopping To make things a bit more interestin

Do you speak Rumantsch?

I've been writing about the four official languages of Switzerland , especially Swiss German , quite a bit. It is high time that I introduce the least known language of Switzerland: Rumantsch (ling. "Romansh"). "I speak Rumantsch" (Engadiner Post) Rumantsch is spoken mainly in the Swiss canton of Grisons which is located on the south-eastern side of Switzerland next to Italy and Austria. According to a census taken in 1990, roughly 65'000 people were speaking Rumantsch regularly, of which 40'000 used Rumantsch as their main language of communication. In in 2000 this number shrunk to only 35'000 people. Not much if you consider the 7 million inhabitants of Switzerland.  Despite the small number of native speakers, have the mountainous and secluded areas of Grisons produced several different dialects of Rumantsch: Sursilvan Sutsilvan Surmiran Puter Vallader In the 70ies and 80ies Swiss linguist Heinrich Schmid developed a written

Switzerland on Expat.com

Are you an expat in Switzerland? Or are you planning to move to Switzerland? If so then make sure to check out expat.com , a web portal for expats by expats. What is expat.com? Expat blog was started in 2005 (as expat-blog.com) and aims to help people living abroad and those  planning and wishing to move abroad, wherever they are from or would like to go. Members share their expat experiences, exchange information and everything else related to expatriation. Compared to other expat web portals, Expat blog is very active and currently has over 400'000 members from over 200 countries (including yours truly). How to use expat.com The platform centers around local communities (usually a country or a region) with discussion forums, guides, photo albums, business directories and classifieds. Of course, an extensive directory of expat blogs is available for visitors and members. Recently, two new features have been added to the Switzerland section: Jobs and Housing sections. 

Landsgemeinde - The directest of democracies

Landsgemeinde Glarus (www.sf.tv) Switzerland is a direct democracy . It is probably one of the best examples of direct democracies all over the world. On the ground, this means the Swiss people can vote directly on any new law rather than having elected representatives vote for them. It also means that in addition to elections which take place every other year (federal and cantonal), the Swiss vote about 3 or 4 times a year on very diverse issues. That's a lot of voting! Direct Democracy par excelence In no other place is this direct democracy more visible than in the public voting of the two Swiss cantons Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus . Instead of voting per letter or in polling booths like the rest of Switzerland, these cantons rely on the Landsgemeinde to settle matters. What is the Landsgemeinde? Literally 'Landsgemeinde' means " community of a canton " which is also a good graphic description of what is happening. All inhabitants of a canton who

A Visit to Chäsalp Restaurant

Alright. Fondue doesn't seem to be a warm weather dish. In winter it's nice and cozy to have the pot of cheese on your table heating up the room and filling everything with the smell of cheese. However, eating hot sticky cheese on bread may not seem very appealing if its hot outside. At least, that's what you probably think. Why Fondue also works in the Summer There is a small and friendly restaurant in Zurich that might be able to convince you otherwise. The Chäsalp is located on a hill outside of Zurich and its guests sit outside at large wooden tables with a great view of the surrounding hills (and the Mazoala hall of Zurich Zoo amongst other things). Pillows and woolen blankets assure comfort in this rustic Swiss atmosphere. With cowbells sounding in the background one generally has the impression of being near a cottage somewhere in the Alps rather than being 15 minutes outside of Zurich. Chäasalp outside tables 20 Types of Fondue in one Place In consi

Advanced Swiss German

dictionary - Jakub Sproski  / pixelio.de After writing a post about the basics of Swiss German a few months ago, I started realizing more and more how hard it must be for someone moving to Switzerland to pick up the local language. The few words I provided are hardly enough to get an expat or a tourist through a day in Switzerland. When I stumbled upon the twitter account of  @swiss_german , who introduces a new Swiss German word every day, the idea of a Swiss German online dictionary started to develop. A first version of more than 400 Swiss German words and expressions is online now and can be used for learning, consulting and information. I would appreciate feedback, suggestions for new words or any comment on it. I will continue adding words and expressions in Swiss German to the dictionary as possible. Have a look now:  Swiss German Dictionary If you are looking for other free or partly free online resources for learning Swiss German I recommend you have a look at my