Saturday, December 12, 2009

Reflections on 2009

Now that the holiday season is upon us, it got me thinking about all of the memories from this past year. A little over a year, we jumped on a thirteen hour plane ride to our new home in Switzerland.

Although we did enter into this with our eyes wide open, their were some challenges along the way. For instance, shopping. If you are grocery shopping and have limited German vocabulary, this can be quite daunting. Throw in an uncooperative two year old with a two second attention span, it is down right frightening. Thank God for the pictures on some of the packaging. For example, picking out meat is very helpful when they have a picture of a chicken, turkey, or pig on it, but even more essential when they include pictures of a horse, ostrich, and boar on the packaging. They also have a wild season where you can eat deer meat, duck, boar in restaurants as well as purchase this meat in the grocery store. It is nice to know what you are eating.

When looking for mayonnaise, one must not look for a jar, but a tube. Many things we put in a jar, they put in a tube. Refrigeration. Another good point. Eggs and milk do not have to be refrigerated here. I still do it even though I do not need to. Habit I guess. The food here tends to be fresh, Switzerland grown, and organic. No preservatives. I now know what I am eating. Take some time away from foods with preservatives, additives, and fillers and you can taste the difference. By the way, all cheese is white here, cheddar included.

The chocolate in general is like no other here and have definitely perfected the art. It is one thing I will miss when we leave, among many.

Another important concept to learn is that they are avid recyclers: clothes, cardboard, glass, paper, metal, and batteries are some of the things that are recycled each week by you. You must make a stop at the village recycling plant and spend a couple hours sorting your stuff. With that said, the time this takes is really nothing and you are doing your part to save the environment. Special garbage bags or apfel sackli must be purchased from the cashier at one of the two grocery stores at 25 CHF a roll. They are gray with a red tree on them, and any waste you do not recycle must be put in here, or risk a fine or being publicly humiliated by the villagers that live in your neighborhood.

If you have any other household items you would like to get rid of, you can drop them off at your neighborhood Brocki and even get a little money for them. These items are then resold to people in the neighborhood. Similar to rummage sales in America.

Don't forget that Switzerland is quite safer than America. The police do not carry guns, there is rarely violent crime, stealing, and women can walk alone at night. All things that allowed me and my children more freedom, but it was hard to change the mind set. Coretta is able to play outside until dark with no worries. Priceless.

The trains in Switzerland are clean, reliable, and quiet. they can take you anywhere in Switzerland or any of the other European countries with ease. All of you in America that are fighting against the light rail, have no idea how important this is. If available people will use it. Car exhaust would be lessened in the environment and would help the congested highways in most of the big urban cities.

Another difference is shopping for clothes. They do not have American sizing and everything is different. My shoe size in America was a size 9, and here is a 41. Geno is a size 5 in America and he is a 110 here. You get the point. Sizing across the board is different as they have adopted the metric system, so those of you that say there is no need to learn it, are far from being right.

With all of these differences, there was also the ability to travel to several different countries such as Italy, France, Germany, Austria by car or train which has opened my eyes to so much. We have traveled to all of these places, seen countless museums and art galleries, monuments, and old historical churches. Since I am a history buff, this knowledge and experience has been priceless.

All Switzerland residents are required by law to have 15 days paid leave consecutively each year. They cannot come into work. This is not the only paid holiday. They have many. Work is second to their lifestyle. The way it should be. Many say, "I only vacationed one week in Italy." Unheard of to say something like that in America.

Health care is affordable and accessible for all and you do no not need to worry about retiring because of your health insurance benefits and the health care is one of the best in the world. They have also adopted a new pension plan for all people who are residents in Switzerland and will say that it is definitely a comfortable amount.

Both of my children also have the privilege to attend private International Schools at the yearly price of 26,000 free thanks to Nick's job where they learn German and French. I think it is shameful that we tend to only speak one language in America. Not only that, but we wait until seventh grade to start teaching a language. They should start in kindergarten and should be a requirement to be fluent in at least one other language. In Switzerland, they learn German, Italian, French, and English. Unbelievable. Because of the recent immigration by Chinese in Australia, many of their schools are now requiring students to learn Chinese as well.

I feel very blessed. I have my health and my family. I have the ability to travel and see the world. I have the chance to learn about new cultures and European history as well as being able to have quality time with my husband and children. I wouldn't trade this experience for the world. It has allowed me to grow in ways I never even imagined and as always, has made Nick and I grow closer together as in everything we do. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of our friends and family in England, India, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Egypt, and America. We love and miss you all.

No comments: