31 January 2010

Chilling in the Alps

It has been just over two weeks and things are getting less stressful around these parts. Ok, we still have no bank account and no apartment, but we have gotten to hang out with some friends and that is what is important. This photo is the view outside our front door. It really feels like we live in a ski chalet of some type. You can see the Alps (the Jura side) through the clouds in the distance.

Since it is a bit snowy and we still have only our California winter clothes with us (hopefully this will change in the next few weeks) we have not ventured out too much. As a result I have been knitting a bunch. I am running low on projects, but I should have just enough to get me through until we find an apartment. Right now I am working on the Little Bubbles Baby Set. It is so cute I almost can't stand it. And the colors are great. I refuse to dress any of my future progeny in pastels. Well, maybe refuse is a strong word. If someone I love gives or knits me something in pastel that is from the heart, I would probably make an exception, but I don't plan on running a cupcake factory here, so the frosting colors are on notice. Plus babies can't see those colors anyways. But, I digress. My main bit of revelation here is about knitting needle sizes. I have decided to go metric. The US system of measurement makes no sense (chalk up one for Europe). Some companies call their 2.75mm needles a US size 2. Some don't make 2.75mm needles and only make 3mm needles, but also call these US size 2. Still others make both sizes and call one a size 2 and one a size 2.5. After much frustration with my needle gauges today I thought good grief and have decided to completely ignore US sizes from now on. Now I can knit in peace with my 3mm addis. Let's hope this conversion goes smoothly. For some reason I am good with grams when it comes to yarn, and vegetables, but not weights of people. Also I am pretty good with yards when it comes to fabric, but not walking distances. Hopefully the transition will be smooth. C'mon America- transition with me!

22 January 2010

An American Girl in Switzerland

Well folks, it has been a whirlwind week. I had great aspirations to walk you through our first days as expats (dear reader) but it has been way too crazy for that. The flight over was awful, so I am not noting it for posterity. Our first few days were frustrating, but now that it is all over I think some sense of sanity has been restored and the blog will hopefully make sense.

Some observations so far:

  • Everything is expensive here. Rent is going to be a couple of grand for a one-bedroom apartment. Meat averages $8-10/pound depending upon what you get (steak can be up to $30/lb). Regular groceries are not so bad if you bought mid-to-fancy groceries in the states. For example, the cheap butter here is about $3 for about 1/2 pound. Which is good since the same butter in the states would be $5 (president buerre). So, you may be thinking $3 for butter, that is highway robbery, but really this is the best commercial butter I have ever had in my life (handmade is still better). So $3 for luxury butter does not sound so bad. Same with the bread. Again about $3 gets you this impeccable artisnal loaf. Sure it is like 5 times the price of Hill Country Fare white bread, but that is not an option here. (ok, they have American style bread, but it is a niche market fancy item and so is super spendy). And the cheese. In what would be the 'regular' cheddar, jack, provolone cheese aisle there is now brie, gruyere, and parmesean. The fancy cheese aisle has such delicious looking stuff I can't wait to try it. So, all in all, I think we are getting much better quality for our money. Since there is just not the option of cheap food to buy, you have to eat well. After only a week I don't think I can go back to Land-O-Lakes butter again.
  • Apartment hunting is brutal. I have high hopes for Tuesday, where we should put in a few more applications. Please keep us in your thoughts that they will accept us. Unlike the US, just because you meet the income requirements, applied first, and pass a background check does not mean you will get an offer. They get to pick who they want to lease to. The market is tight and they have good reasons for being picky. It just stinks when you are the one on the other end of the deal. We looked at one apartment in Geneva. We thought it was great since it was near the train station. The inside was wonderful. Not as big as we were used to, but certainly workable. BUT. While we were walking from the gare to the address I started noticing random women pacing the street. The Captain was too embroiled in his navigation task to take much notice. We passed a few lingerie shops and bars before we came upon the building. The apartment was above a sex shop. This was obvious because of the 10 ft tall letters saying: SEX across the building, and the cadre of working girls huddled in a nearby doorway smoking to pass the time. Considering that a one bedroom apartment in a not so desirable part of town was still going for $1800/month, you can see what we are up against. No worries though. Tuesday I am feeling good about.
  • The concept of Right-of-way. This is a theoretically very good system that is in practice in most of Europe. The person on the right has the right of way unless explicitly stated. This is seamless and makes total sense. You get rid of almost all of those pesky stop signs that people roll through anyways and it is consistent so people know what to do. Unless you are on a highway or super busy road, then as you drive you slow down at intersections and look to see if anyone is coming. If they are you stop and let them go, if not, you continue on. It makes sense, but it is a bit overwhelming the first time you have to actually do it. Not that I have been driving mind you. The car we have use of is only in The Captain's name for insurance purposes, so he has been on his own for that.
  • Banking and the phone. We could not get a bank account with an actual bank. I have no job and The Captain is not Swiss, so they would not deal with us. We did manage to get one at the Post Office. That is right. We have a bank account at the Post Office. I will try to let you know how that goes. For the moment we are waiting for our cards to come in the mail. As for cell phones, it is way too complicated to deal with right now, so we have a pay and go card. Incoming calls are generally free, but outgoing calls are generally like 30 cents, unless it is a landline, then it is different, or you can get a minutes plan, but those are more spendy. Ahhh. Anyways, that shall wait until we are in super need of one.
  • Did I mention the butter? Seriously. The fridges are not set super cold here and the butter is minimally processed so it is quite spreadable and decadent right out of the fridge. Amazing.

So I hope that gives you a taste of our first week in Geneva. Hopefully I will have more exciting things to post in the weeks to come.

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