Friday, August 23, 2019

Gone fishing — literally

As you may have noticed, I've been absent from the Swiss Alps, due to the fact that I've been fishing off the New England coast.

There are some similarities between the alps and the ocean. Both can be beautiful, generous with food, harsh, and prone to sudden weather changes. They attract similar characters, people who need time alone to connect with nature.

We caught some Black sea bass and scup the other day, and I hear the stripped bass is running.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

50 things I learned from Swiss alpine folk


  1. they are trusting

  2. they enjoy sunrises and sunsets

  3. they are on-time

  4. they are frugal

  5. they recycle (sort their own recyclables)

  6. they eat hot lunches (cooked by their Hausfraus or local restaurant)

  7. they can be sexist

  8. they struggle with customer service

  9. they love to shake hands

  10. they are humble

  11. they are organized

  12. they care about table manners

  13. they believe in self-responsibility

  14. they are silent avoiding trifling conversation

  15. they take (at least) an hour off for lunch, starting at 12 o'clock noon (sharp)

  16. they plan to get together ahead of time

  17. they exhibit honesty

  18. they are industrious

  19. they can't stand waste

  20. they can delay gratification

  21. they exhibit forbearance

  22. they buy quality stuff

  23. they take care of their possessions

  24. they repair their possessions

  25. they work long hours, starting at 7 a.m. and often ending at 6 p.m. or later

  26. they discipline their kids (some still use the slap)

  27. they are not litigious

  28. they don't helicopter parent

  29. they are fit but don't diet

  30. they don't eat fat-free or sugar free

  31. they move a lot

  32. they grow their own vegetables

  33. they make their own jam

  34. they enjoy the outdoors

  35. they are tough, going outside in all kinds of weather

  36. they walk a lot

  37. they set and maintain boundaries

  38. they are resistant to change

  39. they are methodical (they think through each issue thoroughly)

  40. they are family-minded

  41. they are judgmental

  42. they are closed-minded

  43. they are opportunistic

  44. they love money

  45. they can be religious

  46. they can be xenophobic/homophobic

  47. they are not showy

  48. they don't show emotions

  49. they don't express feelings

  50. they are practical

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Daily meal preparation improved me

Women are primarily responsible for meal preparation in the Swiss alps, and lunch being the main meal of the day, this means one has to take time each morning to shop, prepare, and cook.

Children usually come home around 12:15 as well as husbands, if they are working nearby. 

At first, I complained at what I believed to be an incredibly sexist and inconvenient tradition. What? There was no school lunch program? 

Eventually, I had no choice but to accept it, and over the years and after trying out new recipes and cooking every single day, my skills improved. 

I arrived in the Swiss Alps a spoiled, academically-minded young mother who knew nothing about cooking (I could barely cook an egg), but I left a resourceful cook and mother who can now prepare healthy meals without too much of a struggle. My experience as a Swiss "Hausfrau" or housewife could have turned out differently. Instead, I could have fed my kids ready-made meals, filled with saturated fat, salt, and chemicals, and outsourced a valuable time of my day to strangers. I don't regret those "Hausfrau" days,

Did I suffer from sexism? Or did I choose to make my experience a positive one? 

I think I improved. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Purchasing power

A few years ago, the Swiss overwhelmingly rejected a minimum wage of SFr 22 per hour, the equivalent of nearly $25. 

To Americans, this dismissal was understandable considering their minimum wage was and still is $7.25, and a proposal to raise it to $10.10 per hour is often debated. Many say a $10.10 minimum wage could push half a million people out of work.

As it turns out, when adjusting for purchasing power parity, that $25 hourly wage translates to $14, according to Bloomberg.

It's still high by American standards, but not unheard-of. As of January 1, 2018,  Seattle adopted a $15.45 per-hour minimum wage.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Voting time again

Now the US congressional elections are over, we can focus on the upcoming Swiss referendum's three questions:

1) Should farmers be encouraged to keep their cows' horns intact?
2) Should social welfare detectives be given increased power in tracking down fraudsters?
3) Should Swiss law have precedence over international law?
I know how I will vote.

1) Cows with horns are prettier, happier, and give better tasting milk. 
2) If you have nothing to hide, then this one is clear.
3) Switzerland voted to stay out of the EU.
How would you vote?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Under every roof

One day about 15 years ago, an old lady in my neighborhood told me stories about my great-uncle, who had been a farmer, hunter, heavy drinker, and wife beater.

Then, with a wise look in her eye she said: "Unter jedem Dach wohnt ein Ach." This is not easily translatable, but it means "Under every roof lives a tale of woe."

This phrase has stuck with me ever since.

No household is perfect.

Everyone struggles with something.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The waitress teaches me a lesson

The idea of a higher power or god used to turn me off.

After all, how could I trust something that allowed bad things to happen to children and animals?

Then I tried a 12-step meeting. There, I learned that I could stop wasting my energy trying to fix people. What a relief! Over time, I stopped believing I was the director of the universe and that my compulsion to control people and situations was making me sick.

But I still slip up sometimes, as I did yesterday.

No matter that I knew that Swiss restaurants—especially those catering to tourists on mountain passes—feature horrible customer service; when that waitress spoke disrespectfully and loudly to my daughter and me, I felt shocked, unwanted, and angry. I should have felt some sympathy for the poor woman, who was working on a Sunday and who was juggling complaints from other diners.

My daughter told me to cool it. Instead, I complained to the manager and waited in the car.

In retrospect, I think I was playing director of the universe. Who the hell did I think I was? Yes, she was rude, but who was I to teach her a lesson?

Saturday, November 3, 2018

A return to blogging from the Swiss Alps

After a year-long hiatus from this blog due to coaching and writing articles on personal development and leadership, I am back and happy to entertain you again with musings from the Swiss Alps.

As I write you from Gstaad, the leaves have turned yellow and orange and are falling off the branches, and the temperatures hover near freezing. Some apples still hang on their branches, ready for the first freeze. For about two weeks in October, the neighbor’s cows grazed on our land, and last weekend, they moved to a different property offering fresher grass. Pretty soon, the snow will come and they will remain in their barns.

Fritzli, our new mini Schnauzer, is adorable and demanding lots of attention. He’s learning to come, sit and fetch. I am trying to teach him not to jump up on people, but he can’t help it, being so sociable and excited. He also has a disgusting attraction to cow poop. I have to clean off his feet every time he comes in after his ballads in the fields. And of course, he is exhibiting a strong Napoleonic complex when interacting with our neighbor's cows.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

New venture

Starting a new venture is never easy, which is why you haven't seen many articles on this blog recently. Since 2016, I have been working on becoming a life coach. The good news is I am now a Core Essentials graduate from CoachU and am pursuing an advanced corporate coaching degree and ICF certification as well as supporting my amazing clients.

So, if you want to follow my writing, go to my new coaching site's articles. I will keep Life in the Swiss Alps up and running as a reference. And... who knows... I may write again for it when time allows.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Expat marriage saved by bell

At a recent dinner, an English woman told the following story.

It was her wedding anniversary, and her husband had given her a large present. Upon peeling off the layer of wrapping, she found a vacuum cleaner box. Where was that diamond or key to the fancy car?

"I thought of divorcing him," she said laughing, "until I looked inside the box and found an antique Swiss cowbell."

Driving home that night, our friend's story turned in my head. How amazing that she could be satisfied by a cowbell. Love it. Only in Switzerland.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Health benefits and disadvantages of Swiss alpine living

About a year ago, a reader emailed me asking about the health benefits of living in the Swiss Alps as well as its disadvantages. I’m no doctor, but I do have opinions on the matter that some of you might find helpful. So here we go. (People love lists anyway.)

Health benefits:

  • fresh air - Good for the lungs; great for asthmatics

  • dryness - Good for people with dust mite and mold allergies

  • clean water out of the tap - I end up drinking more water

  • beautiful views promote physical activity and gratitude - Looking out the window at a clear blue sky and mountain peaks entices me out of the house; the beauty of nature reminds me of life's beauty; easier to feel grateful when surrounded by beauty

  • lots of sport opportunities - Hiking, mountain biking, mountain climbing, river rafting, downhill skiing, ski touring on skins, cross country skiing, swimming if near a good pool, etc...

  • silence - I sleep better without the sound of traffic; it's soothing to the nerves and conducive to meditation and thought

  • being close to nature - A mere 10-minute walk is laden with sensory benefits; walking in a pine forest is known to be good for you

  • fresh food - Local milk, cheese, butter, eggs, meat, and other produce

  • solitude - One learns to be alone and to be emotionally self-reliant and resilient

  • slow pace - Allows for being in the moment and have less stress

  • less light pollution - Darkness promotes the production of melatonin, hence better sleep

  • less crime - Less anxiety and fear of violence

  • higher altitude - Body produces more red blood cells; athletes train at 1,500-2,000 to get ready for competitions

Health disadvantages:

  • loneliness and isolation - Being alone is not for everyone; villages can be kind of dead

  • lack of specialists and hospitals - You don't want to get really sick up there and need medical attention quickly

  • increased alcoholism in resort areas - Resort areas tend to have more substance abuse, says a therapist I spoke to

  • strong sun - The higher up you go, the less atmosphere the sun's rays has to go through. Hence, your skin is more prone to burn

  • altitude sickness - Depending on high up you go and your activity level. Only temporary

  • dry skin 

Any others? I would be happy to read your comments and/or additions.

Gone fishing — literally

As you may have noticed, I've been absent from the Swiss Alps, due to the fact that I've been fishing off the New England coast. T...