Sunday, November 11, 2018

Hairy Expense

Hair. We all have it (or know someone who does). And periodically it needs to be cut. For a woman to get a professional haircut here in Kanton Zug she must plan to pay a pretty penny. I checked out local salon prices and nearly gagged at the numbers:

wash, cut, blow dry - 94CHF

just a wash and blow dry - 50CHF

dyed highlights - 90 to 160 CHF

Frankly, I can't pay these prices on principle. So how do I manage to maintain my oh so (cough, cough) stylish do?

I'm lucky enough to have my own personal hair stylist, Joe-ay!

He does a fantastic job and the price is right! And for the color:
$10 a box imported via very kind relatives from the US

For men, a hair cut is still pretty expensive. Last year Joe went to a barber shop and ended up paying 40CHF for his hair cut. That never happened again. That's when my hair cutting skills were cultivated. Who knew wielding clippers could be so fun. Unfortunately I do not have photographic evidence as our resident photographer (Mo) was not home the last time I cut Joe's hair. But trust me, I enjoy the process. (Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!)

Hair cutting is not the only area of one's budget that gets stretched when you live here in Switzerland. Hidden costs lurk in the most mundane of places. Like moving.

If you are a regular reader of my blog you know that we recently moved. And as expected, our move came with various expenses - some expected and some unexpected. Since living here we've come to accept the fact that expenses and Switzerland are somewhat synonymous, but the two bills that came last week even took us by surprise.

One bill was from the Gemeinde (local community) office in the city of Zug, where we moved from. It was for 76CHF:

They literally charged us to move out of the city.

Then we received another bill from the Gemeinde office in the city of Hünenberg, where we live now. It was for 60CHF:

This time we were charged to move into the city. Actually I'm not exactly sure what service was provided or what we purchased that warranted these bills, but we can't get too uptight about it as it costs what it costs to live here in Switzerland.

Today's poem is provided at no cost to you - a rarity here in Switzerland.
at a shop
cut costs a lot
but at home
cheap coiffed dome
©2018, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Busy Bees (on multiple levels)

As I mentioned last week, we moved. We went from a furnished corporate flat to an unfurnished flat of our own choosing. We've been busy buying furniture, unpacking boxes, and building furniture (well, Joe has been busy doing the building).

Lots of boxes.
Notice the lack of furniture?

One thing we found in the new flat that we've never seen in all our years of moving within the US is that there are NO lights when you move in. NONE.

When we moved into our flat this is what the ceiling looked like - in 11 places!
A hole in ceiling with electrical wires hanging out - some of which were unprotected.

So we got busy and headed off to Brockenhaus (local thrift store) to buy lights. Here is one (of many) funky ones we bought:

Joe put it up in the hallway:

Pretty cool, huh? And when we move out, we will take all 11 ceiling light with us.

The best (and worst) part of moving into an unfurnished flat is picking out furniture. Joe and Maureen picked out a new custom couch last weekend, but it won't be delivered for 8 to 12 weeks! In the meantime we just have a tiny two-seater couch that seats, well, two.
But there are three of us. So we got busy again and headed off to Brockenhaus to get a cheap, used chair so all three of us have a place to sit until our new bigger couch gets delivered.
We found this gem:

But then came the quandary of getting it home without a car. No problem, Joe just carried it on the train and had his own personal seat by the door.
It was only a little embarrassing.

Well, if moving wasn't keeping us busy enough, Smidgey made sure we made time for her. On our walk we stumbled upon a caravan trailer behind some bushes that was buzzing. Literally. The trailer was full of bee hives.
Can you see it hiding?

Multi color compartments for the hives.

Upon closer inspection, we found the honey bees to be very busy:

It was a 'sweet' find.

Today I have a riddle poem about one of Mr. Honey Bee's cousins. Can you figure out who he is? Tell me in the comments.

I should not be able to fly 
but I sure can.
They say my body is too fat 

for my wingspan.
I'm stylish with fuzzy 

yellow and black stripes.
I also have an amazing 

set of pipes.

Who am I?

©2018, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Of A Certain Age

Apologies for not posting for about a week. Many exciting things are happening around here.

First of all, I had another birthday. Yay! Given the alternative, I am very excited to be another year older. We celebrated with a quick day trip to Milan! I know, right? How cool is that?
We took the train to the central station in Milan:
Gorgeous old train station building.

The first thing we noticed when we got off the train was that we didn't have to work our way through a crowd of people to actually exit the train and walk on the platform. In fact, the platform was empty.

We thought, huh, this is weird and very different from Swiss train stations. Then we walked a little further into the main station and found the people:
They were all looking up... this.

Apparently in Italy the passengers have to stay in a front waiting area until the platform for their train is assigned on a huge schedule board - minutes before the train is supposed to leave. An example of when the Italians are more orderly than the Swiss! Go figure...

While in Milan, we wandered around the city, shopped at a huge street market and ate (Italian) food:
Setting off on our journey.
Along the canals.

And at the street market.

Mo's plate of fish...a bit of a surprise, but she ate 'em!
Thankfully many in Milan speak English so shopping and ordering at the restaurants is not as stressful as in Switzerland. I even found stylish orange Italian reading glasses - apropos given I was celebrating my age. And Joe savored his Italian coffee.
Joe had to get in on the selfie action!
Coffee and a cuddle.

Since the subject of this post is being of a certain age, I thought I'd share a mid-life hobby I picked up since moving to Switzerland...inline skating:
I figure, I'm still able and willing, so why not? I hit the paths at least once a week, but try to skate more often than that. Sometimes Joe and Maureen skate with me, but usually they bike and/or walk the dog. Brings me back to when I used to skate for hours on Ord Way (my childhood street).

Also on the subject of the many exciting things happening around here...I got a job! It's ironic that when many in our family are retiring, I am reentering the work force full time. I am a teaching assistant in a grade 1 classroom at the international school where Maureen goes - well, actually she is at the high school campus and I will be on elementary campus.  I am very excited to be back in the classroom working with little people full time. I've thoroughly enjoyed my time teaching English to kids since moving here, but it will be nice to have a full time, permanent gig. Being on the same schedule as Maureen is a huge perk as well.

Because of this life change I will now only be posting once a week, usually on the weekend, but I WILL keep posting. I still have lots of interesting Swiss stories to tell and poetry to share - not the least of which is the saga of getting my work permit. Stay tuned. And if you receive these posts via email, please click through to my blog so my Google analytics stay favorable. Thank you!

And finally, as if starting a new job wasn't exciting enough, we're moving! Next week! The fourth (and final!) living situation we've had since arriving in Switzerland - we are finally out of the temporary corporate housing. DM me for our new address...we do very much like snail mail if you are so inclined.
Here are some pics from our new digs:
Kitchen view from dining room area.

Living room view from dining room area.
To round out all the excitement around here I have an acrostic poem about my perspective on getting older:
                 appreciating life
even when it gets
                 inarguably chaotic
                giving up
©2018, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Lots of Puck!

In previous posts I have mentioned the local professional ice hockey team, the EVZ. I pretty much thought ice hockey was king here in Zug, but apparently I was wrong.

This past weekend we unexpectedly  stumbled upon an immensely popular, but unknown (to us) spectator sport here in Zug: Street Hockey!

Not kids in the street hitting a puck back and forth street hockey, but full-on grown men in uniforms playing hockey in an outdoor arena:

The main difference I noticed in the game, besides the obvious lack of ice, is that the guys don't wear skates, ice or roller - they play in their tennis shoes!

Their arena is pretty sizable, too:

Apparently Street Hockey is serious business here in Zug as the stands of the arena were filled (we were too embarrassed to take a picture of the crowd) and the play was competitive.The local team is the Sika (a company sponsor) Rebells. They are even hosting the 2018 World Championship* of Street Hockey here on November 3!

*It seems World Championship in this case might be a little Swiss-centric since all the teams are from Switzerland. But, hey, it is still pretty exciting!

Today's poem is actually a joke:
Q: What do you call a street hockey player?
A: No More Mr. Ice Guy! 
©2018, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Key Holes

Well, key dots or divots. That is how the Swiss house/flat keys are cut. Oh, and there are slots, too:

Every key in Switzerland is unique because of the precise pattern drilled into it so it can fit just one door - even the edge is encoded.

OK, not just one door when you live in an apartment building because the same key opens the common front door of the building, the laundry room, the basement/garage doors, your personal storage locker, and your mailbox. All residents of the building have a similar key "family", but each is slightly different enough so that only your key will open your own apartment door.

Also, every key here has a serial number that identifies who it belongs to (building owner):

Another interesting aspect of these keys is that they can be inserted into the door in either orientation. As you can see the slot/divot pattern seems to be the same on both sides of the key.

If you lose a key it can be a NIGHTMARE. First of all, you can't just go to the local hardware store or locksmith and get a new one made. Nope. Each Swiss key starts with a unique key blank that is unique to a specific locksmith. If you lose your key, you have to notify your landlord and/or the police immediately. The landlord can decide how long to wait to see if it turns up as to what action (how much it is going to cost you) to take.

An awesome thing about the Swiss is that for the most part they return stuff that does not belong to them. Like keys. Apparently it is common knowledge that if you find keys on the bus/train or on the street, you simply drop them in the nearest mailbox. The Swiss postal system (Die Post) forwards them to the Police Department who has a database of which key serial number goes to which property owner.

But let's say you lost your key while skiing or while abroad and it never turns up. In those cases the landlord will charge you to replace it. And being that it is Switzerland, it will cost you. Obviously if your keys were stolen and the suspected thief knows your address, then the entire building and all your neighbors would need new locks and keys and you would have to pay BIG bucks. But if the risk of the key falling into the "wrong hands" is low, the landlord may just replace your individual lock/key with one from the key "family". I have read stories of people being charged anywhere from 100CHF to 1,000CHF to replace keys - mostly due to how many locks have to be replaced.

We have all been trained to always know where our keys are at all times. This handy-dandy post it is the last thing we see when we leave the house:

My poem today unlocks the mystery of holding on to your keys:

the KEY 
is to never 
lose your 
©2018, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Presidental Perspectives

Since moving to Switzerland we have witnessed the widely different ways the Swiss view their President and the current US President.

The Swiss Presidency is a position held by one member of the seven member Federal Assembly for one year. The Presidential duties rotate among the members, with each becoming President once over a 7 year period. While the position of President is not the Swiss head of state, the entire Federal Council is the collective head of state, it is still very important and highly regarded. But not so highly regarded that the person in that position can't get his pants dirty.

Case in point, the current Swiss President, Alain Berset, was recently spotted at the UN General Assembly getting down and dirty:
Picture from swissinfo


Then there is the image we saw of the current US President in Zurich - just plain dirty:
Mo and I saw this on a street corner.

Can you guess which of these two Presidents I took a poetic "snapshot" of?
plump belly
grumpy lips
squinty eyes
hateful script

neon hair
ill fitting suit
an unfortunate
lying brute
©2018, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 5, 2018


Here in Switzerland there are no smoke detectors in the houses and apartments.


This is a big difference from most of the rest of Europe and definitely from the US. When we owned rental property in the US we had to provide smoke detectors, CO2 detectors and fire extinguishers for our tenants. Here, none of those things are provided by the landlord.

All the landlord in our apartment has provided is a Fire Blanket:

That's not to say we live in a tinderbox that's about to combust. Actually our building is quite modern and well built. One fire safety feature is that the front door to our apartment is a fire door. A tag on the inside edge of the door, near the hinges tells of its fire rating.
Front door.

Of course, ours is written in German.
Every other door in the apartment has similar fire door features, but without the tag.  All of these doors are metal skinned and designed to take a minimum amount of time for a typical building fire to burn through to the other side.

There is also a flange around the outer edge of every door so that they can seal against gasses (oxygen) moving from one side to the other, spreading the fire.  The door frames are also metal and in the modern buildings, they are filled with concrete as well.
The door flange seals...
...up against the frame.

Our doors close so tight that in addition to reducing the spread of fire and smoke between separate rooms of our apartment, it also keeps our apartment VERY quiet. This apartment is quieter than any other place we've ever lived - most of which were single family homes. Go figure!
Closed tight.

Another safety feature our apartment has is that each bedroom is numbered for the fire department.
Our room.
Guest room.
And Mo's room.

Speaking of the fire department, in Switzerland there is not a single emergency number like 911. In order to call the fire department you dial 118, to call the police you dial 117, and for an ambulance you dial 144. I have programmed all of these numbers into my phone so as to not forget them in case of an emergency. 😃

Today's poem is what I will probably do if I ever need to call the fire department (knock on wood that I NEVER do).
118! Feuer! Hilf mir bitte!
©2018, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.