Packing packing packing

What have we been up to lately? Yep, the title says it all.

I dedicated May to collecting boxes and June has been the month of packing.

Our house has gone from good to bad to best and to worst, but look, I’m clearing out entire areas like our overloaded built-in shelving!

But other than that it’s been a scary, scary mess.

We started (or Kay started) seven weeks before our move date. Now our deadline is coming up in one week. By the next weekend, we’ll be all moved in!

How early (or late) do you start packing for a move?

Five Years Together

With our five year “kiss-iversary” coming up on June 23rd, I booked train tickets to Paris so that we could go back to our roots and relive our magical first kiss at the top of the Eiffel Tower last weekend.

We met at the train station on Friday evening and to my great amazement, Kay took the opportunity to surprise me by shaving his beard off for the FIRST time in five years! As soon as I saw him, I burst out smiling and couldn’t keep the grin off my face for the rest of the weekend.

It was like traveling back in time to 2008, seeing a 24 year old Kay walk into the train station. To say I was ecstatic was putting it lightly. I couldn’t stop smiling from ear to ear!

The entire 4 hour train ride over, I kept looking at Kay and feeling very fuzzy inside, like we were really doing it all over again. My sister saw a picture on Facebook and said he looks ten years younger!

But poor Kay isn’t ready to give up the beard. He had trouble identifying with himself in the mirror and planned on starting to grow his beard back immediately. I had to enjoy that smooth face all I could!

We stayed in the 9th arrondissement in a studio rental I found and had dinner the first night at 1000 & 1 Signes, a mega cool Lebanese restaurant run completely by deaf staff. The entire staff were so, so sweet and caring and it was so interesting seeing into the open kitchen where the chef and waiters were signing orders. They had to be the most polite French wait staff I have ever encountered!

Around the restaurant hung artsy photos showing how to sign for things and after we ordered we were given a brochure about even more signs. Our waiter was so thoughtful at the end he signed to me to keep the brochure with a wink in his eye.

It was all in French of course, but in general I enjoyed the signing because all I do in Paris is point at the menu anyway. And the Lebanese food was great. I only wish I took more pictures so you could have seen our main courses!

After visiting the catacombs of Paris all Saturday, we started Sunday out with some crepe and coffee and then it was off to the Eiffel Tower. It was the 23rd afterall!

Unfortunately, the weather all over Europe was kind of crap. It was apparently sunnier in Switzerland, although they had called for rain, but in Paris it was overcast, windy and COLD. But I was on such a high, I wasn’t going to let the weather ruin the weekend for me.

We had waited already 2 hours in line to see the catacombs and we weren’t much luckier with the Eiffel Tower. We didn’t know about reserving tickets, so we also waited around 2 hours to get to the top, but it’s always worth it for this view!

When we got to the top… the blue sky even started poking out a bit.

But in typical fashion, the blue sky wasn’t really out until we got down from the tower. We had to get ready for our semi fancy dinner though!

Because the weather wasn’t the greatest, we couldn’t really have our wine, cheese and bread picnic at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, so we did the next best thing and did it back at home!

Kay was temporarily disappointed that all the groceries were closed on Sunday, but I spotted a little old lady with some grocery bags, so we asked her where the grocery was and bought all our goodies right as it started to pour outside.

One bottle of wine and one rough downpour later, we were both in a good mood!

For dinner we went out to Mama Shelter which was a pretty trendy, cool restaurant.

It had couches and funky seating everywhere with chalkboard ceilings and texture overload. I loved it!

After dinner the weather was playing nice, so we went back to the Eiffel Tower at night to really soak up the last romantic moments.

But sadly, those shitty street vendors from Rome with all their lasers and crap have made their way to Paris. It kind of ruins the atmosphere when they are throwing glow in the dark toys up in the air and pointing lasers at you. I only like the vendors from last time who sell wine and champagne at night.

The next day we checked out and went to the Louvre before heading home. I was completely exhausted from standing in lines and walking around, but I’m so happy we made it to Paris for our five years. Hopefully in another five years we’ll be back again!

Where do you celebrate your anniversary with your significant other?

Summer in Switz

A couple weeks ago, temperatures reached 90ºF/30ºC and summer finally hit Switzerland, so for the past couple weekends I hit the lake for grilling and went swimming at lunch every day at work. It was glorious!

China garden exploded with people coming out to enjoy the sun and I even found myself with a moderate tan after a week!

Is there any better place to enjoy your lunch? It was like going on vacation every day at noon.

Sadly Kay was in Mexico during most of the nice weather and when he came back we were starting to experience lots of summer thunderstorms. But we still spent several days last week going to the local Badi after work to swim and lounge in the sun.

In typical Swiss fashion, thunderstorms rolled in for the weekend, clouded up our weekend in Paris and when we came back the temperature had dropped to a meek 53ºF/12ºC. Ouch!

So… that was summer. Maybe it will make a return, but I’m not holding my breath. What’s worse is that I burned my shoulders slightly and it’s already peeling off. There goes my summer glow!

How’s the summer weather where you are?

Sexism in Switzerland

Everyone likes to think that Switzerland is the land of neutrality and therefore also equality, and for the most part, we do live in a country with great jobs, wonderful healthcare and top quality of life standards. But Switzerland still struggles with the concept of equality between men and women (among other things).

In general, the entire society is set up for men to work and for women to stay at home with children. After awhile expats will notice this traditional sentiment in both community policies and in the actions of residents.

One small example is how banks and post offices are open from around 8am-12pm and 2pm-6pm, which coincidentally happen to be the same hours people are expected to be working in an office. For many, the bank and post are closed when they go to work, closed at lunch time and closed by the time they get home. But for the Swiss, this is no problem if your wife would just stay at home and sign for your packages for you!

Maybe you think that’s a stretch, because single men still have the problem with the post and bank hours like anybody else. I agree, so let’s talk about money. (Oooh, the Swiss hate doing that!)

Although I graduated from university before my husband, I am both female and younger, which puts my salary well below his. Of course we have  different work experiences and we are in completely different fields, but if you look on the salary calculator on the federal administration website, or any of the salary records books available here for job research, you will find that in most jobs, men earn around 1000CHF more per month for the exact same work experience as their female counterparts.

Not only are men are generally earning an average of 10,000-15,000CHF ($10,728-16,092) more for the same work, but they are usually the ones receiving promotions and earning management level positions, which pushes their salaries even further above female workers.

Lots of people cite the so-called “pregnancy excuse” that women deserve less money because they take off time for pregnancy leave. Let’s be clear here: pregnancy leave in Switzerland is 14 weeks. The military requires* all Swiss men to complete 18-21 weeks of boot camp and the general rule is 3 weeks of military a year until around the age of 35, depending on the officer’s rank and how fast he completes his hours.

Roughly calculating how many weeks Kay had to spend in the army training and how many weeks he is serving the military each year, it comes to around 100 weeks in his case. This means that if I want to “get my fill” of women’s cushy maternity leave benefits, I would have to have one baby per year for 8 years. But considering that daycare starts around 2500CHF ($2682) per month, I probably would not be able to afford to keeping working after child number two.

OK, I’m getting a bit carried away. Most Americans already know about the bull shit surrounding maternity leave in the US and how it is a poor excuse for paying men more, but here in Switzerland the whole “let’s pay men more money and send them to the military for a month each year” just pushes the issue even further.

I’ve already talked about how marriage increases your taxes if both partners work and how I lost 11% of my income to taxes when we married. We could “fix” this tax problem if I quit my job and had some children, but obviously that is not on the agenda at the moment. I’m totally fine being a DINK couple, but when we do something like buy a flat together, we do it TOGETHER. As in, I will own 50% of the flat and my husband will own 50% of the flat. He is not buying it on his own, as our contractor seems to believe.

I haven’t mentioned who our contractor is until now, but I am so tired of the sexist, traditional ways they work that I’m not keeping it a secret any longer.

Allreal is a typical Swiss company. We were assigned a general contractor when we bought our flat who we’ve been “dealing with” for the past year and a half.

Usually Kay deals with emailing and calling the guy because he is obviously the native speaker and it does make more sense for him to do it. But Kay travels a lot and it’s not like I am incapable of communicating in German. Allreal ignores Kays emails most of the time and they ignore mine too, but they do something particularly annoying when they DO email Kay back.

They “forget” to copy me.

And it’s not like Kay forgot to cc me. Oh no. He includes me on all of our emails to Allreal because he needs my input for all of our joint decisions. We are a team after all. But instead of hitting “reply all”, our contractor always replies only to Kay, without fail.

At first I thought he was just stupid or daft, but after Kay asked the guy several times not to forget to include me on the email because Kay would be abroad for work, I now suspect this is some Swiss sexism at work.

I mean, why should he include a wife on the emails? It’s pretty obvious that in Switzerland only men have any money or any balls to make decisions about buying property. This is man business! And an American woman? Good lord, she must not know anything about this.

What really sealed the deal for me was when I wrote an email to the contractor while Kay was abroad and I deliberately excluded Kay because I wanted to force the contractor to reply only to me. I honestly thought he would ignore my email, but you know what he did? He took the time to cc not one, but TWO of Kay’s email addresses so that he was on copy for the reply.

I am furious. FURIOUS.

If Allreal’s employees can take the time to include my husband on emails about our business, they could take the time to hit “reply all” and stop excluding me from all communications. It is poor judgement on how to handle clients and frankly, it disgusts me.

Maybe all contractors in Switzerland hold similar views, but with business practices like this, I am certainly not going to recommend Allreal to anyone I know. And maybe it is a small thing, but it echoes a big sentiment that is felt all around the country in all aspects of life here: Women should stay at home with the children where they belong.

*Military requirements are changing in Switzerland and people are no longer jailed for refusing to participate. In some cases, men can fulfill civil service roles, do their service all in one go, and pay to stay out of the military.


After making my list of 2013 travel destinations last September, our travel plans changed quite a bit when we decided to go to the US for Christmas and also are planning on visiting again for a friend’s wedding this year. But my sister and brother in law surprised me by planning an Easter trip to Rome, so even though it is an expensive time to travel there we went for seven days back in April!

To save money we all rented a condo together and ended up only paying around 33CHF per person per night, which was definitely not bad. All the hotels would have been over 150 a night just for two people! And to save money on flights, we flew out of Basel for the first time.

Rome is also an amaaazing city. I’m so happy we went… just look at all we saw!

The Pantheon… the Colosseum…


Rome at night.

The Spanish steps.

The Vatican… where, I kid you not… the heavens opened up and sunshine poured down on us ALL FOUR times we went there. For a rainy week, this was pretty spectacular.

We saw the pope too! He gave us a blessing and Kay stayed for mass before we went to the Sistine Chapel.

The Vatican at night…

But they did call for rain every day that week… and on our second day we encountered this:

Which pretty much soaked my sister and brother-in-law’s shoes completely. But I was pretty happy in my gortex rain jacket and hiking boots. Best shoe choice yet!

We saw more ruins… just scattered around the city.

We saw the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel and all around the museum. 🙂

Ate tons of gelato, mozzarella, pasta, pizza and wine.

Trevi fountain:

Spanish steps… yet again! 🙂

Some beautiful sunsets.

Colosseum at night!

St. Peter’s:

We also saw the catacombs with 2000 year old graves from Romans and early Christians. Between that and ALL the basilicas we saw, the Vatican, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum… I feel like we “did” Rome.

Now I am only feeling a bit guilty that we’re almost half way through 2013 and I’ve only been to one of the cities on my 2013 list. I’m not sure we are going to make it to Venice… but I’m hoping we can still manage London this year!