Daily Life auf Deutsch (& wanting to pull my hair out)

Like any other couple, Kay and I share the responsibility for maintaining our household together. We usually consult each other before making decisions regarding travel, large household purchases or social events, but aside from that we trust each other to get shit done.

Since we have switched to German during the week and because we live in Switzerland, much of this coordination is done in German. I am still by no means fluent, but we talk about things so regularly in German that sometimes I struggle with the English expressions for some things.

Still, sometimes it seems SO difficult to organize things here, either because of the German miscommunication or because of the traditional husband-wife stereotypes still prevalent here. Sometimes I wonder if more of my problem results from the latter…

One morning while Kay was in the army I had a surprise ring at the doorbell in the morning while I was finishing up to leave for work. I was caught off guard and didn’t have a lot of time, but I invited the guy up to answer the door and his questions.

Kay had emailed the bathroom guys (per their request) to cancel the appointment that day because they had already fixed our grout and delivered the extra bathroom tiles, so I had completely forgotten about it and was wondering why they came. Apparently they had a double delivery of extra tile scheduled and wanted to know where to put it.

Fine. I can deal with that. Extra, extra tile is never bad.

But the guy also pressed the grout issue. I told him it was fine, it was fixed, but he wanted to go to the bathroom to make sure. I humored him.

I showed him to the master bath and explained that the problem with the grout was beneath the towel hooks, which I had already remounted by myself in Kay’s absence. You couldn’t see any difference when they were remounted. The guy seemed a little unsure about my explanation, but I assured him it was fine and that was the last thing for the bathroom portion of the house to be “done”. But he didn’t trust me. He actually asked me,

Say what??

Yep. He was questioning this poor housewife’s ability to know what flaws we outlined during our home inspection and which ones are repaired. Considering that I am the one that found out about both grout problems and complained, I am confident that I am perfectly capable of signing off the agreement slip without phoning my husband for permission.

So I told him, “No, I don’t need to call my husband. Everything is fine. And anyway he is in the military so even if I wanted to call him, he is unavailable. Where do I sign? Are we done now? I have to go to work!”

But I was still so annoyed that once again someone thinks that I’m helpless or inferior to my male counterpart, when usually Kay is the one asking me if all the mistakes are fixed or if we are missing any details.

Later, the same week, Kay messaged me asking me to call and coordinate with the window people to come fix the window issues in the flat. After playing phone tag while the company sorted out why I was calling in the first place, I was speaking with a woman about a time when the guy could come take a look at the windows.

I told her that it needs to be early in the morning or late in the evening because I work during the day, so she asked me, “How about 10am?”

Well, no. Because I work 40 minutes from home so I cannot leave for a 10am appointment without taking a half day. I told her that doesn’t work since I work from 8-5 and asked her if I can have an appointment after 5pm.

“How about 5pm on Tuesday?” she responded.

I don’t think she really put two and two together with the working 40 minutes away and working 8-5. I asked her if we could push it later, at least until 5:30pm, which is a stretch for me but I could do it.

“Sure, 5:30 is great! We’ll see you on Tuesday at half past five!”

Only I totally forgot about the appointment because I missed my ical reminder and Kay was gone so I went to work a little later at 8:30am and came home at 6:00pm, thirty minutes too late. Oops.

But the worst part is that I rescheduled the appointment for 7:30am the next week and the window guy surprised me at home the night before, at 6:10pm. 6:10pm! He gave me a whole schpiel about how 7:30am was sooo early in the morning for him and me and wouldn’t it be better to just do it now if I had time. It was bizarre.

If 6ish was a better time for the guy anyway, why didn’t the lady on the bloody phone just work with me when I told her my working hours were 8-5?! Was she trying to make life as a DINK harder?

I might not be able to express myself fully or completely naturally in German, but I know enough that I hope I can get my point across without terribly offending all of Switzerland. I know it’s awful that I’m not at home all day cleaning the house and letting workers in and calling Kay to ask if everything is OK, but I could use a little more faith from these people.

My mother raised me to be a strong, independent woman and I am perfectly capable of taking care of things by myself while Kay is gone.

Do you ever feel like people treat you like the smaller half of your marriage?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

It’s normally impossible to cook a turkey dinner on a work day in Switzerland, so for the first time ever I am actually going out to dinner to celebrate.

Fork and Bottle is holding a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings, although the potatoes are colcannon, which is a little blasphemous… At 75CHF excluding drinks it’s a little pricey, but I’m really looking forward to eating and merriment with friends, which is what this day is all about.

Without my family around to celebrate, it is nice to find some time here to be grateful for all the good things I have going on in my life and cherish those around.

Those in the States, hug your loved ones extra tight for me and have a slice of pie!

How are you celebrating today?

(Image via Fork and Bottle)

Karlstad Love

Ever since I came across John and Sherry’s gianormous sectional on YHL, I dreamt of filling our new living room with something similar. Like, almost exaaactly the same, with colourful pillows included.

(Picture via YHL)

I obsessed a bit about what sofa John and Sherry had bought. The shape and legs looked strangely similar to the leather one Kay bought in 2008 when I moved to Switzerland.

There was a big “duh” moment when I peeked under our sofa and read the tag to confirm that Kay’s sofa is actually also a Karlstad sofa!

I knew that Kay’s sofa originally cost around 1500CHF, so I wasn’t really interested in finding out how much the huge sectional version would cost, but Kay liked the idea of continuing with the leather because it lasts a long time and it is easy to take care of.

Unfortunately, IKEA discontinued the Karlstad leather version and changed over to a slightly smaller sofa with tufts, which Kay heartily dislikes “because they are old-fashioned”. Dun dun dun. Never heard him call anything old-fashioned before…

Karlsfors sofa for 1999CHF from IKEA.

I even scoured the interwebs for used corner sofas in leather from Karlstad. I came really close to finding one in Germany, but it was dark brown, which is a huge no-go for Kay and it wouldn’t match anyway. Oh well.

But as you can see, our TV area in the living room still looks empty and lonely. And I still wanted a corner sofa, badly.

I debated internally for a long time if it was worth it to keep Kay’s couch or incorporate it into a sectional layout. I loved the idea of the chaises in the sectional from YHL, so I dreamt up buying an all-in-one like this and situating it somewhere where we could still use both of the balcony doors.

But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was not a good idea to just get rid of a perfectly good sofa. And no matter how I worked it, it didn’t make sense to stick this beast in with our current sofa. It became too much.

I had fun playing with literally ALL the combinations of Karlstad sofas available and seeing what would work best for us. And as we used the living room the whole summer, Kay pointed out that we rarely went out the balcony doors by the sofa. Especially since now that he’s pushed the sofa all the way back to the balcony door, making them inaccessible.

Kay thought if it makes sense, we should just put a corner sofa wherever we please and use the door to the balcony by the dining table. I’m still annoyed that they open inwards because it wasn’t an option to change, but Kay is right… we are most often taking food in and out of the kitchen and it’s not necessary to have two doors to the balcony.

With all that in mind, I decided that the best fit for maximum seating would be a corner sofa without any chaises or add-ons. Now we just needed to figure out which color!

At 999CHF, white is actually the cheapest option. And if we are ever going to do white sofas, shouldn’t it be now, while we don’t have children? Kay was up for it even with the possibility of extra washing, but after looking at our space, I just didn’t feel like white fit in with our dark brown floors and purple wall. It would be a better match for the light oak in some homes here.

Of course, I still loved the idea of the dark grey, but I wanted to explore other options too.

The green was in our color scheme, but not bright enough to match our walls and it just seemed a little too cooky for our style. I don’t want any problems selling this sofa in a few years!

And purple. I’m not sure I could convince Kay about the new Sivik purple. I got the color on the walls, but an entire sofa is another deal. It’s also not the same hue as our walls and it’s a little more expensive. Hmm.

There was one thing clear. We would be buying the metal legs to match the leather sofa. Even if the sofas are different material and color, the shape is the same and the legs will match!What color do you think we chose? Anybody else a big Karl fan?

Curtain burnout

After I bought my fancy used Bernina, I got straight to work and sewed seven (7!) curtains the first week I had it. That included two blackout curtains for the bedroom, four semi-decorative curtains for the living/dining room and one sheer curtain.

The reason why I stopped at seven was because that last curtain, the sheer curtain, didn’t turn out well.

It was perfect on both sides, but in the middle it was about 2″ longer than it was supposed to be so it drags on the floor in the middle. I am not pleased.

I called it a day and took a break from sewing to put the dining room back together for early Thanksgiving with friends and the next weekend I attempted sewing another sheer curtain. This time I planned on gathering the fabric up at the top and doing a better job cutting the fabric straight so I wouldn’t have this uneven hem problem.

Well, suffice to say, I had problems handling the sheer voile and I don’t think I used the correct gathering stitch on my machine. My bobbin finished in the middle of my gathering seam, which didn’t really help… and then I had difficulty pulling the gathering in.

When I finally got it around the right width for our windows, I had trouble sewing the curtain rail tape over the gathering. I put the finished curtain up and was disheartened to see that I’d accidentally pulled some of the curtain into the gathering in spots and as a result, my hem was super uneven and looks horrible.

Sooo I’ve given up on curtains for awhile. I am trying to muster the will to attempt them again, but this voile is so slippery and unmanageable!

Have you attempted curtains in your home? How did they turn out?

House Buying Restrictions for Foreigners

Since starting and committing to the buying process in Switzerland, I’ve noticed some of the restrictions that foreigners must cope with here. Buying a home as an expat is not quite as easy as coming up with the deposit.

Don’t think you can just come to Switzerland and buy a home. Most owners need a residence permit or citizenship to buy a home here, otherwise applicants are limited to select holiday areas for purchasing homes with a limit on the number allowed.

Rules like this help protect the land and property values from skyrocketing for local residents. Luckily the residence permit was not an issue for us since we are local.

I’m still not sure if this is just for non-domiciled foreigners, but I have heard it applies to foreign residents as well. Depending of the canton your home can be between 200 m2 and 250 m2. (2152-2690 sq ft).

This was not really an issue for us because our home is only 105 m2, but it surprised me because I’ve definitely looked at larger fixer-upper homes on the market.

Generally you are only allowed to buy one house, especially if you are buying a holiday home. The only case where you can buy two houses if if you are transitioning to a new home. In these cases, the first home must be sold before you enter the second home in the land registry. Eeek. Talk about stressful! Thankfully selling is not usually a problem in this market.

I believe that we are allowed to buy a second home if we would live in it, but that we cannot buy a second home for rental purposes. (Might be wrong about that!) You are allowed to buy if you need to change residences due to your job, but you are not allowed to change residences for the purpose of acquiring more properties. If one is buying a holiday home, a second home is simply not allowed.

When we received our sales contract for our flat we had it reviewed by professionals who noted the oddity of the “no rental” line at the end of the document. We inquired and learned that this is actually a federal regulation.

As long as I am not Swiss and I own part of the house, we are not allowed to rent the house out in part while I am living in it. So, if Kay would want to go to school abroad for example, I would not be allowed to rent out a room to someone to help pay the mortgage. But if I would leave Switzerland, we could rent it out… and if I become Swiss it will be a non-issue. Complicated!

Ok, this one isn’t limited to foreigners as it also applies to Swiss, but I thought it was worth mentioning because it throws off a lot of expats here.

In the first years that you own your home, there is a 100% capital gains tax which effectively stops people from flipping houses and effectively helping the market skyrocket. Swiss law has to be very strict about the rules of buying and selling so that people do not abuse the small realty market. The longer you live in your house (closer to 20 years) the less capital gains taxes you will have to pay on your profits.

In general, it is not a good idea to buy a house here hoping for a big investment payoff. It won’t happen. If you buy, you will “earn money” by saving on rent and taxes, but if you hold on to your property for 20 years through market fluctuations, you will generally see a smaller return on your investments than if you invested in other ways.

This means it is still worth it to buy homes for personal savings or for rental money here, but the idea of buying a house and selling it a few years later for some cash just doesn’t work. The only way “flipping” a house can work here is if you live in the house yourself and fix it up. When you sell the house to buy a new one, then there are special rules allowing you to keep your capital gains so that you can apply the principal to a new home for yourself.

Factual information in this post has been provided through the Federal Department of Justice and Police, Swissinfo and Buy a Holiday House in Switzerland.

If I’ve gotten something wrong, feel free to correct me in the comments. Everyone has a different answer for these types of questions in Switzerland and it’s sometimes hard to tell what is the truth.