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Happy 2013!

Another year is over and a new one is about to start. I wish you all a good slide into the new year and lots of blessings for 2013! May it be a good year filled with joy and peace!


© 2012 IRENE WYRSCH "A HUMOROUS GUIDE TO SWITZERLAND" ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Silvesterlauf 2012

People in Zurich like to do some things in winter that may seem odd to people who are used to living in a warmer climate. There is the annual Samichlausschwimmen (lit. Santa Claus swimming) in the beginning of December where hundreds of people swim in the ice cold Limmat and Lake Zurich. Although I like the idea of the Samichlausschwimmen I never actually participated in it - too much cold for my taste! :)

Another annual event is a bit less exotic: the annual Zürcher Silvesterlauf. The name might be a bit misleading as this event does not take place on the actual Silvester (December 31st) but two weeks earlier on December 16th. It is a "Lauf" meaning it is a real running competition but most people simply participate for the fun of it. The participating runners run a track right through the middle Zurich and can enjoy the Christmas lights and evening atmosphere.

This is also reflected in the many possible categories that you can run in:
familiesboysgirlsstudentsshe and hehap…

10 Fun Things to Do Outside On a Snowy Winter Day

The last few days have been really cold in Switzerland. It's become a routine to put on warm winter boots, a warm hat, a scarf, a warm winter coat and mittens before leaving the house. Without them it would be rather unpleasant outside.
The cold also has advantages. It's cold enough for the ghastly gray rain to turn into beautiful white snow. And when the sun breaks through the clouds the winter day is perfect for some fun activities outside.

Obviously, one of the main winter outdoor activities in Switzerland is skiing. Almost every Swiss child learns it from an early age. It's like learning to swim or to ride a bike - it's simply part of a Swiss childhood. However, there are many other fun things you can do outside on a snowy winter day in Switzerland. Here are some suggestions:
Go skiing or snowboarding in one of the many ski resorts in Switzerland; if you don't have a car to get you to the mountains you might want to have a look at snow'n'rail which offe…

Glühwein

I don't think there is a better way to start a winter Sunday. It's snowing outside and I'm sitting inside with a hot cup of black coffee and some Christmas cookies. But what would be the perfect ending to a snowy December Sunday?

December is Christmas market season in Switzerland. In almost every bigger city there is a place or a street filled with booths that sell all kinds of handcrafted gifts, candles, spices and Christmas food. If you are got cold while walking around you can buy hot punch or Glühwein (hot spiced wine) to warm you up. A small sip will warm you up and the hot cup warms your cold fingers. Add some Christmas music, the smell of cookies and light snowfall and you'll get the perfect Christmas evening.

Sometimes, you'll prefer to stay home on a cold snowy evening. That doesn't mean that you'll have to give up on Glühwein. You can easily make your own batch of Glühwein at home. This is what you'll need:

1 liter red wine
1/2 liter water
8 …

How to Spot a Swiss Person

As an expat one usually spots fellow expats right away. It's not only the language or the looks of people but rather the little peculiarities of life that seem so normal at home that give us away while abroad. Obviously, it's a cliche that all people from the same place (country, city, continent) behave in the same way and I am far from making that claim. However, growing up in a certain surrounding does rub off on people's behavior and some similarities can certainly be observed.

This is also true for Swiss people. According to the Swiss stereotype, we are a clean, punctual and strictly organized people. However, there are many exceptions like my Swiss friend who is always late or my brother whose room was a total mess while growing up. Yet, although they do not fit the description of a typical Swiss person, they still have some traits that give them away as Swiss. The same is probably true for myself - if I like it or not.
10 Signs you are dealing with a Swiss Person So,…

LearningSigns

Are you planning to move to a foreign country and want to learn the local language? Are you going for a short vacation and want to freshen up your language skills? Then the new LearningSigns app for iphone might just be the right thing!

How does it work?
Learn foreign alphabets easily by playing this fun memory game.Listen to professional speakers pronounce words and letters for you. Start recognizing common words in foreign languages.Freshen up basic vocabulary skills. Currently the game is available for Arabic, English, German and Russian.

Download it now from the AppStore! Have fun!





© 2012 IRENE WYRSCH "A HUMOROUS GUIDE TO SWITZERLAND" ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

A Swiss German Christmas Dictionary

Christmas is only a bit more than a month away and advent season is about to start. Soon streets in every town will be lit up with Christmas lights and filled Christmas songs. High time to brush up your Swiss German language skills for the Christmas season with this short glossary of Christmas terms:

Advent(advent, the season before Christmas)
Adventschranz (advent wreath, usually with 4 candles)
Adventskalender(Christmas calendar)
Adventsmärt(advent market)
Cherze(candle)
Cherzezieh (making candles)
Chrischtbaum (Christmas tree)
Chrischtchindli(Christ child)
Chrippe(manger)
Erdnüssli(peanut, typical gift from Santa)
Fitze (Santa's stick that he uses to hit bad behaving children)
Grittibänz(bread roll in the shape of a man)
Gschänkli(gift, gifts)
Guetzli(cookie, cookies)
Liechterchetti(chain of lights)
Mandarinli(mandarine, typical gift from Santa)
Samichlaus(Santa)
Schmutzli(lit: dirty one, Santa's helper, usually dressed all black)
Schnee(snow)
Schtern(star)
Schtern vo Bethlehem(Chistmas star, …

Slow Food Market in Zurich

This weekend another great trade fair will take place in Zurich: the second Slow Food Market. Just like any other food market, the Slow Food Market promotes, sells and introduces different kinds of digestibles. With one small difference: all the food presented at the fair is considered "slow".

But what exactly is slow food? Slow food is a (trademarked) term that refers to delightful and conscious eating of local food. It started as a counter movement to the globalized consumption of fast food; a fact that is emphasized by the contrasting name slow food. The Italian founder of the slow food movement promotes three basic principles that define slow food: buono, pulito e giusto - good, clean and fair.

The Slow Food Market in Zurich calls itself a "trade fair of good taste" and promises its visitors a variety of taste and flavor experiences. Different food producers present their goods In one gigantic market hall. Visitors can not only taste and buy the food they like bu…

German, French or Italian?

One of the issues most expats are dealing with is language. Unless you move inside your own language region (e.g. from England to the US) you will be facing a new language in your day to day to life. Buying groceries or ordering a meal suddenly become challenging new aspects of your life. Now, one could argue that in this age of globalization a decent knowledge of English will be sufficient to master all these situations. This is probably true for most larger cities around the world that are the home to many internationals. However, as soon as you move a bit farther into the suburbs or into the small towns you'll notice that English becomes less useful. 
The situation in Switzerland is similar. In the big cities such as Zurich, Geneva or Basle you don't necessarily need to know the local language. English works fine for work and living and even the government offices offer most services in English as well. The situation is quite different in the smaller towns and rural areas …

Hot Marroni

It's the time of the year again when days are getting shorter and the weather colder and colder. October and November in Switzerland typically have only a few sunny moments and a lot of gray, foggy and wet days. Spending time outside in this season usually includes splashing into puddles with your rubber boots or jumping through piles of fallen leaves.

However, the colder season also offers its other charms. Drinking hot tea or cider, cuddling under a blanket and watching tv or taking a hot bath are definitely more fun when it's cold and gray outside. And with the cold weather, another thing is appearing in almost every bigger town in Switzerland: marroni vendors.

When a Swiss person refers to marroni they mean an edible chestnut that is roasted in a large pan. (As opposed to non edible chestnuts which are called Kastanien.) You usually eat them hot since they taste best when freshly roasted: a nutty sweet flavor! If you've never ate bought or any marroni, believe me: it f…

Chilbi in Thalwil

Chilbi is the Swiss equivalent of an annual fair. During fall, almost every city and larger town organizes it's own Chilbi. Rollercoasters and other fun rides are nowadays the most prominent part of each Chilbi. However, there is almost always a good number of food stands, bar and booths selling all kinds of stuff. Mostly it's the local clubs and associations that set up and run the booths and make-shift restaurants since this is a great way to increase their annual budget.


When I think about Chilbi, I usually have this picture of warm weather, fair ground music and people crowding the streets in my head. Imagine the aire filled with chatter, laughter of children and the smell of Magenbrot or cotton candy.

This weekend, however, the usual Chilbi atmosphere was replaced by a rather Christmassy set up. On Saturday snow started falling all over Switzerland and temperatures dropped rapidly. Think about it, last weekend it was 20 C and sunny and people walked around in t-shirts. Th…

High German or Swiss German?

Today, we've been talking about the differences between High German (standard German) and Swiss German at the office. We all agreed that despite being somewhat similar in vocabulary and grammar the two languages are very different. Yes, two LANGUAGES! Swiss German is not a dialect of German despite the misleading name. You don't believe me? Here are two reasons you should.

1. There is a non-word called "goge" in Swiss German. This words does not have any meaning on its own but absolutely must appear in front of every infinitive verb. Examples:
Ich gang gern goge poschte = I like to shopEr isch goge tschutte = He went to play soccer2. Another very unique characteristic of the Swiss German language is the definite article "de" or "die" (usually shortened to "d'") before first names. During my studies I learned that there are only very few languages in the whole world that allow a definite article in front of a first name. In Swiss German…

Europe's Highest Salaries

There are many different reasons people decide to move to a foreign country. I am not talking about refugees of any kind, since they usually do not have a choice to leave their homes. I am talking about people who are actually living quite comfortably but then decide to pack up their things and move to another corner of the world.

Some move for ideological reasons, some for love, some for adventure, some simply for a change in their daily routine, and some - obviously - move for a job. Actually, I believe that there is a large percentage of American and European expats whose relocation is job related. I do not have a statistic on that though.

When considering a move abroad one should definitely take the local job market and salary situation into account. This is where Switzerland is at its best: very low unemployment rate (under 5%) and high salaries. In Europe only Denmark features higher average annual salaries than Switzerland.
Europe's Highest Salaries (2015)Switzerland: 69,87…

Freestyle Zurich

Beware! Snowboarders, free style skiers, motocross riders, skate boarders and many other cool people are gonna flood Zurich this weekend during the annual free style event: freestyle.ch. On Zurich's Landiwiese right next to the Lake, a huge jump was built and will be covered with snow for the snowboarders and free skiers who participate in the big air competition.

Actually, some of worlds best athletes are gonna participate in this great mix between show, spectacle and competition. In the snowboarding competition, for example, there will be Iouri Podlatchikov (Suisse) and Sage Kotsenburg (USA) amongst others. Starting on Friday with the preliminaries, the athletes compete for the title of the best (and coolest) freestyler in their respective category. There is also a category called "crossover" where athletes from the different sports compete against each other and the audience chooses the best athletes.

However cool and spectacular the jumps and stunts performed by the…

Swiss German Tongue Twisters

Swiss German can be a funny language. The most famous Swiss word 'Chuchichäschtli'  (phonetic: [ˈχʊχːiˌχæʃːtli] ) is a good example for a uniquely Swiss word. It even has its very own Wikipedia article! Thousands of foreigners have tried themselves at saying 'little kitchen cupboard' in Swiss German and many have failed to say it correctly.

Also the famous diminutive suffix '-li' is a well known character of Swiss German: Guetzli, Blüemli, Zügli and Chätzli are just a few examples. In fact, the '-li' is so famous that it made it into a German Rivella commercial a few years ago. I imagine some of these Swiss German words must sound quite funny to foreign ears.
Funny sounding Swiss German tongue twisters There are also quite a few funny Swiss German phrases in various Swiss dialects. The more advanced speakers of Swiss German or those who are not afraid of a linguistic challenge can test their Swiss German skills with the following Swiss German tongue twi…

How to Cycle Around Lake Zurich

If you think about it, it is a bit strange that Switzerland is considered a nation of cyclists. Think about the topography of Switzerland: there aren't really any larger flat areas and what we Swiss call flat would be considered quite steep hills in other countries.

Despite the obvious difficulties this causes for cyclists, almost every Swiss owns a bicycle and many people use it quite frequently, e.g. to go to work or to do their shopping. Personally, I am somewhat in between the frequent users and the 'sometimes users'. If it's sunny I'll ride my bike to work but if it rains I prefer to sit in a dry bus in the morning. Wouldn't you as well?!

A Bike Ride Around Lake Zurich Today, I took my bicycle on a somewhat longer journey. Since it was warm and sunny outside I decided to use this chance and finally make a bicycle tour around Lake Zurich. Yes, I rode around all of the Untersee (the lower part of Lake Zurich between Rapperswil and Zurich) in about 4 hours. I…

Knabenschiessen

It's time again for another of Zurich's very unique holidays this weekend. Next to the traditional Sächseleuten (an annual festival that marks the beginning of spring) there is the Zürcher Knabenschiessen that always takes place on the second weekend of September.

Literally the name Knabenschiessen means "young boys shooting competition" and this is where the origins of this holiday lay. In 1889 the first Knabenschiessen took place in Zurich. About 500 boys aged 13 through 17 took part in the competition. The winner received a necklace of coins and after the competition all participants marched through the city with flags and drums. Some drinks were offered to them but I honestly do not know if they were alcoholic or not. :)

In its early years the Knabenschiessen took place in the Sihlhölzli but was moved in recent years to the Albisgüetli. Also the prize has obviously changed. Who would want a necklace of silver coins these days?! Another change in the event was the…

A Very Healthy Country

Bloomberg has recently published a list of worlds healthiest countries. And guess who made it almost to the top of the list? Exactly! Switzerland was chosen the 4th healthiest country in the world! This doesn't surprise me since Switzerland is well known for it's populations healthy eating habits.

Who beat Switzerland in healthy living? On top of my head I would have thought that the Scandinavian countries like Sweden or Norway would be right at the top of the list. Great health systems and a modern lifestyle should do its trick, right?! However, none of them are found ahead of Switzerland. Sweden is placed 6th and Norway 9th - still very good though.

The top three healthiest countries of the world are definitely not what you'd think they'd be. Maybe with the exception of Iceland as #3 healthiest country. But I don't think anybody would have guessed Italy to be the second healthiest country of the world. I mean, how healthy can pasta and pizza be? Maybe the red win…

Hornussen

There is probably no sport more Swiss than Schwingen, the Swiss style of wrestling in sawdust. However, another traditional Swiss sport is making headlines these days, as the annual Swiss championship of Hornussen is coming up. It will take place this weekend 25th and 26th of August in Lyss in the Canton of Berne.

Hornussen is not only the name of a Swiss village but also of this interesting sport that looks a bit like a Swiss version of baseball or cricket. It is almost exclusively played in Switzerland with a few German cities joining the fun. Surprisingly there are also some South Africans who are playing and they actually call the game "Swiss Golf". :)

The game of Hornussen is quite simple: The hitter hits the "Nouss" (the ball) in order to make it fly into the opponents playing field or even farther. For this purpose the Nouss is placed on a piece of wood and hit with a long flexible stick that resembles a fishing rod. The opposing team then tries to catch th…

Sailing in Switzerland

Remember Alinghi?  The Swiss sailing boat that won the Americas Cup in 2003 and 2004? Well, maybe you aren't into sailing or were not interested in anything Swiss back then. I remember the first victory in 2003 very clearly. It was all over the news and everyone was saying "Now, who is still claiming that a land-locked country cannot bring forth excellent sailors?!".

This year we also had some sailors at the olympics but they did not excel at their sport. Nevertheless, sailing is quite popular in Switzerland. Of course not as much as soccer or ice hockey but popular enough to flood lake Zurich with sailing boats once a week. If you've ever been around lake Zurich on a sunny and warm Sunday, you must have noticed the great number of white sails moving quietly over the water. Thousands of sailing boats are registered in the canton of Zurich alone and besides lake Zurich there isn't much water to sail on.

Here, in Switzerland you need a sailing license to sail boat…

Selling Lost Items

Ever wondered what happens to all the things lost and forgotten on the many trains and busses in Switzerland? I always imagined some giant storehouses with tons of old stuff simply aging and collecting dust. That wouldn't be very Swiss though, would it? Especially with all the dirt and dust since we are generally such clean freaks. :) Turns out that many public transportation companies sell their lost and found items to a shop in Zurich that makes a business out of selling lost items.

About 60'000 items reach the lost and found shop every month. And there are some very funny, some expensive and some very strange items for sale there. You want examples?! If you have a look at their online shop you'll understand what I mean. Currently on sale are:
different kinds of jewelrysex toyssecond hand underwearpaintingsclothessports geara machine for counting bank notes There's two central questions that have been bothering me ever since I found out about this shop:
who loses such …

1st of August Buns

It's coming up next Wednesday: the Swiss national holiday 1st of August. Fire works, picnics, brunches, speeches by politicians and hopefully warm summer weather will be part of this fun holiday also this year. 1st of August commemorates the founding of the original Swiss federation by the four "original cantons" (= Urkantone) Uri, Schwyz, Nidwalden and Obwalden in the first half of August 1291. (Correction: there are only three Urkantone since Nidwalden and Obwalden are the two halfs of the canton Unterwalden. Thanks Martin!) It does not mark Swiss independence but rather the start of a the several century long formation of the Swiss nation.


Although it is nice to remember the beginnings of Switzerland and to think of some of the legends surrounding them like William Tell or the Oath at the Rütli, 1st of August is nowadays mainly a fun daz off with lots of good food and fireworks. One of the typical ingredients of a Swiss 1st of August celebration is the 1st of August B…

10 Fun Things to Do on a Summer Day in Zurich

Summer is finally arriving. And it's high time! After some mediocre summer weather the sunny days are arriving. The whole next week is gonna be sunny and warm - up to 30 C! Many people are away on their summer vacations but for those sticking around Zurich like myself, here are some ideas to make use of this excellent weather:
Go swimming in Lake Zurich or the Limmat river. There are plenty of public baths, public pools or places you can go swimming fro free in and around Zurich. Take a stroll through the Niederdorf and buy some cold and sweet ice cream at Dieci Gelati.Visit the Zoo and observe the animals with an ice cold drink in hand.Go up Üetliberg. Enjoy the great view and the relaxing atmosphere on this hill overlooking Zurich. This is a great starting point for short hikes as well.Take a boat ride on Lake Zurich and get some wind to chill you.Rent a pedal boat and combine the boat ride with some serious swimming. Visit the Wild Life Park Zurich. Located just outside of Zuri…

Most Popular Swiss Baby Names

If I ask people to give me an example of a typical Swiss name, most would probably name Heidi. Made famous through the stories of the little girl living in the Swiss alps, the name has turned into something uniquely Swiss. Although I learned that people outside of Switzerland sometimes name their children Heidi as well.

However, most Swiss consider Heidi a very old and unmodern name that belongs to our grandparents generation. Ueli, Walter, Rösli, Annemarie - all these names are slowly disappearing from Swiss phonebooks and index of names. Some are undoubtedly beautiful but simply won't do anymore. I mean, who is calling their children Eugene or Earnest these days?!

You might ask, are there any original Swiss names still popular with parents? How about all the beautiful names from Grisons like Flurin, Zegna or Gian? They definitely are still in use but others seem more popular.
These are the baby names that were most popular in Switzerland in 2008-2010:Most Popular Girls Names:
Len…

Swimming in Swiss Lakes and Rivers

Summer has arrived and the weather is warm enough to make Swiss people flock to the various rivers and lakes for a refreshing swim. Swimming in lakes and rivers is one of most popular (and definitely cheapest) pastimes here in Switzerland.

Swiss swimmers can choose between ice cold mountain lakes, several bigger rivers, some creeks, and quite a number of large lakes (e.g. Lake Zurich, Lake Geneva, Lake Constance). Switzerland has no sea coast but in my opinion the lakes definitely make up for it. And fresh water is so much more refreshing than salt water!

Here in Switzerland, old and young swim in rivers and lakes. It's simply part of growing up and living here. There are also several public swimming events on Swiss lakes. The most famous is probably the crossing of Lake Zurich that takes place every year where hundreds of people swim together across the lake. This years event will take place on July 3rd 2019.

So, if you are in Switzerland you should not hesitate to adopt the habi…

Happy Blogiversary

It's been a little over a year since my first blog post about sitting next to strangers in Swiss busses in June 2011. Since then I've written 88 entries, opened a twitter account and met several other English bloggers from or in Switzerland.

It's been fun - may it continue this way!





© 2012 IRENE WYRSCH "A HUMOROUS GUIDE TO SWITZERLAND" ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Coolest Weather App

A week ago it was cold and rainy. Now, summer has finally arrived. The sun is shining, temperatures have risen to sunbathing degrees and summer thunder storms enliven the nights. But living in this alpine country has taught me one thing: never ever expect the perfect sunny weather to last for long periods of time. Some rainy days, some colder days and some gray days are most likely gonna appear in between those sunny days. And this is where the weather forecasts come in handy.



You can check weather forecasts for Switzerland on SF Meteo (including local forecasts). OR you can use this much funnier way of getting your local weather news: The Ibex Weather App. The two Grisonian ibex Gian and Giachen (made famous by tv spots for the Swiss region of Grisons) provide you with the latest weather forecasts in their unique way. Have a look:


Of course the app also provides you with the "real" weather information such as temperature and chance of rain. You can download this app for yo…

10 Fun Things to Do on a Rainy Day in Switzerland

The weather has been so so these last few days and will remain rainy and rather cold. No swimming in one of the many lakes of Switzerland, going on a nice bike trip or playing soccer outside unless you are willing to endure some heavy rain.
10 Fun Things to Do on a Rainy Day in Switzerland However, there are plenty of fun things to do in Switzerland even on rainy days. Here's the list of my current favorite rainy day activities:
Alpamare: Biggest water park of Switzerland with dozens of water slides and pools. It's open all year round since most of the baths and slides are indoors. It is perfect for a rainy day since there are usually less people than on a sunny day.Zoo Zurich: The famous zoo in Zurich features bears, elephants, monkeys, tigers and the mazoala hall (a tropical glass house). Many animals can be visited in their houses.Swiss National Museum: The Swiss National Museum in Zurich gives an overview over the cultural history of Switzerland. Swiss Museum of Transport:…

The Most Beautiful Place in the World

Last week a good friend from the US came to visit for a couple of days (that's also why I haven't been posting) and after a day in Zurich and a short visit to the Rhine Falls we took a day trip to central Switzerland. Since my friend hasn't seen the Swiss Alps before I took her up Mount Pilatus on my special back way route.... It was great fun and the weather turned the alpine scenery into a magical place. After seeing this, my friend declared that the top of Mount Pilatus was the most beautiful place in the world. I am not so sure about it but the alps definitely still manage to take my breath away at moments... :)




© 2012 IRENE WYRSCH "A HUMOROUS GUIDE TO SWITZERLAND" ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Online Clothes Shopping

Don't tell me you haven't noticed. If you're anywhere in or near Switzerland you must have seen at least one ad or commercial for Zalando. Advertisements for Zalando shoes or clothes have been flooding newspapers, television and the internet. (A very funny one is the Zalando game show commercial). So what's the big deal? Is Zalando really better or cheaper than other online stores? I asked myself exactly this question when I embarked on my Zalando-testing journey...
Since I've been trying to buy a cute and colorful summer dress without success, I decided to try online clothes shopping for a change. I've ordered stuff online before but mostly books or household items. To order clothes online was gonna be a totally new experience. Little did I know that it can be just as tiring as  going shopping in the real world... :)

To make things a bit more interesting I checked out the two most popular online clothes shopping sites of Switzerland: Zalando and Bonprix. Both …

Do you speak Rumantsch?

I've been writing about the four official languages of Switzerland, especially Swiss German, quite a bit. It is high time that I introduce the least known language of Switzerland: Rumantsch (ling. "Romansh").
Rumantsch is spoken mainly in the Swiss canton of Grisons which is located on the south-eastern side of Switzerland next to Italy and Austria. According to a census taken in 1990, roughly 65'000 people were speaking Rumantsch regularly, of which 40'000 used Rumantsch as their main language of communication. In in 2000 this number shrunk to only 35'000 people. Not much if you consider the 7 million inhabitants of Switzerland. 
Despite the small number of native speakers, have the mountainous and secluded areas of Grisons produced several different dialects of Rumantsch: SursilvanSutsilvanSurmiranPuterVallader In the 70ies and 80ies Swiss linguist Heinrich Schmid developed a written version of Rumantsch that united all the different dialects. This new writt…