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Showing posts from 2015

How the Swiss Celebrate the New Year

The year is coming to an end and all around the world people are celebrating the beginning of a new year. Although everyone puts up a party for the same reason, there are some distinct differences between different parties around the globe. Every country and place has its own unique traditions on how to celebrate new years eve. People in Peru, for example, wear yellow for luck in the coming year, Danish people break old dishes on each other's doors and Germans pour lead into water in order to find out what will happen in the new year. Swiss New Year's Traditions Despite being an very small country, Switzerland generally has a lot of beautiful and unique traditions. This is certainly also true for the festivities surrounding the end of a year and the beginning of another. Now, there might be differences from canton to canton, region to region or even family to family but there are a few things that form part of the New Years tradition almost all over Switzerland. We drin

I Love Cinnamon Stars

Zimtstern - Joujou  /  It's true, we Swiss eat cookies all year round but there are certain types of cookies that we only eat in December. Some of us might start eating Christmas cookies in November or others even as early as October because we can't wait for the Christmas season or - which is the case more often than not - we simply are looking for any pretext to be eating something sweet. Famous Swiss Cinnamon Stars Now,  Zimtsterne  (Swiss German: Zimetschtern, English: Cinnamon Stars) are on of the most popular Christmas cookies in Switzerland. A Zimtstern is a star shaped almond cookie with lots of cinnamon in it and a merengue on top. Although some Germans claim that Zimtsterne are in fact a German cookie, they are certainly very popular in Switzerland and have become an almost iconic Swiss item. So much that even a clothing company named " Zimtstern " was founded in Zurich. Their brand logo is a combination of mountain and a cinnamon sta

The Swiss School System - University

When writing (and talking) about the Swiss education system, there is one part of it that is fairly easy to explain to a foreigner: university and other higher education. This is mainly due to the fact that in the last 10-15 years, Swiss university education has been adapted to international standards and norms. How to Enter a Swiss University One of the biggest differences between Swiss universities and American universities (and universities in other places around the globe) is that t here is normally no entrance exam or the need to formally apply. If you successfully passed your Matura exams you are free to inscribe to any university in Switzerland. The big exception is the field of human medicine which requires an entrance exam called Numerus Clausus. Also, Technical Universities usually require at least one year of work experience in a relevant field before they receive applicants with a Matura certificate. Degrees Available at Swiss Universities A lot of university relat

A New Way to Find a Job in Switzerland - You'll find your new job here!  In an older post I wrote about the job market in Switzerland and gave some recommendation on finding a job in Switzerland . In a way, the situation in the Swiss job market has changed and at the same time hasn't changed since then. Unemployment rates remain low The Swiss economy might not be in an all-time high but it is rolling steadily. This keeps unemployment rates relatively low which in turn allows a lot of employees to earn their living and to invest their earnings (i.e. consuming and buying) which again stimulates the economy. Capitalism at its best, right? Well, even in Switzerland there are people looking for a new job. Maybe they currently have a job they don't like, maybe they would like to advance their career and are looking for the next step on the career ladder, maybe they just lost their job and need to make a living or maybe they just recently graduated and are now ready to enter the job market. Peo

Returning to Mani Matter's Flight Across the Alps

There are times in the expat experience when you feel very far away from your home country. Even I get a little homesick now and then. Things are going well but at any in some moments there is a tiny voice piping up asking for a little bit of Switzerland. I have found that the best remedy for those cravings is a bit of nostalgic youtube-ing which basically means watching my childhood favorite " Fascht e Familie " (a Swiss 90ies sitcom) or listening to Swiss German music. Another childhood favorite of mine that I keep visiting on youtube is the singer and songwriter Mani Matter. Songs that still matter today His songs are not only funny but also rich in Swiss German expressions and phrases. More than 40 years after his death, the songs of Mani Matter are still meaningful - maybe even more so today than ever. Look at " I han es Zündhölzli azündt" and think of the wars raging around the world. If only more people would pick up their cigarette butts from the carp

How to Make Your Own Wax Paper Lantern

The shortest day of the year is approaching fast. This not only means that the days are getting shorter and the nights longer but - at least in the northern hemisphere - the temperatures are dropping quickly. Thus, it's nice to stay inside in the evenings and enjoy a cup of hot tea possibly accompanied by a nice warm fire in your fireplace or oven. It's also a season where people enjoy lighting a few candles and enjoy their warm shine. They simply make your home more cozy!  Wax Paper Lanterns to Light your Home Usually, candles are put on a candleholder or in a glass - for decoration and for safety! Another option to light your home with a subtle light are little wax paper lanterns . Of course, you can also buy a lantern made from glass and metal that looks just perfect but - and that is the better option in my opinion - you can also make a simple lantern yourself.   The main thing with lanterns is that they need to be made from heat-resistant material . For most of us

The Swiss School System - Secondary & Middle School

The initial years of public schooling in Switzerland - kindergarten and primary school - are still (fairly) straightforward and probably very similar to what exists in other countries. The whole things gets more complicated for older children. Education Differences in Secondary and Middle School As you may know, Switzerland is divided into 26 districts called cantons . According to Swiss law it is the cantons, and not the federal government, that are responsible for a functioning public school system. This leads to a few interesting differences from canton to canton. For example the years it takes a student to reach the Matura (Swiss university entrance qualification) vary significantly from canton to canton. In some places of Switzerland it takes 10 years and in others 12 years. However, it is not only a difference in years but also in the structures and names of the schools a student passes through on his way to the Matura or before starting his apprenticeship (which is a grea

The Swiss School System - Kindergarten & Primary School

kindergarten -  birgitH  / Every country has it's own schooling system. Some countries may have fairly similar systems such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland or the US and Canada (correct my if I'm wrong here!).  Almost all countries do by now have some law which requires children to attend some kind of school. Needless to say, that the years of actual schooling and the quality of teaching vary greatly in different places around the globe. Early Education in Switzerland Switzerland is well known internationally for its high quality public schools. However, in Switzerland there are also quite a few quirks when it comes to public schooling. Here are some examples: The Swiss constitution stipulates that every child has the right to education but not that every child must attend public (or private) school. This decision is left with each canton which means that there are some cantons in Switzerland where homeschooling is permitted and some wh

How to Talk About the Weather With a Swiss Person

It's cold in Switzerland and it's not even November! As always, weather changes in Switzerland are a great topic for conversation at work, when doing shopping or when running into your upstairs neighbor. 'It's cold today!' or 'What a beautiful sunny day!' are common conversation starters. It's what we Swiss call a ' Lückenfüller ' (lit. a gap filler) that people use to avoid uncomfortable silence in conversations. The Weather - A Safe Topic I believe talking about the weather is something that people do all over the world and in all different languages. It is a "safe" topic and you can feel free to join the comments about the cold or heat or rain or whatever the day brought along. Little anecdotes about similar weather or totally different weather in other parts of the world can be shared as well. However, keep in mind that this is usually a short and rather shallow kind of conversation so you are expected to keep it short. After a

How to Say 'Pumpkin' in Swiss German

I know, I know. I might be a bit early with this fall themed dictionary but you never know how fast the seasons can change. Even after a long and hot summer like the one we had this year, we must accept that fall and winter will come eventually - like it or not! And of course, many of us love these seasons just as much as spring and summer! I mean, what's not to love about beautiful colourful forests and snow covered landscapes?! But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, we'll enjoy fall. Winter is still a good while away! Swiss Fall has it all! If you're living in Switzerland you must know how grey, wet and foggy fall days can be. However, many times they are followed by sunshine and beautifully colourful days afterwards. We complain about the days getting shorter and wetter but we also relish the sound fallen leaves make when we walk over them or the typical autumn foods that appear on our plates. Food-wise fall is the mushroom and venison season and chestnut salesmen s

Need for Speed: Soap Box Races in Switzerland

While visiting family in Switzerland we had the chance to go watch a soap box race in the neighboring village. I hadn't seen a soap box race since I was a child and it was great fun to watch. What are Soap box Races? A soap box race (translated from German 'Seifenkistenrennen') is a car race where drivers race down a hill on an obstacle course in their homemade race cars . Most drivers are children aged 5-12. Now, these cars obviously have no motor and every driver must wear a helmet, so these races are generally very safe. Also, racers start one after the other so there is no danger of two cars crashing. Only the reckless drivers cause the occasional accident but usually they walk away laughing. Soap box races are a typical summer activity in Switzerland and many small towns an villages will have one scheduled over the summer. There is even a national championship held every year . BTW: the name soap box race or soap box derby comes from an American journalist wh

10 Things to Cool You Down On a Hot Summer Day

It's been hot these last few weeks here in Switzerland and weather forecasts predict that the heat will continue at least another two weeks. I know many people who would be quite happy if there were a few rainy and colder days coming but at the moment it sure doesn't look like it. Personally, I won't complain. Hot weather is great for swimming or camping and bad weather will return soon enough to Switzerland. 10 Things to Cool You Sown On a Hot Summer Day in Switzerland So, what can you do to make the heat more bearable? Thankfully, Switzerland has a lot to offer to people looking to cool down. If you're looking for ways to refresh yourself on a hot summer day, I'm happy to share my personal 10 favorites! Popsicles : At Migros you can get a wide selection of popsicles (and at any supermarket or kiosk as well). Some of these have reached cult status, especially the vanilla one with the picture of a seal. Swim : Switzerland is full of lakes and rivers that

The 5 Best Cafés in Zurich

After several months abroad I'm finally heading back to Zurich for a visit. And what would a visit home be without stopping at your favorite café? Even more so if you're part of the blogging community who is known for drinking lots of good coffee, especially the Swiss ones! There's plenty of great coffee and delicious food to be had in Zurich, especially in Babu's , one of my favorite cafés not only in Switzerland but overall. Whether you're looking for a classy old school café that serves Kafi Schale or a modern coffee shop where you can get your Latte - we have it all in Zurich! The Five Best Cafés in Zurich Although I'm sure it's a work in progress and ever changing, I'll share my personal selection of the 5 best cafés in Zurich. Babu's : Cozy atmosphere thanks to random vintage selection of chairs and tables. Nothing matches but everything still fits somehow. Not to mention great coffee and homemade pastries. If you're wanting to eat

Mother's Day in Switzerland

Flower for Mother's Day - Rainer Sturm  / Mother's Day. Other than  Valentine's Day , I cannot think of another holiday that has hallmark written all over it like Mother's Day. Shops are full of Mother's Day promotions and school kids are crafting little gifts for their moms. Florists are especially happy since many grown up children will bring their mothers a nice bouquet or have it delivered. Mother's Day in Switzerland Switzerland adopted this American holiday in 1930 mainly because of a strong  lobbying effort by the local florist unions  but also had a strong Christian support through the Salvation Army that advocated this day to honor the mothers. Like in most countries around the world, Mother's Day in Switzerland is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. Essentially, Mother's Day in Switzerland is probably pretty much the same as in other countries , I don't know of any uniquely Swiss traditions on this day. Unless y

How to Prepare Swiss Muesli

I found some time to spend in the kitchen last month to try out different recipes for homemade cereal . As I'm currently considered an Auslandschweizerin (Swiss abroad) I'm missing out on the wide selection of breakfast cereals offered in Swiss supermarkets, especially variants without sugar and reasonable prices. And honestly, what is breakfast without a muesli? What is Müesli? Müesli was invented by Swiss physician Bircher   around 1900. Thus, in Switzerland we call cereal mixed with fruit and cream or yoghurt a Bircher-müesli . It was and is considered a healthy dish,  perfect for starting your day (or at least mine) and is still very popular in Switzerland. Some of us even like to eat it for lunch or dinner. There are many different varieties and flavors available in stores but you'll only get your absolute favorite only if you make a batch of your own cereal. I use a basic recipe for muesli and the add whatever I'm in the mood for. Basic Cereal Recipe  for