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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.

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.

Rimuss
When adults fill their glasses with cham…

Merry Christmas & Happy 2016

Before heading off for a short Christmas and New Years break, I would like to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a good start into the new year 2016! Enjoy time with your family and friends. Remember, don't fight and argue - that's really not the point of it all!

Thank you for stopping by and reading this blog once in a while! I appreciate your comments and your retweets! 






© 2015 IRENE WYRSCH "A HUMOROUS GUIDE TO SWITZERLAND" ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I Love Cinnamon Stars

It's true, we Swiss eat cookies all year round but there are certain types of cookies that we only eat in December. To be honest, 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.

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 Swiss 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 star. Nice, right?! 
Zimtsterne are so Swiss that in 1998 Zurich song writer Andr…

Off to School (Part 3): 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.

However, one of the biggest differences between Swiss universities and American universities (and universities in other places around the globe) is that there 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. Technical Universities usually require at least one year of work experience in a relevant field before they receive applicants with a Matura certificate.

But let's go back to the similarities. A lot of university related vocabulary has been adopted from…

A New Way to Find a Job in Switzerland

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.
People find jobs online - but where? The internet remains the favo…

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 carpet if you…

How to Make Your Own Lantern

We are fast approaching the shortest day of they year. The days are getting shorter and colder and it's nice to stay inside in the evenings and enjoy a cup of hot tea. It's also very enjoyable to light a few candles and enjoy their warm shine.
Another option to light your home with a subtle light are little wax paper lanterns. You can also buy one made from glass and metal or - and that is the better option in my opinion - make some simple ones yourself.  
The main thing with lanterns is that they need to be made from heat-resistant material. For most of us averagely talented crafters it would be quite challenging to create a lantern from glass and metal so we must resort to more easily manageable materials.  One material that most of us feel comfortable working with is paper but obviously it is quite the opposite of heat-resistant or fire-proof. Therefore, it is not simple paper but wax paper or baking paper that should be used to make lanterns. Nevertheless, any kind of lan…

Off to School (Part2 ): Secondary & Middle School

The initial years of public schooling in Switzerland - kindergarten and primary school - are still (fairly) straightforward. The whole things gets more complicated for older children.

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 great option for professional education in Switzerland). In the canton of Zurich a student either goes to the Sekundarschul…

Off to School (Part 1): Kindergarten & Primary School

How to Talk About the Weather With a Swiss Person

It's cold in Switzerland and it's not even November yet! 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.

It's also considered a "safe" topic and you should 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 all, these people are not your closest friends and are probably not interested in your whole life story.

So, how shou…

Falling Into Fall

After I published my latest collection of Swiss German words and phrases, my Fall Dictionary, I got in touch with Elizabeth over at speaksli.com who offered to do a language learning video of the words featured there.
Just now, she published the finished video so now you can not only read the words but you'll also hear a native speaker say them in Swiss German so you can repeat after him. I think it turned out great. What do you think?






© 2015 IRENE WYRSCH "A HUMOROUS GUIDE TO SWITZERLAND" ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

A Swiss German Fall Dictionary

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!

Swiss fall has it all! If you're living in Switzerland you must know how gray, wet and foggy fall days can be followed by sunshine and beautifully colored ones. Food-wise it's mushroom and venison season and chestnut salesmen start appearing all over Switzerland's towns and cities. Children carve their beetroots and walk singing around town and families go on a much needed fall vacation.

You better get ready for Swiss fall and update your Swiss German vocabulary with this fall dictionary:

abegheie (fall from something)
Blätter (tree leaves)
Chilbi (regional fair, amusement fair)
Chürbis (pumpkin)
Chürbissuppe (pumpkin soup)
farbig (colorful)
Gummistiefel (rain boots)
Herbscht (fall, autumn)
Herbschtferie (fall vaca…

Soap Box Races

While visiting family in Switzerland we had the chance to go watch a soap box race in the neighboring village. I haven't seen a soap box race since I was a child and it was great fun to watch.

A soap box race (german: Seifenkistenrennen) is basically a car race where drivers (most of them children age 5-12) race down a hill on an obstacle course in their homemade race cars. 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. Especially reckless drivers do cause the occasional accident but usually they walk away laughing.

Btw: the name soap box race or soap box derby is due to an American journalist who observed races of children in home made cars in Germany and thought the cars reminded him of soap boxes.







© 2015 IRENE WYRSCH "A HUMOROUS GUIDE TO SWITZERLAND" ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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 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.

If you're looking for ways to cool down on a hot summer day, feel free to consult my list: 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 are accessible and free for anyone. Enjoy the cool water (or even real cold water if you're swimming in a mountain lake) and refresh yourself. Public pools can be found in many places as well.Frozen Grapes: Grape season is just about to start. For a cold…

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.

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. Whether you're looking for a classy old school café or a modern coffee shop - we have it all 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 brunch on Saturday or Sunday you should get there early to secure a spot.Cakefriends: Small café with Swiss flair. The decor and men…

Mother's Day in Switzerland

Mother's Day.

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.

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 kids will bring their mothers a nice bouquet or have it delivered. Essentially, Mother's Day in Switzerland is probably pretty much the same as in other countries, I don't think there are any uniquely Swiss traditions on this day. Unless you count that we can gift the most delicious chocolates...

I remember making those gifts during my school years but it was always a bit tricky in my case because my mom has her birthday in the first week of May also and…

Swiss Muesli

It doesn't look too good if it's mid February and the last post on your blog says "Happy 2015". I' wish I had some awesome excuse like climbing Kilimanjaro but mainly it's just day to day life that managed to eat up my time.

Nevertheless, 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 (to a reasonable price). And honestly, what is breakfast without a muesli?

Müesli was invented by Swiss physician Bircher  around 1900 (thus the name Bircher-müesli for cereal mixed with fruit and cream or yoghurt) It was and is considered a healthy dish rich perfect for starting your day (or at least mine). and is very popular in Switzerland. Some even like to eat it for lunch or dinner.

There are many different varieties and flavors available in stores but you'…