Tuesday, February 21, 2017

International Mother Language Day

UNESCO is celebrating International Mother Language Day (IMLD) today. 2017 runs under the theme “Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education”.

On the occasion of this Day, I launch an appeal for the potential of multilingual education to be acknowledged everywhere, in education and administrative systems, in cultural expressions and the media, cyberspace and trade. Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General  

Well, Switzerland represents the prefect example with its four National languages: German, French, Italian and Romansch. Multilingualism is an integral part of Switzerland's national identity, however, that does not mean every Swiss is multilingual.

It is important to know that there are three official languages in Switzerland (German, French and Italian) but there are four National languages (German, French, Italian AND Romansch). Although Romansh is spoken by only some 10,000 people in certain parts of Graubünden, it has five distinct dialects: Sursilvan, Sutsilvan, Surmiran, Puter and Vallader.

Here are some more facts:

- German is the main language of around 64.9% of the population. However, they do not speak standard German but rather various Alemmanic dialects that are collectively known as “Schwiizerdütsch” (Swiss German).
- Swiss German is not a written language, although it is used sometimes in personal correspondence. Standard German is used for all formal, written communication.
- French is the main language of around 22.6% of the population.
- Italian is the main language of around 8.3% of the population.
- Romansch is the main language of about 0.5% of the population.
- Several cantons are multilingual: Bern (German-French), Fribourg (French-German), Valais (French-German) and Graubünden (German-Romansh-Italian).
- Swiss German is the most widely used language in the workplace (66%), followed by standard German (33%), French (29%), English (18%) and Italian (9%).
- Over 42% of the population over the age of 15 regularly use more than one language.
- Foreigners living in Switzerland also contribute to the country's linguistic diversity. English and Portuguese are the most commonly spoken foreign languages.
- Other commonly spoken foreign languages include Spanish, Serbian, Croatian and Albanian.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Swiss Export shopping

It is common for expats to develop quirks about favourite foods and other items from their home country. If you have ever lived abroad you know the feeling.

Strange shopping habits can be spotted before leaving home and returning to an expat destination. Our family calls it Export shopping: it results in a family shopping spree around the Coop (sometimes Migros) stacking the trolley with our favourite food which has now become our comfort food. 

These items cannot be found in the host country and may or may not have actually been part of the expats' lives in their home country but which given half a chance - and with some luck a car rather than a suitcase to fill - will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of being back home. 

A bottle of Ramseier Apfelsaft, a Branchli or a Ragusa, an Ovo crunchy spread or Champions Birchermuesli will make us feel just a little bit better when we get hit with homesickness or nostalgia. A glass of Dole Blanche or a moité-moité cheese fondue will certainly hit the spot. And nobody makes bouillon cubes like the Swiss. NeoCitran, a widely-used cold remedy, will do the job in case of sickness, and the earplugs that come in a pink box let me sleep through thick and thin. And don't get me started on the chocolate... cooking chocolate, white hot chocolate, dark powdered chocolate, marzipan chocolate tablets, nutty chocolate bars and chocolate pralines!


Nor can we resist a Swiss bakery

Suntigszopf im Ussland

Familia Birchermüesli with Hirz Yoghurt... a champion's breakfast!

Le Chiacchiere di Carnevale... bring back sweet memories of Lugano

Ramseier or Rivella?

A typical Swiss Export shopping bag

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A week back home in Switzerland

Every year we religiously drive back to Switzerland for a week's skiing. This year the Gods were smiling down on us and we arrived to catch the first rays of sun after several snowy days. In other words: perfect skiing conditions!

The saying "Feeling on top of the World" takes on a whole new meaning when you get to spend a glorious week of skiing with your childhood friends and everybody's family gets to join the fun!

Where to start?
Skiing, eating or suntanning?

A feeling of Swiss nostalgia

Weather forecast a week before we left

The view on our first day of skiing

My skis might be vintage but they still get me up and down the mountain just fine

 A close encounter

 Chässchnitte uf de Alphütte

Teatime treat after skiing: Vermicelle at Charly's

Adelboden, a new discovery!

Anybody home?

The snow is melting rapidly after 6 days of sunshine

We could always try sledging down the mountain?

I am born to suntan!

I am intrigued!

 The village of Rougemont 

When teenagers are left without WIFI!!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

This I Love You Map, shows the phrase “I Love You” translated into 130 different languages and positioned on the map based on the primary language spoken in that country or region of the world.

Here's wishing you a Happy Valentine's Day
wherever you may be in the world!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

An Expat wife's salary

Usually I refrain from commenting on politics although I do enjoy following certain countries' politics and passionate campaigns. However, M. Fillion's hiccup is just too good to pass up.

Francois Fillon, the conservative politician tipped to become France’s next president has found himself at the centre of a political scandal after he was accused of paying his wife as - what he calls - a parliamentary assistant.

Penelope Fillon reportedly received the equivalent of 900'000.- Euro of taxpayers’ money.
“Just because she is my wife she should not be entitled to work? Could you imagine a politician saying, as this story did, that the only thing a woman can do is making jam? All the feminists would scream," he said.

Ok. M.Fillion, I would like to thank you. You just put a number to all expat trailblazing wives' duties;
(in brackets would be my personal interpretation of the duty he cited during yesterday's press conference):

- Personal secretary (family social agenda including travel planning, medical visits, documentation)
- Events planner (Playdates, Sleepovers, Sports events)
- Communication officer (Rules and Regulation policy commander in chief, Media coordinator)
- Family representant (Associations, School, PTA)
- HR coordinator (Personal development, siblings litigations, in-laws coordination)
- Customer service (Complaints department, Guarantor of WIFI service, warm meals and clean clothes)

Monthly salary: EURO 4'700.-

Oh... and by the way this does NOT include the housework nor the endless administrative paperwork that comes with every move! However, we could throw in some jam-making if you're really nice to us.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Modern Love

I love infographics. This one was made in early 2013.  The concept behind it was to visually demonstrate how technology has affected our behavior in romantic relationships. See for yourself.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Valentine's Day facts

Each one of us celebrates Valentine's Day differently. Some don't celebrate it at all. Other can't sleep at night wondering who their secret admirer might be?

So, while we wait for February 14th to come along, I'll nibble on a piece of chocolate and share some fun facts about Valentine's Day with you.

Valentine's Day related history:
- The ancient Romans celebrated the Feast of Lupercalia on February 14th in honor of Juno, the queen of the Roman gods and goddesses. Juno was also the goddess of women and marriage.
- Many believe the 'X' symbol became synonymous with the kiss in medieval times. People who couldn't write their names signed in front of a witness with an 'X.' The 'X' was then kissed to show their sincerity.
- Girls of medieval times ate bizarre foods on St. Valentine's Day to make them dream of their future spouse.
- In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who would be their Valentine. They would wear this name pinned onto their sleeves for one week for everyone to see. This was the origin of the expression "to wear your heart on your sleeve."
- In 1537, England's King Henry VII officially declared February 14th the holiday of St. Valentine's Day.
- The most fantastic gift of love is the Taj Mahal in India. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan as a memorial to his wife.
- Every Valentine's Day, the Italian city of Verona, where Shakespeare's lovers Romeo and Juliet lived, receives about 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet.

- Casanova, well known as "The World's Greatest Lover," ate chocolate to make him virile.
- Physicians of the 1800's commonly advised their patients to eat chocolate to calm their pining for lost love.
- Richard Cadbury produced the first box of chocolates for Valentine's Day in the late 1800's.
- More than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine's Day.

- 73% of people who buy flowers for Valentine's Day are men, while only 27 percent are women.
- The red rose was the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love.
- Red roses are considered the flower of love because the color red stands for strong romantic feelings.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Sweet pickup lines

Feeling a bit frivolous today and having been inspired by a friend's Facebook status I decided to share some sweet pickup lines. It's Valentine's Day in a week, so get ready to be swept off your feet. Which line would you fall for? Or do you have a better pickup line?

In this changing and uncertain times we are living today, I think we need to rearrange the alphabet. How about putting U & I together?

Guess what I’m wearing? The smile you gave me!

If I were an octopus, all my 3 hearts would beat for you.

Roses are red violets are blue I didn’t know what perfect was until I met you.

Your smile lit up the room, so I just had to come over.

There isn’t a word in the dictionary to describe how beautiful you are.

Is there an airport nearby or is that just my heart taking off?

Because of you, I laugh a little harder, cry a little less, and smile a lot more.

Me without you is like a nerd without braces, a shoe without laces, aSentenceWithoutSpaces.

This time next year let’s be laughing together.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ready for Switzerland’s annual siren testing

Get ready for tomorrow's emergency! It is a yearly tradition that takes place in Switzerland every first Wednesday of February. It is the day the entire country tests its emergency sirens.

Swiss being Swiss, the government maintains a network of around 7,200 sirens across the country as a public warning system that would be used in case of a national emergency. That could mean a natural disaster such as major flooding, or an imminent threat to or breakdown of a nuclear power plant.

The sirens were originally established to warn of bomb threat during World War Two. In particular Switzerland feared that its dams could be bombed in the manner that Germany’s Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams were bombed by the allies in 1943. The system endured through the Cold War when Switzerland feared being caught in the crossfire of a nuclear attack and has been kept ever since.

The general alarm will be tested at 1.30pm for around half an hour. The water alarm test follows at 2.15pm in applicable areas. The first, indicating general disaster, is a continuous oscillating siren lasting around a minute. The second, is a series of 12 bursts of 20 seconds each at ten-second intervals to warn people who live beneath dams of  impending water-related catastrophe.

Listen to the radio, follow instructions and tell your neighbours to do the same 

This is what the sirens sounded like from our balcony in Lugano back in 2011.  Some things never change!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Foreigners in Switzerland

Today there are more than two million foreigners living in Switzerland and some 2.1 percent of foreigners obtained Swiss citizenship in 2015.

In 2015 there were 2,048,700 foreign nationals with permanent residency (meaning those granted a permit for 12 months or longer) in the country, just under a quarter (24.6 percent) of the total population, said the Swiss statistics office (SS).

The 2015 figure includes 393,600 people who were born in Switzerland but do not have Swiss citizenship, with the rest being foreign-born immigrants.

Of those born outside Switzerland, 44 percent have lived here for ten years or more.

The biggest foreign populations are Italians, Germans, Portuguese, French and Kosovans, which make up more than half (54 percent) of permanent foreign residents in Switzerland.

Geneva has the highest number of foreigners, at 41 percent, followed by the cantons of Basel-City (35 percent) and Vaud (34 percent).

So where do you fit in?

Foreigners by Nationality

% of foreigners applying and receiving Swiss citizenship

Languages spoken at home
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