Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Science and Research in Switzerland

Did you know Switzerland is not only one of the world’s most innovative research nations, but also one of the most competitive. Switzerland is one of the most dynamic countries worldwide in terms of research activity. 

- This little country invests close to 3.4% of its GDP in research and development (R&D). It is also among the countries with the highest spending on R&D in relation to GDP (4th in the OECD rankings).

- In monetary terms, Switzerland spends CHF 22 milliards on R&D. The private sector accounts for most of the funding and execution of this work (86% and 71% respectively).

- Swiss researchers produce roughly 1.2% of all scientific papers published worldwide, putting it in 17th place in international rankings. If we consider the actual number of papers produced in proportion to the country’s population, Switzerland comes top of the class, with an average of 3.9 publications per 1,000 inhabitants. These papers are highly acclaimed internationally: in terms of impact, Switzerland exceeds the global average of 17% and takes third position after the United States and the Netherlands.

- In 2013, Switzerland had 269 patent applications per million inhabitants. Only Japan files more patent applications per capita than Switzerland.

- In the 2016-2017 Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Switzerland was ranked first for the eight time running.

- Switzerland ranks first in the Global Innovation Index 2017, published by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

- Since being founded in 1952, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has reviewed more than 70,000 research funding applications and has enabled over 20,000 talented young researchers to undertake a research period abroad.

- The Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) supports applied R&D projects, as well as the creation and development of start-ups and also knowledge and technology transfer. In 2016, the CTI used federal subsidies totalling CHF 184.6 million to fund 539 projects.

- Switzerland’s two federal institutes of technology in Zurich and Lausanne are renowned worldwide for their cutting-edge scientific output. They also have a long tradition of attracting foreign researchers and lecturers, with over 50% of teaching staff in both institutes hailing from outside Switzerland.

- The Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ) came 8th in the 2016 QS World University Rankings.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Lugano Expat Book Club

Are you living around Lugano and love to read? Do you read a book or two a month? Or do you enjoy sporadic reading during the holidays? How does an Expat Book Club sound?

Well, it certainly tickled my fancy and has lead me to expand my horizons not ONLY in reading material. Never the one to pass up an occasion to step out of my comfort zone and meet new people, the Expat Book Club seemed like just the ticket. So what, if it happened to be online? Actually, this suited my fine since I could read or NOT read the book and no one would be the wiser. There was no monthly meeting it was just about the sharing.

This is what Expats do, they share!

But let's start at the beginning... on August 9th a British lady based in Germany decided to create a Facebook Expat Book Club. This group was set up to build a community of women living overseas via a love of reading. Relaxing under a sunshade on an Italian beach and very much in "book-mode" I decided right away to sign up. All of a sudden a group had been created that had so much to share that many a post was exchanged before the first book was even announced.

"Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine" by Gail Honeyman travelled all over the globe as photos kept being posted of where the various members were reading it. More sharing. More comments. More giggles.

Until one day someone asked how many members were based in Paris? Another lady inquired as to which part of Paris we were living? Turns out there are quite a few of us that are practically neighbours. I could not resist. I created an event on Facebook and the Parisian branch of the Expat Book Club was to meet at the local café in real life!

We were only four yesterday morning and the discussion veered off the book pretty fast, however, it was great meeting up thanks to a Facebook group page and finding out you do have quite a lot in common albeit coming from very different places.

This experience has proven to me once again that meeting other Expats is always interesting, inspiring and fun. Two months later the Expat Book Club has over 900 members from all parts of the world...

... so, is there anybody out there who wishes to join the Expat Book Club and maybe even take it a step further and create an event in real life for a Lugano Expat Book Club meet?

It's easy just ask to join the group on Facebook and see where it takes you...

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Chestnut Tiramisù recipe

Right in time for the chestnut season, here's a recipe with a twist on the classic tiramisù dish: Chestnut cream is combined with mascarpone to give this Chestnut tiramisù a light and fluffy mousse served over marsala and coffee infused biscuits.

Sponge finger biscuits : 600 gr
good espresso coffee: 100 ml - 200ml
caster sugar: 50 gr
Marsala wine: 30 ml (optional)
sweetened "crème de marrons": 150 gr
mascarpone: 400 gr
4 eggs
Unsweetened cocoa powder : 20 gr

1.) Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until the mixture turns pale and fluffy.
2.) Add the Marsala wine if wanted
3.) Add the chestnut cream and mascarpone; mix well.
4.) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff and then gently fold into the mascarpone/chestnut mixture.
5.) To assemble the dessert dip each biscuit in the coffee and sign up in the mould.
6.) Top the first layer of biscuits with half of the mascarpone/chestnut mix.
7.) Repeat the layer of biscuit and then finish with a layer of mascarpone/chestnut mixture.
8.) Sprinkle cocoa powder to decorate.
9.) Refrigerate for at least half an hour before serving.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The history of the Chestnut

Chestnuts in Ticino’s peasant world:
In rural times, like those of Ticino in past centuries, chestnuts were a staple food.
Up until the mid-20th century, chestnuts were consumed often twice a day, especially during winter. After the harvest in late autumn they were eaten either boiled or roasted on an open fire. A good part were, however, dried in a room expressly used for chestnut desiccation (the "metato", also known as a "grà") so that they would last for several months, unless milled into flour.

Nothing was waisted of the chestnut tree: its dried leaves were used as bedding for cattlesheds, while its wood either served as a valuable source of fuel or as building material (pillars, furniture, tools); given its relatively easy preservation, its fruit was used as an emergency food stock.

Chestnut forests constituted a precious resource and were therefore taken care of in compliance with specific communal and patrician regulations. Different species were planted in order to obtain nuts having specific characteristics: i.e. sweet, fit for preservation, etc.

The "maronatt" merchants who sold chestnuts in the city streets of Italy and France during winter, usually began their journey from Ticino.

The chestnut today:
In view of the socio-economic changes that have taken place over the last century, the gradual abandonment of agro-pastoral activity and depopulation of the valleys, the role of the chestnut tree and its nuts has changed considerably.

The "bread tree" - as it was known, due to its importance - is now being recognized as having played a crucial role in peasant culture of past centuries, and experts are beginning to appraise its worth as an important piece of local history.

In 1999 the Association of Swiss Italian chestnut farmers (Associazione dei castanicoltori della Svizzera Italiana) was established, with the intent of raising awareness about the history, culture, cultivation methods, consumption and trade of the chestnut, not to mention organizing the harvesting.
Furthermore, monumental chestnut trees are being inventoried and several chestnut woods are in the process of being recovered.

Touristic itineraries, including the “Sentiero del Castagno” (Chestnut Trail) in Malcantone and the “Sentée da l’albur” in the Mendrisio area, have been created.

Every year, the chesnut plays a signicant role in autumnal gastronomic events and new chesnut-based products are being developed (beer, flakes, marrons glacés, tagliatelle, flour, liqueurs and honey).

Tourists and the local population gather in October/November for the traditional chestnut festivals that take place in the squares of Ascona, Muggio Valley and other locations.

The loading of the "grà":
In late autumn, in some communes, it is possible to participated in the loading of the "grà". In a building specifically built for this purpose, the chestnuts are placed on a lattice, underneath which a fire is lit and fed for several weeks, thus allowing the fruit to dry out slowly in order to guarantee longer preservation.

Over the last few years, this traditional activity has been proposed in the Maggia Valley (Moghegno), in the Muggio Valley (Cabbio) and in Malcantone (Vezio).

Friday, October 6, 2017

Millions of Years of History in the Breggia Gorge

This 2 and 1/2 hour tour to Switzerland’s first geopark and one of the most important geotopes in this country starts with a walk through the vineyards of the Ticino, along the Wine Trail with the theme “Man and the Grapevine”. The stretch between Mendrisio and Castel San Pietro is the area with the most vineyards in the Canton of Ticino. Allow for extra time to take detours through Mendrisio and Castel San Pietro.

Before heading into the Breggia Gorge at the eastern edge of Castel San Pietro, you can also take a short detour to the Chiesa Rossa (The Red Church), with its 14th century frescoes and red façade colouring, a dictate of the Bishop of Como for churches in the Ticino in the late 1500’s. The Red Church was also the site of a bloody family feud on Christmas Eve of 1390.

To visit the park there are two suggested paths: one starts from the Mulino del Ghitello to the Mulin del Canaa and the second one form the Mulin del Canaa to Ghitello.

From the junction of the trails near the Red Church, the tour continues into the Gorge along the leftmost trail (not directly downwards) in order to reach the Gorge at the bridge over the River Breggia at the oldest part of the park. Thanks to the river's natural excavation process, rocks from geological periods across several hundreds of millions of years have been exposed. All along the trail through the park are information boards explaining the history and geology of the area (also in English).

At this point of the park, the top 100m of a 4km thick layer of the Earth's crust called Moltrasio Limestone is visible, dating back 190 million years. The diagonal rocks are divided by a fault, showing evidence of the movement of the Earth's crust. A few minutes further along the path is the site of a very old mill called the “Mulin da Canaa”. After reaching the picnic area in the center of the park, an old wood and steel bridge crosses the river again and the zigzag path takes you out of the gorge along the cliffs below the “Red Church” and past an old cement works.

Before heading to the train station in Balerna, a detour to the old Ghitello Mill offers some additional historical insights. The mill complex dates from 1600 and has been recently restored into perfect running order.

Info about the park (in Italian):
More info:

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Expat Bubble

Though stereotypes suggest that expats stick together, data from the Expat Insider study reveals that those living abroad are integrating with local residents and expats alike to form an international community of friends.

Thanks to Internations' Expat Insider 2017 study, you can find out where expats are the most, and least, likely to be friends with local residents and discover the potential reasons for this in the following infographic.

Survey statistics suggest that the “expat bubble” stereotype might be outdated: only a third (33%) are mostly friends with other expats, while 19% count mainly locals as their friends. The majority of respondents (48%) says that their social circle is a mix of locals and expats. Men are slightly more likely to make friends with local residents: 22% say that the majority of their friends are locals in comparison to 17% of women. Expats age 26–35 are most likely to stay in the bubble (two out of five are mostly friends with other expatriates), while those over 51 are more likely to have local friends (27% vs. 19% across all age groups); this might be linked to the fact that two-fifths of them have already lived in their current country of residence for more than ten years.

For those who said their friends are mostly expats, the main things holding them back from making local friends are cultural issues (44%), the language barrier (36%), and having mostly expat colleagues (39%). Interestingly, language skills are mainly an issue for expats under 30 (mentioned by up to 44% in this age group).

Top Findings
- The majority (48%) says their social circle is a mix of expats and locals.
- Men and expats over age 51 are more likely to have local friends.
- Almost three in ten (28%) had friends or family already living in their destination.
- Those living in the Gulf States are most likely to stay in the expat bubble.

Are you living in an Expat bubble?

Monday, October 2, 2017

Education advice for Swiss abroad

Did you know that the educationsuisse team provides advice and support each year for many young Swiss Abroad as well as pupils at Swiss schools abroad who are keen to pursue or complete their education in Switzerland?

Their staff provides them with information and advice on education in Switzerland. They give an overview of the possible courses of education and answer questions on, for instance, university admission criteria, linguistic knowledge, the search for apprenticeship places, possible grants, insurance, accommodation and much more besides.

In collaboration with BIZ in Bern-Mittelland, an occupational, educational and career guidance service, educationsuisse provides advice on career choices and courses of study. These discussions take place with qualified BIZ professionals and can be held in various languages via Skype or in Berne.

Educationsuisse is also able to award small additional grants or loans thanks to various funds. A new fund provided by the “Gazzetta Svizzera” has also been available since the 2016/17 academic year which is aimed specifically at young Swiss Abroad who have grown up in Italy and are receiving education or training in Switzerland.

Visit their website at or contact them directly via email or by telephone. Advisory consultations can also be provided in Berne by prior appointment. Their employees speak German, French, English, Italian and Spanish.

Who: educationsuisse – education in Switzerland
Where: Alpenstrasse 26, 3006 Berne, Switzerland
Telephone No: +41 31 356 61 04

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Low-carb blueberry muffins

A simple recipe to try with the kids over the weekend. Low carb muffins in just 30 minutes! No flour, no butter, sugar substitute and a whole lot of taste.

Ingredients (for 12 muffins)
200 gr ground almonds
60 gr xylitol sugar or erythritol crystals
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch of salt
3 eggs
150 gr Coconut or Greek yogurt
1 tbl spoon lemon juice
2 tbl spoon rapeseed oil
to decorate: approx. 45 gr of frozen blueberries, 15 gr of choco chips

1.) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
2.) Separate the eggs.
3.) Whisk the egg white with a pinch of salt.
4.) Mix yolks, yoghurt, lemon juice and rapeseed oil until creamy.
5.) Add the xylitol sugar and continue stirring.
6.) Mix the baking powder with the ground almonds and lift under the batter.
7.) Lastly, add the egg yolk.
8.) Immediately scoop the batter into each muffin cup. If desired, decorate with blueberries and chocolate chips.
9.) Bake the muffins in the pre-heated oven on the middle rail for about 20 minutes.
10.) Let cool and serve.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Lugano's Autumn Festival

On the first weekend in October, Lugano celebrates the beginning of Autumn with a festival dedicated to local products. The Autumn festival concludes the open-air events with a large fair in the pedestrian zone of Lugano.

In the classic city scenario, in a grand choreography of colors and tastes, you will be able to find the typical grottini, a lot of folkloric music, Ticinese gastronomic delights and many stands around town. For three days the center of the city will welcome the visitors in numerous grottini operated by local companies which will offer typical Ticinese specialties, such as polenta with stew or beans and mortadella or roast pork, risotto, minestrone, gnocchi and many other exquisite local delights.

Swiss and foreign guests and the local population will be able to taste and relish, in cheerful company, the best our region can offer: apart from the delights for the palate, also musical groups, artists and entertainers invited specially for the occasion, who will stage a series of very different shows. This is a big festival for all, from the children to the elderly: why not take advantage of the opportunity for a pleasant celebration of the end of summer?

Finally, there will also be a free guided tour on offer to discover and admire the beautiful architecture and landscapes of Lugano (offered by Lugano Turismo).

Autumn market: Numerous stalls, with local food and wine, to delight the palate of many and liven up the center of Lugano.
Fri 16:00 - 22:00
Sat 10:00 - 22:00
Sun 10:00 - 18:00

Local cuisine: The grottos will offer different traditional menus, so you can enjoy the local Ticino gastronomy in a convivial and festive atmosphere.
Fri 16:00 - 01:00
Sat 10:00 - 01:00
Sun 10:00 - 18:00

Lugano City Tour: Free guided tour to discover and admire the beautiful architecture and landscapes of Lugano. For tickets pass by the Ente Turistico del Luganese behind Piazza della Rifoma.
30.09 from 10:30 to 12:30
30.09 from 14:00 to 16:00
01.10 from 10:30 to 12:30

Click here for the programme:

Monday, September 25, 2017

The biggest flea market in the world

Usually I write about my Parisian life in my other blog but today I decided to share my little excursion to the world's biggest flea market located in the Northern suburbs of the city of lights. Hop on for the ride.

A sunny Saturday afternoon and Expat husband and I are off to the St.Ouen flea market on our little Italian vespa. Weekend traffic in Paris can be terrible.

You really don't need to be looking for any specific object - in fact it is probably better you don't - because you'll either return empty handed or with all kinds of trinkets you didn't even knew you needed. However, it is a fantastic place to shoot photos... again and again and again...

The business of collecting (scrap metal, antique jewellery, furniture, old books) has been part of Paris life for ever. At night, rag-and-bone men biffins, or crocheteurs travelled through the capital in search of their loot. Driven out of the city at the end of the 19th century by the new authorities anxious to clean up the capital, these rag-and bone men set up camp and hovel between the fortifications and the first houses built in the village of Saint-Ouen. Little by little, it wasn't long before open-air cafés and dance halls appeared, along with numerous stalls where the people of Paris would come by on a Sunday to stroll and perhaps stop for a small glass of white wine.

In 2001, the entire marketplace was classified as Zone de Protection du Patrimoine Architectural Urbain et Paysager (urban architectural landscape heritage protection zone ) for its very unusual atmosphere. There are more than 2000 boutiques spread out into 16 markets and spilling over into several surrounding streets.

Les Puces is known as one of the largest Flea Market in the world.

So, let's start with a real Neapolitan coffee!

An eclectic mix

Caught my eye

I have always had my eye on these kind of 1970s champagne glasses.
My husband informs me his Mamma has plenty of these in the cellar in Napoli.

It's all in the presentation

Seems like a scene out of a French movie

Made me smile big time

Thanks to little brothers and car-mad sons you recognise the models

Loved the colour composition

Blast from the past!

We could do with a big miroir louis xv in our entrance, couldn't we?!?

This painting hit home... literally!

Thinking of my knitting Mexican friend 

Expat hubby does not believe I started skiing with these bindings.

If ever we acquire a chambre de bonne... this could become its direct access! 

Caught my husband's eye! 

Impressive "stand"

I'll have the pair to take home please.

Funky dining room chairs... to bad that don't come in pink!

Please can we have a rest?

These round mirrors might fit our entrance better?

Someone got lost!

Aperitivo time!

My absolute favourite fairy tale when I was a little girl. 

I love kitch!

One day... when we live in the country?!?

Paris or Las Vegas?

Gotta love those old-fashion globes

Wondering what's behind those walls?

A touch of pink and an amazing smell.

Clutter that someone will be interested in buying.

No one home?

Someone emptied their attic.

Where to start?

Feeling artistic!

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