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

Sunday, January 29, 2017

How Bilingualism rewires your brain

Around the world, more than half of people – estimates vary from 60-75% – speak at least two languages. Many countries have more than one official national language – South Africa has 11. And you thought Switzerland had a lot with four?! People are increasingly expected to speak, read and write at least one of a handful of “super” languages, such as English, Chinese, Hindi, Spanish or Arabic, as well.

Multilingualism has been shown to have many social, psychological and lifestyle advantages. Moreover, researchers are finding a swath of health benefits from speaking more than one language, including faster stroke recovery and delayed onset of dementia.

Did you know that as a bilingual your brain is continually processing information in both languages?

“Bilinguals are a really a model of cognitive control,” Pennsylvania State University cognitive scientist Judith F. Kroll told Quartz, citing bilinguals’ ability to both hold two languages in their head and expertly switch between them at the right times.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Do all Europeans speak a foreign language?

Everybody assumes that growing up in Switzerland you automatically speak more than one language. Well, the truth is 60% of Swiss use more than one language at least one a week BUT the second language is often English and not one of the four national languages.

So, what does the rest of Europe look like?

Monday, January 23, 2017

The ultimate Ovo cookbook

Looking for a truly Swiss cookbook? One that you can be pretty sure will make a great gift? You might even like to keep it for yourself. Your kids will love it, for sure.

The madeleines will enchant you as much as the chocolate fondant cake. The pancakes will become the Sunday special. As for the more daring, try making the Ovomaltine foie gras.

Check out the Ovo book published by helvetiq. It comes in French and German at a cost of CHF 29.-.

Helvetiq publish games for kids, families and adults in print and digital formats. They like to publish titles that catch attention and make people smile. Ones that inspire them and make them see the unknown in the familiar. Their story began in 2008 with a game about Switzerland. Success is inspiring, and so they continued to create Pictolingua, a vocabulary learning game featuring the colorful illustrations of Swiss artist Agathe Altwegg.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Maintenant, il ne faut plus se trumper!

Every once in a while I get carried away... the Sister March in Paris to the Women’s March on Washington D.C was definitely one of those moments. I am not a political person but this movement struck a cord in me, somewhere between the human rights and women's lib I found a cause I identified with. It was nothing to do with Donald Trump... this was bigger, it was about personal conviction and fundamental beliefs.

I invited Expat Girl to join me in the March which was to lead us from the Trocadero Esplanade of human rights to the Wall for Peace Monument on the Champ de Mars. Rather sheepishly she declined because she didn't feel safe to walk with such a big crowd of people. I respect that. The terrorist attacks had had an impact on her young life and there were things she was not prepared to do.

As I walk towards the terrace where the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948 I was surprised to hear only murmurs and relaxed conviviality. Usually during demonstrations you can hear shouts and chants a block away from the Trocadero.

Sure enough, as I came around the Musée de l'Homme - ten minutes before the March was suppose to begin - I saw a little crowd, women of all ages holding various signs and flags. Were the Parisiennes suitably late or was this just not on the city's agenda I thought a wee bit disappointed?

True to French style, however, people were late, and half an hour later thousands had turned up and it was impossible for the tourists to even attempt to get a picture of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero Esplanade.

With grace, dignity and conviviality women AND men from France, the USA, Mexico, Spain, New Zealand and many other places walked the walk side by side, each with their own belief and their own cause at heart. There was no aggressiveness, no arguments, no shouting or screaming. People were talking with their neighbours, smiling at one another, kids were asking each other where they were from in English, journalists were taking snapshots to capture the serene and peaceful mood of the colourful crowd blessed with sunshine and a wonderful and rare blue winter sky.

A unique and unforgettable afternoon in the French capital born of a solidarity movement with the Women’s March in the USA which will go down in history and in my memory as a very special moment of this complex, modern world.

As one of the signs said: "Maintenant, il ne faut plus se trumper!

Some say we were 7000 at Trocadero today!

A sign that sums it all up

Il faut du tout pour faire un monde

Best script board

The beauty of this march is that everybody can have their own agenda!

Recognise this Spanish sign?

Every person has their own personal reasons to participate

The French are part of the party as well!

An impressive view

Ready to march the March 

The beauty of this sign is that it was carried by a man!

Arriving at the Wall of Peace with police escort

Greeting our sisters in Washington DC

A peaceful Saturday afternoon march comes to an end

The Wall of Peace, a favourite site of rendezvous for militants of human rights

Picture of the day: "Je suis une femme"

Thursday, January 19, 2017

How art historians constructed "Swiss art"

"Swiss art" has always been a risky concept; however there is virtually no other country on earth with as many museums per capita as Switzerland. Even with its numerous galleries and internationally famous fairs, the Swiss maintain their modesty on the subject.

Join Dr. Fayet as he discusses the construction of "Swiss Art" from 1876, when Johann Rudolf Rahn published his History of the Fine Arts in Switzerland, down to the present day.

Roger Fayet was born in Zurich in 1966. From 1994 to 1999 he was Assistant Curator at the Johann Jacobs Museum, Zurich. From 1999 to 2003 he was Head Curator of the Museum Bellerive and the applied arts collection of the Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich. In 2003 he was appointed Director of the Museum zu Allerheiligen, Schaffhausen. Since 2010 he has worked as Director of the Swiss Institute for Art Research (SIK-ISEA), Zurich and Lausanne. Fayet teaches the University of Zurich and at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK). From 2009 to 2015 he was President of the Swiss National Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM Switzerland), and he is currently Vice President of the International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art (RIHA).

Now that's what I call an impressive CV. This promises to be an extraordinary evening and an opportunity for all art lovers that is not to be missed!

Venue: How art historians construct(ed) "Swiss art"
Where: Franklin University Switzerland, Nielsen Auditorium, Via Ponte Tresa 29, 6924 Sorengo
When: Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Time: 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Entry is free. The event is in English and open to all.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

9 Ways To Stay In Touch With Long-Distance Friends

One of my favrourite link lists is Swiss Miss' Friday link pack. Swissmiss is a design blog run by Swiss, long-term New York resident Tina Roth Eisenberg. She and her team are full of creative and out-of-the-ordinary ideas.

This video made me smile this morning, although No.9 might be taking it a little far.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Old World language families revisited

When linguists talk about the historical relationship between languages, they use a tree metaphor. An ancient source (for example Indo-European) has various branches (e.g., Romance, Germanic), which themselves have branches (West Germanic, North Germanic), which feed into specific languages (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian).

Lessons on language families are often illustrated with a simple tree diagram that has all the information but lacks imagination. There’s no reason linguistics has to be so visually uninspiring.

Minna Sundberg, creator of the webcomic Stand Still. Stay Silent, a story set in a lushly imagined post-apocalyptic Nordic world, has drawn the antidote to the boring linguistic tree diagram.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

3 fun food facts about Switzerland

Switzerland is a mountainous country, a small, rugged island in the center of the European Union, known for its irresistible chocolate and breathtaking beauty. Here are some fun, quirky foodie tidbits about cheese, wine and chocolate.

1. Cheese Please!
Switzerland is home to 450 varieties of cheese, ranging from extra hard to soft, with crazy-hard-to-pronounce names like Sbrinz, Mutschli, Formaggini, and Tomme Vaudoise.
The Swiss even have proof of how fantastic their cheese is: out of 2,615 products entered from 22 countries in 89 categories, the Swiss took the first prize in 2014 at the World Championship Cheese Contest. The US have claimed this title in 2016. Who will be champion in 2018?

2. Swiss Drink Their Own Wine
Did you know that only about 2% of Switzerland's wine leaves the country. The Swiss produce approx. 200 million liters of wine per year and consume almost all of it themselves. Since it never goes too far, you can always count on a good homegrown drink and good company. In 2014, the average Swiss drank 33 litres of wine which puts the Swiss at 4th place worldwide for annual wine consumption per capita.

3. Swiss Love their Chocolate
Switzerland is internationally known for its high quality chocolate. But do you know just how much chocolate is made here? Between 18 Swiss chocolate companies, 181,414 tons of chocolate were produced in 2015. Roughly one third is domestic consumption thanks to the Swiss who eat over 10kg of chocolate per capita. Two thirds of the Swiss chocolate production is destined for export.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Meet the Swiss Federal Council 2017

The release of the Swiss Federal Council's official photo for 2017 on New Year’s Eve caused quite a stir in the media, even becoming a trending topic on twitter. Creative minds were quick to publish inventive versions of the original portraits taken by photographer Beat Mumenthaler.

The original version

An adapted "nice" version

The Swiss government comprises seven members to form the Federal Council. The president is elected for a one-year term of office and is regarded during that time as ‘Primus inter pares’, or first among equals.

The Swiss Government has revamped its official website where you can find information about the Swiss Government and a restricted amount of news in English. Personally, I do think this year's photo is a great deal more stylish than in past years. So let's look at the bright side, the Swiss Federal Council are definitely making an effort.

Someone decided to adapt the official photo into a video showing the Federal Council singing ‘Bernhemian Rhapsody’. See the result for yourself:

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

To start off 2017 with a giggle...

Who knew Ireland has a vibrant animation industry? Thankfully comedy plays a big part. Grintage was launched in 2015 to develop and celebrate the best of Irish comedy. It’s a work in progress as these Irish Youtubers continue to grow and gain support from the wider comedy community and industry.

The video dates a few months back but I thought you might to like a giggle to start off the new year.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year's Resolutions 2017

Time for New Year's Resolutions... Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? Why not find a unique New Year’s resolution that can actually transform your life? And, maybe you’ll even have a chance of sticking to it? Something that is more interesting will naturally keep your interest.

So, here are a few unique New Year’s Resolutions that you chould try. Pick one, two, three, or all four.

A Daily Act of Kindness
One of the best new year resolution ideas is to resolve to make at least one person’s life better each day. It can be as simple as buying someone’s coffee in line behind you to donating something to the local food bank. These happen a lot during the holidays, but not much afterwards.

Learn Something New
Can you design a web page? Want to play the guitar? Wish you could be an author? Always hoped to speak Italian? We all have things skills we wished we had or things we’ve always wanted to learn. The coming of the new year should remind you that you aren’t getting any younger. Resolve to actually learn a new skill or develop a talent. Be specific about what you want to learn and write down concrete steps to achieve it. For example, if you want to write a book, research the publishing process and maybe take a class on writing.

Get Involved In A Charity
Was your old year primarily focused on yourself? There’s nothing wrong with making yourself happy. However, selfish people rarely live meaningful and truly happy lives. That’s why, if you’re not already involved in charitable work, it could be a unique year’s resolution.
If you’re unsure what to choose, find what you care about. Maybe it’s mental illness, the homeless, animals, or another topic. Whatever it is, find a reputable charity and donate your time and energy to making a difference. You’ll help others and feel better yourself.

Make time for your physical health first
You spend many hours at the office or running around for others and there’s so much on your plate that you can’t even think about taking care of yourself? That needs to stop! No matter how busy your schedule gets or how much you want to accomplish in this world, you have to make time for your own physical health first. Eat healthier meals (and eat regularly), get enough sleep every night and exercise at least a few times a week. Keeping yourself in better physical shape will keep you in better mental shape.

Which resolution will yours be in 2017?

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