Saturday, March 30, 2019

Switzerland's neighbourly rules

Switzerland is know for its many regulations and superb organization. One of the reason this country works like a clock is that people stick to these regulations. Notably Switzerland's "neighbourhood rules" is material for endless dinner conversation with friends from abroad.

So, is the myth of not being allowed to use the toilet doing night time true? It is not true. HOWEVER.....

... in any Swiss community when signing a lease it will contain general rules which apply to all resident tenants called the "neighbourhood rules". Among other things, they can stipulate the following:

No excessive noise between 22:00-07:00 and 12:00-13:00 (Power drills, hammering, etc). Note that your Swiss neighbours will probably take this rule very seriously and will expect you to do likewise!

No working noises at all on Sunday and no visible labour work on Sunday.

No showers or baths between 22:00-06:00.

Some places state that you’re not allowed to leave your shoes in front of your door.

There are stipulations about the separation of different types of garbage.

If you have to practise your trumpet blowing or playing drums as a hobby, usually you are allowed 1-2 hours per day during Monday to Saturday, usually before 6pm or 8pm. If you are an expert on piano playing, etc, more hours may be permissible but this is up to the neighbours to tell the piano player if his playing is bad or unwelcome. This is not law but social behaviour.

The staircase, the laundry room, the drying room, the attic, the basement and sometimes also the garden and patio are areas in an apartment building that are used by all tenants, it is therefore important that the concerns of all tenants are taken into account and that everyone respects the rules. There are generally rules on the use of a shared laundry room to ensure all tenants get a turn to do their laundry.

Take into account these rules form part of your contract; breaking them can give your landlord the legal right to kick you out of the apartment. This can come as a bit of a shock to foreigners coming from less ‘regulated’ countries. So do not be surprised if your housewarming party causes complaints from your new (and now very angry) neighbours. A personal introduction on your move in can help here, though it’s not standard in Switzerland. Speaking from personal experience, inviting your neighbours to your housewarming party is the best solution. They most probably won't turn up (but their civic sense won't let them complain because they have been invited) and if they DO show up, they are worth meeting!

Common sense and formal politeness usually prevail amongst neighbours in Switzerland. You respect them and they will treat you with respect in turn. Here's more to Living in Switzerland!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Annual Cleanup at the Laghetto di Muzzano

The Sustainability Week Switzerland is a project of the Swiss Association of Student Organisations for Sustainability. Their vision is to bring sustainability into all aspects of Swiss higher education institutions and support them to become sustainability role models for our society overall.

Lugano's first Sustainability week is about to kick off with the Annual Cleanup at the Laghetto di Muzzano. In partnership with Pro Natura Ticino, volunteers will help clear invasive species and clean up trash at the Laghetto di Muzzano. A light, sustainable lunch will be provided. For more information or to sign up, please contact

Many more student-driven events are proposed during the Sustainability Week Lugano in an effort to inform members of the local community about ways to act sustainably and to increase their awareness about their social and environmental responsibilities, thanks to panel discussions, enjoyable events and training sessions for both mind and body.

If you want to check out your Local Sustainability Week, click here:

Venue: Cleanup at the Laghetto di Muzzano, Lugano's Sustainability week
Where: Lago di Muzzano
Date: Saturday, March 30th, 2019
Time: 10:00 to 14:00

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Expat Network fun challenge

They say there are only 6 degrees of separation between us. For expats I’m sure it’s less. That’s because we are connected by the mysterious and invisible force that is The Expat Network.

So, Expatorama has come up with an Expat Pass the Parcel Competition. The idea for the competition grew from a coffee table that was magically transported from one continent to another between total strangers based solely on each others recommendations, connections and goodwill.

The idea is that three lucky readers will receive a small mystery parcel containing some goodies all the way from Hong Kong. If you win, Expatorama's challenge is to get your mystery prize hand delivered to you via The Expat Network. No stamps, no postboxes, no airmail stickers, no courier companies or tracking numbers. Instead you will receive it by Expat Express using only the team spirit and interconnectivity of The Expat Network. We are quite literally going to play Pass the Parcel, with an Expat twist.

Along the way we will see how many expats it takes to pass the expat parcel from Hong Kong to you. We will also count the degrees of separation between us. How does that sound?

Click on Expatorama's link and fill in the entry form... et viola!

The closing date for Expat Pass the Parcel is April 7th 2019.  Expatorama will be announcing the three winners from a lucky dip shortly afterwards. Then the race is on. We will see how long it takes to pass the parcel from me to you. I’ll be interested to see how many expats it takes for the package to complete its journey.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

International Day of Multilingualism

Everyone is a linguist. People talk. It’s just what humans do. As a species we have evolved over thousands of years and adapted to speaking more than one language more or less easily.

Arising from an ongoing discussion on Twitter and in real life about the benefits of multilingualism and challenges of changing attitudes towards learning multiple languages, the International Day of Multilingualism aims to celebrate linguistic diversity and the multi-layered, multi-lingual way that humans actually use languages in everyday life.

The 27th March was chosen for the International Day of Multilingualism because 27th March 196 BC is the date mentioned on the famously multilingual Rosetta Stone, engraved with Ancient Egyptian, in both hieroglyphic and Demotic text, and Ancient Greek.

Support the first International Day of Multilingualism on 27th March 2019 by:

a) sharing a photo/quote/fact related to languages across your social media accounts
b) using the #multilingualisnormal hashtag in all posts today

Multilingual is normal. Let’s celebrate multilingualism, whatever that looks like!

Facts about multilingualism:

- If there are about 7,000 languages in the world distributed over 195 countries, then every country in the world is multilingual.
- The amount of languages spoken in a region differs greatly. For example, Europe as a region features less languages than many equivalent sized regions in Asia or Africa.
- Ninety languages are spoken in Europe, of these 37 are official state languages and 53 are so-called “stateless” languages.
- Being multilingual is the norm for most individuals in the world and this will increasingly be the case.
- Most languages can be clustered in different families but some are completely unrelated to any other known language.
- The number of speakers of a language differs if we also count those learning the language as a foreign language (i.e. through a school).

Sunday, March 24, 2019

It's all about the food...

Switzerland owes its rich culinary heritage to its great many regional specialities. Many traditional dishes have their roots in Switzerland’s farming culture.

- Around 400 different Swiss products, such as “Gruyère” (cheese), “Longeole” (a sausage from Geneva) and “Basler Läckerli” (biscuits) are officially recognised as part of Switzerland’s culinary heritage.

- Switzerland has a huge assortment of sausages and dried meat specialities, which vary from region to region: “La Longeole” in Geneva and the “Saucisson Vaudois”, the “St. Galler Bratwurst” (veal frying sausage), “Jura boudin à la crème“ (blood sausage ), “Bündnerfleisch”, and “mortadella di fegato” (liver mortadella) from Ticino, to name but a few.

- Switzerland has over 450 different cheeses.

- The Swiss consume 21.5kg of cheese per person, per year.

- The Swiss eat the most chocolate in the world, consuming close to 11kg of chocolate, per person, per year.

- There are more than 1,680 artisan bakeries in Switzerland.

- Around 200 grape varieties are grown in Switzerland. 40 of these are indigenous varieties.

- Valais is the largest wine-making region. Over 50 different grape varieties are grown there.

- Absinthe, a plant-based spirit, was banned in Switzerland following a popular initiative in 1908. The ban was lifted in 2005.

- Many homes in Switzerland use the powdered seasoning “Aromat”, which was invented by Knorr in 1952. In 1908 Maggi created its now famous and extremely popular stock cubes.

- “Cenovis”, a spread made from yeast, carrot and onion extract, was launched in 1931. “Parfait”, another popular Swiss speciality, has been around since 1942.

- “Ovomaltine”, which was invented in 1865, is a milk-flavouring product made from malted barley, skimmed milk and cocoa.

- “Rivella” is a carbonated soft drink made from milk serum. It was launched in the 1950s.

- “Ricola” is a boiled sweet made from a blend of 13 herbs and has been manufactured since 1940.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Glamping in Switzerland

Camping in a tent outdoors evokes memories of warming the water over the gas cooker for my spaghetti, then crawling unwashed into my sleeping bag and sand that somehow always found its way into the tent.

Well, those days are over... welcome to the art of sleeping under the stars in glamorous style; it's called glamping and the Swiss are champions at it... but beware the prices have changed along with the tents!

Near Les Giettes, in the heart of Valais mountains, 18 luxury igloos are available for rent, including winter overnight stays. The bullet-shaped tents, called pods, offer different comfort gradings. The deluxe version contains a king-size bed, a shower and toilet as well as a satellite-TV and Wifi. Breakfast is hand-delivered to the pods. The comfort however will cost from CHF 1'180.- for two nights. The suite with a private sauna will set you back CHF 1'700.- for two nights.

Also in the canton Valais, in the small community of Weiler Blatten, you'll find the following glamping offer: at around 1,500 meters above sea level you can hire a luxurious lodge tent, complete with oven, sofa, warm-water shower and a sun roof. The lodge tent will up to sleep six people. The cost for a weekend is just under CHF 500.-.

Much smaller, but more transparent, is the Bubble Hotel. Six locations in the canton of Thurgau offer transparent, water-proof bubbles, including breakfast. Prices start at a relatively cheap CHF 190.-.

Feel like spending the night as if you are staring in a Hollywood Western movie: under the tepees on the TCS campsite in Disentis you do not have to miss out on a good night's sleep. The glamping tents are equipped with double beds. The fireplace is the perfect place to cook dinner but you can also enjoy a meal in the nearby restaurant. The highlight for families is the natural lake with a water playground. What are you waiting for?

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Be part of InterNations Expat Survey

Ever heard of Expat Insider, one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive surveys on life abroad? You can be one of over 18,000 expats from across the globe taking part in the survey. 178 nationalities are represented, living in 187 countries or territories, from over 1,600 participants in Germany to one each in Greenland and Equatorial Guinea, they all provide a unique insight into life abroad.

If you’ve already taken this year’s Expat Insider survey, great. If you haven’t, it’s not too late! Join in and be part to it.

Take InterNations survey on expat life in your country, and you’ll have the chance to win one of ten exciting prizes. Filling in their anonymous questionnaire only takes about 15 minutes, and this year’s prizes include: an iPad, a GoPro, premium headphones, and one of seven hotel vouchers worth 150 Euro each.

Don’t miss your chance to vote and help uncover the best (and worst) expat destinations of 2019.

If you have any questions, email

Thursday, March 14, 2019

10 must-have Apps in the Swiss Alps

What I learnt this winter is that using your phone is not always a bad thing when skiing in the mountains. In this digital world there is an app for everything. My kids and their friends opened up a whole new world to me with their recommendations.

No more hunting for change to pay the parking and convenient ways of accessing essential and most up to date resort information. Ski tracking, snow reporting, technique analysis and even finding the best après hot spots or spot of lunch on the mountain... it's all in your phone!

Taking my winter fun to the next level, I thought I'd share these cool ski-friendly apps on and off-piste:

SkiSet - for hiring equipment at a better price
CheckYeti - is a search engine for ski and snowboard lessons
SEPP - a parking app - really easy, you just need to "check in/out" - just make sure you're within the parking site when you check in and don't forget to check-out at the end of the day!
SBB SnowNRail - 20% off return ticket and 20% off a 1, 2, or 6 day ski pass
Skyline - enter your skipass and it will tell you how many lifts taken and estimated distance
Ski tracks Lite - Record your entire day on the slopes without the need for mobile data, worldwide!
Ski and Snow Report - offers snow reports from over 2,000 ski regions around the world, including first-hand reports from other users who are right there in the thick of it.
White Risk - an avalanche app for all those who engage in winter activities in the mountains outside marked and open pistes. It gives access to the interactive avalanche bulletin as well as the latest snow and weather data for Switzerland.
MeteoSwiss - customizable live tiles and zoomable maps. Save your favourite places in Switzerland and get the corresponding weather details
REGA - the Swissest of them all! Receive fast, uncomplicated emergency assistance.
Rega is free of charge and contains everything that is necessary to call out Swiss Air-Rescue in the event of an emergency. A yearly donation is recommended.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Swiss ski teachers called Skeachers

If you think everything was better in the old days, this does not include the Swiss ski school. In my childhood ski school was not fun, but a kind of survival training in the snow.

Even before sunrise, we had to walk (sometimes over half an hour wearing heavy ski boots and carrying our skis) to the collection points, our life was then in the hands of taciturn mountain people with sclera and piercing eyes. They did not know compassion or pedagogical training, their legitimacy was the red ski instructor jacket. We were equipped with a thick layer of sunscreen and a 5-frank coin for lunch. The worse case scenario was that our parents forgot both which meant we were dehydrated and sunburnt in the evening.

I did not suffer any lasting damage from my first experience with skiing on the contrary it was good training... but don't complain and tell me that everything was better in the past because I will have you wear a pair of woolly gloves for the next ski holidays.

"Skeachers" - a combination of skis and teachers - are the new ski instructors for the spontaneous, an offer that is being piloted in the canton Graubünden this winter. You'll find skeachers on the slopes of Davos, Scuol and Andermatt.

Instead of booking a course in advance, guests spontaneously get in touch with a skeacher on the piste. At your request the instructors will accompany you on a couple of descents, give individual feedback, analyze your skiing technique and help you to improve it immediately. If you wish, you can film while skiing and judge your style. "

"Skeachers" can be recognized by their white armbands. 1 lesson of approx. 30 minutes costs 40 francs for one person. Two spontaneous guests pay 25 francs, three guests 20 francs and four guests 15 francs per person, payable in cash or by card. Maybe next year there'll be a skeacher near your ski resort!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Decoupage: a little known Swiss tradition

Decoupage (paper cutting) has been part of the local traditions for centuries in this part of Switzerland. It is an art that is instantly recognisable and can be adapted to many canvases.

Over the decades, we have travelled the world which included moving containers full of "menage". One part of our household is my Swiss guest room filled with decoupage from curtains to sheets to lampshades to candles. It is an eccentricity my family has let me indulge in just like my pink furniture ... but that is another story.

One of the few rainy days during these ski holidays Expat Girl and I took ourselves off to Chateaux d'Oex to discover the local museum. Founded in 1922, the Musée du Vieux Pays d'Enhaut has become one of the principal folk-art museums in Switzerland showcasing collections which have been gathered together over the years by people who were passionate about the history of this region and its traditions.

Early on, two local artists chose paper and scissors to express their talent and their emotional impressions. Whether through examples of finely cut book marks, larger symmetrical monochrome compositions or later, collages of many colours, they left a beautifully balanced treasure of traditional art called "decoupage".

Decoupage of Rougemont

The atmosphere of homes from bygone days 
of a kitchen in which you can imagine people still living.

This museum provides the "memory", the record of a mountain region which for many years was quite cut-off.

Its people created a craft industry of an exceptional quality and their beautiful chalets housed treasures of a living art.

Amongst these treasures you can admire a huge forge

A room devoted to the early days of tourism

A family crest carved into a window frame

My personal favourite this painted cupboard

Everyday objects abound: kitchen-ware, work-tools, cow-bells, toys, pottery, lace-work and objects made from straw.

Paper cutting has become a tradition of the Pays-d’Enhaut. More than 60 paper cuts from past centuries are presented at the Musée du Vieux Pays-d’Enhaut.

Louis Saugy (1871 – 1953), a man of a jovial and playful character, let his imagination run riot in the creation of scenes of village life, country and mountain views remembered from long rambles around Rougement.

Stained glass, spinning wheels and traditional costumes

A bedroom with the bed still made

An old fashioned loom, a device used to weave cloth and tapestry

A well deserved hot chocolate while writing a "decoupage" postcard

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

It feels good to be on the slopes

Lucky, lucky me... I am STILL skiing and the sun is STILL shining! My friends are starting to wonder if I will ever return to Paris. Let's just say I feel blessed and spoilt for having had such a wonderful and long ski holiday with family and friends. I feel at home and it feels good!

The only one missing was my hubby but I have a strong suspicion he planned his business trip in order to avoid the slopes?!?

Hashtag: I love skiing in the sunshine

Early risers get the best slopes

When the gondola is too steep to look down....

Nature in all its force

Feeling on top of the world

No words, no filters, no noise... simply perfect!

.. until you get stuck on the chair lift...

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Irresistible and pure indulgence

Chocolate is my passion. It is my addiction, always has been, always will be. During my visits to Switzerland I do not miss an occasion to indulge in my passion, especially during the ski hols. Chocolate tastes the best on a slope. Overindulging in chocolate... NEVER! Chocolate is happiness! Yes, I admit, I am a chocoholic!

Ovomaltine Muesli for breakfast

A hot chocolate before hitting the slopes

When - after lunch - the waitress brings you chocolate with your coffee ... without even asking

A quick snack on the ski lift

My favourite Swiss speciality called Carac... filled with chocolate ganache

 Hot chocolate and a Carac while writing postcards

Heissi Ovi with a plum crumble on the top of the mountain

Teatime at the chalet: another Carac

Hot chocolate and a blackberry tart

Tea with an Ovomaltine biscuit

My favourite chocolate bar "Chokito" with another heissi Schoggi

Mövenpick has come out with a new Chocolate flavoured ice cream... how can I resist?!?
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