Real Mexican food. Did I mention I’m from California? Right, so I was basically teething on tacos and pico de gallo. This week I had my first Swiss incarnation of a “burrito” and it included: red beans and rice, chicken, large, circular slices of tomato, whole pieces of lettuce…and do I detect a sweet, Texas BBQ sauce? It would maybe pass as a Tex-Mex/Bayou sort of burrito, but there was nothing Baja about it. Mexico is about as exotic to Switzerland as Nigeria is to the States. Oh and did I mention the burrito cost me $17? Half of the joy of eating Mexican cuisine is the usually inexpensive price tag that goes with it. Ay chihuahua.
Long store hours. I really don’t know how working, Swiss parents squeeze in time to go to the grocery store, because I struggle to get everything before the “fermé” sign goes up at 7 p.m. On Saturday, grocery stores close at 5 p.m. and on Sunday, nothing is open. Nearly every Saturday afternoon I have a moment of panic when I realize I need to stock our fridge apocalypse-style so that we will have everything we need to survive until Monday morning.
Some Swiss stores claim to be open “non-stop” with big signs in their windows, but what they really mean is that they will open for two to three hours on Sunday. I am pretty sure there isn’t a single store in the whole country that is actually open 24/7.
Bus/subway etiquette. This is about the last thing I thought I would miss about Washington, D.C. (we don’t exactly rank #1 among subway/metro systems). For some reason, most commuters in Switzerland sit in the aisle seat, leaving the window seat open–even when the bus is packed like a sardine can. If you ask the person in the aisle seat if you may sit down, they will likely gesture for you to awkwardly climb over them! I also haven’t seen many (any?) people give up their seats to elderly passengers or expectant mothers. I gave up my seat seat to a woman with a cane yesterday while a group of eight businessmen let her hobble by them. What gives?
Checks. That’s right, Swiss banks do not use checks. All cash, baby. But before you say “paper banking is becoming extinct anyways,” think about how you pay rent, your utilities and cashing a birthday check from a relative. You can’t do that here! You might as well be trying to cash a post-it note with “I owe you $20” at a Swiss bank. Before moving into our Swiss apartment, we were expected to give the landlord our first month’s rent plus the hefty security deposit. That meant taking out thousands of francs in cash and nervously walking around with it until I could safely put it in my landlord’s hands.
For all my perceived complaining, I also have a list of things I will miss about Switzerland whenever I leave this country…