April 26, 2013

An Authentic Life

Magnolia's
are blooming everywhere


One of the challenges of visiting Europe is having an authentic experience outside of touring monuments, museums and overpriced, crappy restaurants with geographic advantages. Moving to Europe is no different. In the several years that we’ve been in Switzerland I’ve been trying to do as the natives do to get this authentic experience.  In the first year I got up early, ate late, watched the World Cup, and gorged on cheese fondue, wine and chocolate because I thought this was European. Oddly enough, looking around me, I seemed to be the only one gaining weight. So…what to do to fit in?

It turns out, nothing. When travelling to a new or exotic location there is sometimes a pressure, a desire to live as the natives do in order leave ‘touched’ or ‘seasoned’, to come away a different person than you were before. I took me a while to realise that this will not necessarily make me a better person because when you get right down to it African, Spanish, Italian, Chinese or Irish, we all smile, cry and love the same (perhaps over different things…I’ll never understand Eurovision). Therefore having a cultural experience isn’t necessarily about becoming a better person, but sometimes about finding better ways to do things.

For example, in Switzerland everything is closed on Sundays. If you didn’t get to the grocery store beforehand, you’ll be eating canned beans from the corner store (and they aren’t on every corner). Some days it’s annoying but for the most part it means spending time on hobbies, exercise, family during the weekend. Switzerland is also huge on recycling. Receptacles for batteries, glass, light bulbs, plastics are 500 metres in every direction and stores that sell electronic devices are required by law to reaccept and recycle them. I don't have to worry about what to do with the old blender.

So nowadays I’ve pretty much settled back into rituals I had before coming to Switzerland, like eating dinner early, but I also indulge in the best it has to offer, cheap Italian wine, bike paths, swimming in the river and my favourite weekend ritual of all….fresh chocolate croissant from the local baker!

This one has a bite out of it,
think I'll take it back



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