Chronicles of a writer abroad

Life Updates

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Happy March! This makes two months that we’ve been in Switzerland, and one month since we moved into our apartment. Here are some updates on terribly important things that have been taking place lately in our Swiss adventure.

I gave up trying to boil oats into oatmeal, and my life is much happier for it. When I boiled a batch of oats for over 30 minutes and they were still too grainy and a far cry from the hot, thick mush that I’m accustomed to, I concluded that the oats here are quintessentially Swiss: that is, they are strong, sturdy and not swayed by the wiles of foreigners. They know who they are and what they stand for — foreigners will need to adapt to them. Adapting to them is precisely what I ended up doing. Like many Swiss, I now enjoy a delicious bowl of Bircher Muesli in the morning, instead of hot oatmeal. The recipe is simple: take some oats (I’m using the Swiss unboilable kind, but any would work, I’m sure), leave them to soak in milk overnight in the fridge, and add some fruit to it in the morning. For now, I’ve been using some grated apple and some chopped Medjool date, but it will be fun to vary this as different fruits come into season. Anyway: it’s delicious, and very nutritious, too (I don’t have to add any sugar or salt — once the fruit is in, it’s perfect). Bircher Muesli FTW!

Our shower was repaired. I know that some of you have not been able to concentrate properly, or return to your everyday lives, since my cliffhanger post when I indicated that there were several avenues that we could pursue in order to get our shower repaired. You lay awake wondering which one we chose. Did we do it ourselves, and were we successful? Was it still leaking? You had to know!

Here’s what we did: nothing. And yet, our shower ended up being repaired yesterday. This is exactly the kind of lesson you don’t want to teach a child: you see, Billy, you just procrastinate until a solution comes along! But it’s what happened. We were procrastinating; we’d planned to do the repair ourselves, and we’d done some reconnaissance at the hardware store, but there were always other things grabbing our attention, and we hadn’t gotten around to doing it when we got a letter in the mail, stating that an “expert” was coming in to fix all of the showers in the building. It makes sense that since there are 8 identical apartments in this building, we all had the same flaws in design or installation in our showers, and the tenants who are able to speak the language were more vocal than we were in asking for the repairs to be done.

But I think we should still address the second question. Is it still leaking?  The answer, sadly, is ja. Es noch lecks. Much less than before, mind you — a mere trickle of water — but enough that we may still have to wield our DIY tools. Switzerland, I am disappointed in you. Why can’t you make your shower enclosures be as impervious to water as your oats?

We learned some things about buying appliances in Switzerland. In North America, buying a new appliance is a relatively risk-free affair. You buy it, take it home, and if for any reason you want to return it — it doesn’t look as good on your counter/fit your kitchen colour scheme as you thought it would, it doesn’t do exactly what you thought it did, or you do your product research and realize after purchasing that the product is a dud — you take said product back to the store with your receipt, and your money is cheerfully refunded.

Stelian’s “relocation package” includes reimbursement for purchases of “white goods” — appliances for the kitchen, mostly, that have to be bought anew in Switzerland because the voltage/plug situation is different here. Some of Stelian’s colleagues have been taking good advantage of this (“I always had a very expensive espresso machine back in North America; I simply couldn’t get by without one”), and while we don’t drink coffee, we figured that our major purchase would be a food processor — we did have one in Canada, and found it useful for a variety of things.

So, we went out and bought one on Saturday. It looked great — it was actually a 2-in-1 machine, with a food processor and blender sitting on the same base unit. Unfortunately, for all its good looks, it didn’t work. The blender appeared to be completely kaputt, and the food processor would only give a little whirr if you wrenched it and held it very tightly.

Stores are closed on Sundays, but Monday after Stelian finished work, we swung by the store, thinking that we’d get the return out of the way before dinner. We said that it didn’t work well and that we’d like a refund. Upon hearing this, the salesman proceeded to take it out of the box and test it rigorously. We held our breath, hoping it hadn’t failed to work because we were in some way inept (“those North Americans, they can’t figure out anything,” I imagined them saying to each other if the blender suddenly whirred to life). But, as other workers from the store gathered around and tried their hands at it for what seemed like a long time, and a manager came out and banged on it ineffectually with his fist, our assessment was again borne out. But still, instead of the refund we hoped for, we were offered a replacement with the same model. Now, call me a fickle consumer if you will, but when your product is broken when I try to buy it, I no longer trust your brand (or at least this model of your brand). In the end, after some awkward back and forth, we finally got store credit. Moral of the story: in Switzerland, really know what you want and whether it will be good before you buy, unless you want to spend your evenings hanging with the guys in the electronics store, watching them reenact a wholly uninteresting tableau that first took place in your kitchen not long before.


One thought on “Life Updates

  1. Good news on the shower, yes I was still wondering about that! The food processor test run at the store must have been both funny and alarming … I hope the food processor beta 2 works ok. I agree the soggy oats breakfast does need some friends … it’s good that you are adapting rather than pining for your breaky of old!

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