Saturday, March 11, 2017

New venture

Starting a new venture is never easy, which is why you haven't seen many articles on this blog recently. Since 2016, I have been working on becoming a life coach. The good news is I am now a Core Essentials graduate from CoachU and am pursuing an advanced corporate coaching degree and ICF certification as well as supporting my amazing clients.

So, if you want to follow my writing, go to my new coaching site's blog. I will keep Life in the Swiss Alps up and running as a reference. And... who knows... I may write again for it when time allows.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Expat marriage saved by bell

At a recent dinner, an English woman told the following story.

It was her wedding anniversary, and her husband had given her a large present. Upon peeling off the
layer of wrapping, she found a vacuum cleaner box. Where was that diamond or key to the fancy car?

"I thought of divorcing him," she said laughing, "until I looked inside the box and found an antique Swiss cowbell."

Driving home that night, our friend's story turned in my head. How amazing that she could be satisfied by a cowbell. Love it. Only in Switzerland.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Feeling inspired by Ben

Less talk. Less stuff. Less weight. Less inflammation. Less pain. Less loneliness. Less judgement. Less criticism. Less negativity. Less fighting. Less extremes. Less noise.

These are all the things the minimalist in me wants this year. But wait. What about the immoderate in me?

More listening. More empty space. More fitness. More calm. More comfort. More connection. More acceptance. More acknowledgment. More positivity. More peace. More moderation. More silence.

Speaking of silence, here's Benjamin Franklin's list of 13 virtues he wrote in his autobiography that are reminiscent of my Swiss grandparents and the traditional Swiss Alpine folk:

13 Virtues

Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.

Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

And while I'm at it, here's Benjamin Franklin's daily schedule:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Health benefits and disadvantages of Swiss alpine living

About a year ago, a reader emailed me asking about the health benefits of living in the Swiss Alps as well as its disadvantages. I’m no doctor, but I do have opinions on the matter that some of you might find helpful. So here we go. (People love lists anyway.)

Health benefits:

  • fresh air - Good for the lungs; great for asthmatics

  • dryness - Good for people with dust mite and mold allergies

  • clean water out of the tap - I end up drinking more water

  • beautiful views promote physical activity and gratitude - Looking out the window at a clear blue sky and mountain peaks entices me out of the house; the beauty of nature reminds me of life's beauty; easier to feel grateful when surrounded by beauty

  • lots of sport opportunities - Hiking, mountain biking, mountain climbing, river rafting, downhill skiing, ski touring on skins, cross country skiing, swimming if near a good pool, etc...

  • silence - I sleep better without the sound of traffic; it's soothing to the nerves and conducive to meditation and thought

  • being close to nature - A mere 10-minute walk is laden with sensory benefits; walking in a pine forest is known to be good for you

  • fresh food - Local milk, cheese, butter, eggs, meat, and other produce

  • solitude - One learns to be alone and to be emotionally self-reliant and resilient

  • slow pace - Allows for being in the moment and have less stress

  • less light pollution - Darkness promotes the production of melatonin, hence better sleep

  • less crime - Less anxiety and fear of violence

  • higher altitude - Body produces more red blood cells; athletes train at 1,500-2,000 to get ready for competitions

Health disadvantages:

  • loneliness and isolation - Being alone is not for everyone; villages can be kind of dead

  • lack of specialists and hospitals - You don't want to get really sick up there and need medical attention quickly

  • increased alcoholism in resort areas - Resort areas tend to have more substance abuse, says a therapist I spoke to

  • strong sun - The higher up you go, the less atmosphere the sun's rays has to go through. Hence, your skin is more prone to burn

  • altitude sickness - Depending on high up you go and your activity level. Only temporary

  • dry skin 

Any others? I would be happy to read your comments and/or additions.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Self-responsibility increases freedom

The USA is known as the "land of the free," but I believe Switzerland wins here. Yes, it has its laws, and everyone is insured to the max. Yet despite this, the Swiss have a lot of personal freedom. They have the liberty to judge if what they are doing is safe and to do so at their own risk.

Much is left to their personal judgment and responsibility. I believe this is what makes Switzerland more fun--and less expensive--than the USA.

Regarding fun: for one, Switzerland still has diving boards. The powers-that-be at our beach club in Newport, Rhode Island, removed the diving board, a source of amusement during our childhood summers. Perhaps, they did so due to its proximity to the bar. Wait! We were children and certainly not allowed at the bar. Secondly, you can walk a dog off the leash as long as it's voice controlled. This would be unheard of in the USA, where dog owners are treated like second-class citizens. Thirdly, you can ski down a mountain at night after consuming kilos of melted cheese and liters of wine and schnapps. It's up to you to stay sufficiently sober to ski home; and if you get too drunk and break your leg, don't even think about suing the mountain restaurant. You won't get very far. Fourthly, mountaineers, including base jumpers, have fewer restrictions. The onus is on them to exercise judgment, unlike in the USA, where many parks are closed to such adventures.

Now for the cost factor. According to Paul Rubin in a New York Times op-ed: "[US citizens] spend about 2.2 percent of gross domestic product, roughly $310 billion a year, or about $1,000 for each person in the country on tort litigation, much higher than any other country."

“America is known as the land of the free, but it is also the land of unnecessary lawsuits,” said Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.  “As the U.S. experience has shown, excessive litigation creates enormous costs for businesses, workers, consumers, and the overall economy.”

Imagine the added cost of having to put warning stickers on lighters: "Danger: Extremely Flammable." No duh! Anyone dumb enough to not know that the contents of a lighter are flammable is too dumb to read the label.

Self-responsibility lowers the costs overall and contributes to Switzerland's attractiveness as a business location. And thanks to this, people tend to be more responsible and to have more fun.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

When cities control the countryside

We will most likely lose our hospital due to a recent referendum that resulted in 66% of voters in our canton rejecting an initiative to keep regional hospitals open. And this is despite 80% of voters in our area voting otherwise.

The cities just don't want to subsidize the countrysides. Sadly, these urbanites don't realize what this means. Such a closure will bring us back to the days when people died of minor health complications.

Take my grandfather's brother, for example. He died of a ruptured appendix while attempting to walk the 45 minutes from Lauenen to the Saanen Hospital. It was the 1930's and his parents had both died of the Spanish Flu. His older half-brother--who was now head of household--had refused to give him taxi fare (the only car in the village belonged to the postman).

This means that if you are in our village and break your leg, suffer a rupturing appendix or a stroke, you will have to get yourself to the closest city hospital, which could take you more than an hour by car on windy mountain roads. There will be an increase in surgeries being done on the spot by house physicians. Is this safe? Many say to take a helicopter, but what if there is fog like there has been due to warming temperatures?

This is an example of the cities controlling the countryside.

In contrast, the recent US presidential election is an example of the countrysides (or what is left of them) controlling the cities (California and Northeast).

These two unrelated democratic events show how urban-rural power struggles can end in opposite ways. The 2016 US presidential election resulted in cities (represented in the popular vote) voting for Clinton while the rural areas voted for Trump (thanks to the Electoral College).

Some say this is what happens when you have a democracy with federalism (the Electoral College) and democracy without federalism (a popular vote).

Democracy isn't perfect in either country.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Collecting tax the Swiss way

Last Saturday, the call came in from a cell phone. I didn't quite make out his name, as he said it so fast, but I managed to catch that he was calling from the "Gemeinde" or city government. It seemed like a hoax until he asked: "Do you still have your dog?"

Oops, I thought. "Yes, yes, yes," I said. "Yes, Bizzi is still with us. I am so sorry. I keep forgetting to come down to pay my dog tax."

"Are you at home tomorrow?" he asked.

"You, you... work on Sundays?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "The whole day."

"Well... let's see. Yes.. It's Sunday... we plan to go skiing at 9:30am. Can you come at 9am?

"In Ordnung," he said. "I will come at 9am. Have CHF 120 ready." He didn't mention that CHF 30 of the amount was a fine for failing to pay the tax before the August deadline. As we are in the USA in the summer, I don't see the small reminder notice in the legals. And that they don't send a bill, makes this tax easy to forget.

He showed up as planned and was friendly. I invited him in for a coffee but he declined. Except for his coming in a marked van, he didn't make me feel like a criminal. He could have admonished me for my lateness or reminded me of the fine, but he didn't. The slight embarrassment of having a police car in my driveway for a few minutes was worth not having to make a special trip to city hall.

Now, that's what I call service.