Showing posts from May, 2014

Well-meaning relatives

As I sat down at the "Stammtisch" or local's table at a restaurant to drink a tea while waiting for my son to come out of his drum lesson, I recognized her as the old lady I had given a ride to a week prior. She had been walking past my friend's house on her way to the next town, five kilometers away, while my friend and I had been chatting on the street. I had been struck by her healthy appearance. After exchanging pleasantries, I had offered to give her a ride, and she had accepted even though she had seemed fit. In the car, she had told us how she walked to the neighboring village every day, that she was a grandmother of five, that she lived in a house "up the mountains" and that she had spent her entire life tending cows.

Today, sitting in front of a tall glass of beer, her sparkle was gone.

I asked her how she was, and she said, "Not so good. Today is moving day."

I asked her what she meant. She said that her family and the town powers-that-b…

On our walk today...

Despite yesterday's blistery north wind, my son Oliver, our dog Bizzi and I managed to go out for a walk.

Five minutes into our stroll, and while passing a farm, Bizzi yelped.

"Bizzi touched the electric cow fence," Oliver said.

I think Bizzi's eyes are going (he's nine years old after all), because on more than three occasions, I've seen him running after what he thought were cats in the fields only to be chased by a growling farm dog, or only to find a spool of electrical wire or a water bucket.

On the downhill part of our adventure, Oliver decided to test the speed of his bike as well as its braking ability. When I finally caught up with him, he showed off a bloodied knee.

Further down the road, the way was corded off. A herd of cows dawdled on their way back to the barn munching on a luxury chalet's hedge. Two neighbors chatted next to their parked cars, while waiting for the road to reopen. The rosy cheeked farmer, an expectant father, smiled and sai…

Mailbox design alpine style

On a walk today, I noticed cute house letterboxes encased in wood and covered with shingle roofs.

Upon our arrival in Switzerland, I had wanted to cover up our mailbox with a little house, like the ones I had seen in Maine. But a local warned me that letterboxes in Switzerland needed to be visible and remain uncovered.

So after the walk, I googled letterbox rules in Switzerland and learned that it is the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) that imposes requirements regarding location, design and minimum dimensions of house letterboxes. Here is a the fact sheet by the Swiss Post office (for those who can read in German). SO it is possible to encase them! So much for believing everything I hear!

Disappearing trust

The Swiss are trusting. They use honor boxes to sell cheese; train passengers are expected to punch their own tickets before boarding; florists leave thousands of francs worth of flowers, plants and packaged soil outside shops over the weekends; car salesmen hand over keys before receiving the money; and businesses extend credit to customers by allowing them to purchase by invoice.

According to the Swiss Mail Order Association, 89% of Swiss online merchandise is purchased using invoices.

But times are changing. The use of credit checks, credit cards and Paypal is increasing. Insurance companies are starting to sell credit insurance.  Businesses are getting wiser. When I applied for a credit card a few years ago, the bank required me to deposit the equivalent of my maximum credit limit into a savings account.

Recently, an architect friend has run into problems with an American client, who is refusing to pay his and other contractors' bills using outrageous excuses and tactics. All …