Posts Tagged ‘guidebook’

10 things the guidebook don’t* tell you about… German Switzerland!

August 8, 2014

*For the record, as my brother seemed to think I was under the impression “don’t” is the correct word to use hear rather than the actual correct “doesn’t” – I am using “don’t” on purpose as I think it has a ring to it… All right?! 

1. Generosity: the Swiss have been amazing hosts to me, I can’t thank them enough for making my time here incredibly comfortable. For example, when staying at my friend’s dad’s house on the outskirts of Zurich we came back from a festival covered in mud so left our dirty shoes and clothes on the porch before falling into bed. When we awoke he had hosed down our shoes and washed all our clothes and hung them out to dry for us. And there were four of us staying there – most parents would surely expect things to be the other way round but he wouldn’t let us help out – we were his guests and that was that. My friend Rowan in Bern joked that it’s easy to be generous when you’re Swiss because you just have so much money! Ahem…

2. Nearly everyone has a balcony. Standardly. 

3. There is no such thing as a “seedy area”. I went to stay one night at my uncle’s flat in a place called Trimbach which he said was “cheap and a little seedy”. This place was set into the foothills of the mountains, next to a river; everything was super-clean and the gardens incredibly well maintained; and there was a lindt chocolate factory nearby. I’m surprised there is a translation for seedy in Swiss-German at all! 

4. There are playful (maybe not completely playful) tensions not only between the people who speak different languages in Switzerland but also between dialects! People in St Gallen get taken the piss out of for not pronouncing their ‘R’s properly, and generally German German is frowned upon!

5. And despite being part of a different country the French-Swiss are still looked upon as snobby! The English will be pleased to hear that!

6. They think they are running out of space. Quite a few people said to me that there was so much construction of properties going on that there would be nothing left to build on soon. As a Londoner, looking around at Switzerland’s wide open spaces and even average garden-size and house-size this seemed absurd. It is possible to fit a lot more in I assure you. The thing is, with “foreign” often a dirty word in Switzerland (and I don’t think I’m being unfair here – just look at some of the political advertising from the last election), I felt that maybe it was political canvassing that might have caused this concern. A lot of tensions in England to do with immigrants are exacerbated by this myth that “there’s not enough room for them: we are full”. Which, of course, we’re not.

7. Fondue is only a winter thing. We managed to convince our hosts on a rainy summer evening to get the fondue pot out (every Swiss has one!) and, my God, that stuff is rich! I needed to stay seated for quite a while afterward to let the cheese settle!

8. Education can go on forever. The fees for degrees are relatively low, so you can stay in education for as long as you want, pretty much. My friend is just finishing his bachelors in Linguistics and thinks he will now do another bachelors in Law. Not even a Law conversion – a full bachelors followed by a masters. Why do we put such a high price on education in the UK? It makes no sense.

9. They make really good chocolate ice-cream. Go on, have some. And the ice-cream shop in Bern was open later than the supermarket. You can tell where their priorities lie!

10. Train stations are city hubs. They are the meeting place, the eating place, the shopping centre. There is a rule that allows train station shops to be open every day and later than normal shops – so they have become the place to be, it seems!

I am currently in Dresden, Germany and my post about here (a new favourite city!) will be coming up shortly! Tschüss!

Advertisements

Ten Things the Guidebook Don’t Tell You About… Chile.

August 24, 2012

Here are some of those odd things you only realise when you get to Chile… in list form!

1. Some supermarkets don’t sell fresh garlic or tins of beans. However, they all have their own supermarket-brand basic tinned mussels – phew.

2. There are dogs EVERYWHERE. The ones on the street are generally pretty calm whereas the ones sat behind gates have anger management issues. They ALL hate cars – so much so that they will chase them down the street barking. This is pretty scary in Santiago as it looks like you’ll run them over but in smaller towns it’s pretty funny. Today, I saw a car completely brought to a standstill by a couple of dogs who had surrounded it barking and refusing to move. More and more dogs just kept coming to join in the fun. Evenually the people had to just park where they were and sit it out. Made for excellent viewing.

3. If you want some cheese and you go and ask “¿Tienes queso?” (Do you have cheese), the reply will nearly always be “Yes, how many?” which is pretty confusing at first. But basically, apart from Jumbo and farms that make their own cheese, when you want cheese you get Gouda. There is no choice in the matter – you want cheese? Well, it’s Gouda. In slices.

4. Every single computer keyboard is set to a different setting from what you can see on the keys. Even in people’s houses that I’ve been to. What. The. Hell?

5. Chileans do not like spicy food. If you want fresh chili you will have to buy really weak ones and add a lot. They just don’t sell other types. Apart from Merken – a Chilean spice – which you can have with bread and salsa. Love it.

6. Despite my guidebook saying that Chilean men don’t really bother you, this is just not the case. The men here are the most persistent I have met (although according to them the Argentinians and Brazillians are far worse). If you tell them to go away, there is absolutely no way they are going anywhere. Once they have set their eyes on you, they will not stop until they have you. Last night I physically pushed this guy away from me, all of his friends were laughing at him, and so was I. They were all leaving and I kept telling him to go with them but he wouldn’t. Eventually they pulled him away. 15mins later he walked back into the bar, alone, pulled up a chair, and joined me and my friends at our table. No question. No ‘can I join you?’. Incredible. And just to clear it up, he went home alone.

7. If you are a guest in their home, you are not allowed to do anything. At all. If they cook for you, you cannot do the washing up. If you need anything at all, they will get it for you. The generosity is staggering. It doesn’t matter who you are… and in the case of the Antofagastian family I stayed with, whether you can speak the same language. They will drop everything for you. Amazing.

8. In Chile, being a vegetarian is very difficult. In Antofagasta I visited a restaurant where the vege option was ‘pollo’ (chicken). Considering you get offered a lot of eggs and cheese as a vege, I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to be vegan. I met a girl who was lactose intollerant who was having a little bit of a nightmare finding food.

9. They make beer as well as wine! And it’s actually quite good! And pisco – ahhh, pisco, my new best friend. They know about alcohol in this country, that’s for sure.

10. My guidebook said Santiago is avoidable. It is not. Santiago is amazing. The people are fantastic, the bars are great and it is incredibly beautiful despite the smog. One moment you’re walking down an ugly highway and then you look to your left and the snow capped Andes peer at you through the mist. It’s a great presence in the city. Don’t visit South America or Chile and avoid the capital, you’ll miss a lot.