Hats By Katrinka

Kate Brown Pernia is a Milliner on sabbatical in Switzerland. She has been designing hats and teaching millinery under her Katrinka label since the 1980s. Kate is also the founder of Houston Hat Net. View Katrinka hats and hat patterns at www.hatsbykatrinka.com.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Little Differences

Here are a few things that are a bit different from home:

My German washing machine heats its own water and uses only a tiny amount of detergent. It works very well but takes 2 hours to wash one load of laundry unless I tell it to do a short (Kurz) cycle which will halve the time. Every day at 11:30 both washing machine and dryer stop - wherever they are in their cycles - for an hour. I am told this is because school children are sent home for lunch (they don’t serve lunch in schools) and mothers should be feeding children instead of doing their wash. Well, whether or not this is really true the machines do stop everyday at this hour and resume again at 12:30. Weird!

When you grocery shop you have to put a Swiss franc in a slot to release the shopping cart from its chain. When you are finished shopping you return the cart, chain it up again, and get your coin back. The result is no shopping carts all over the parking lot. Also, you bring your own shopping bag or pay for a shopping bag and there are no bagboys. You bag it yourself. There are lots of places to recycle plastic bottles, wine and soda bottles, even grocery store receipts. You pay for trash pick up by the size of your bag so people recycle more.

Stores - even grocery stores - are closed on Sundays and evenings except for one day a week (Thursday in St. Gallen). Restaurants are open tho’. You can buy milk and cream products that are super-pasteurized so that they do not have to be refrigerated until opened. Unopened they last for months. There is a dizzying array of jams but you have to really search for peanut butter.

Smoking is permitted at age 14 and it seems that nearly everyone does. Smoking was only recently banned on trains and most restaurants do not have a non-smoking section. You have to air out your clothing after a night out! The drinking age for beer and wine is 16 and it’s 18 for the harder stuff. Dogs are permitted in restaurants, on trains and most places except for grocery stores.

People mostly use cash or debit cards here. You don’t pay your utility bills with checks. Instead, you go to the Post Office or the bank to pay. That’s also how we paid for our German classes.

You see a lot of people here walking around on two crutches. I’m guessing this is because quite a few people ski or snowboard in this area. Just looking at a snowboard makes me dizzy!

A weather phenomenon that I really love here is the cold fog that rolls in some nights. You wake up in the morning with everything coated in ice crystals! It’s called hoarfrost and is spectacularly beautiful. We have an outdoor atrium in the center of our apartment and Saturday I went out and climbed the ladder to the roof to get a better look at the crystallized fleur-de-lis fence around our roof. Above the bustle of the Saturday afternoon shopping you could hear a couple of guys playing Mack the Knife on a saxophone and an accordion. Magical!



At 1:12 PM, Blogger floridaprincess said...

Dh and I miss instant hot we had this when we lived in London. It took us 2 hrs to do our laundry too. It cost us a pound to rent a trolly no matter where you went. In supermarkets the cashiers get to sit down and you bag your groceries. I always thought this was interesting. Everone smokes in London too. They go to the pub and drink when they turn 16. When take the train you can say you want a non smoking area. This makes me happy. Euro star has a smoking car too I had to walk through it to go get some food lord was it smokey.
I think over in europe a lot of children come home for lunch or their mom packs them a lunch. I believe a lot of schools do not serve lunch.


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