Friday, October 15, 2010

Feature Friday: The Contrast

These past 2 weeks have been a whirlwind. We have learned just how differently they do things here in Switzerland and are realizing just how good we as Americans have it! Don't get me wrong, this is a great country with some really wonderful people in it but they simply have a different way of living that we are not used to. And there is good reason that America is called the greatest nation on Earth! We're efficient, we're cost-effective, and communication for us, is for the most part, not a problem. We are United by our culture and our language. There are of course many other aspects that contribute to why America is so great, but these are the main differences we have encountered recently. America caters to convenience and if you go anywhere else in the world...even somewhere as modern and wonderful as Switzerland you still will experience a fair amount of culture shock. I mean, we're coming from the absolute best so anything else is simply second best. Something that takes some adjustment. We are realizing just how spoiled we were in the U.S.

In Switzerland it takes twice as long to get anything done. Now at first that may sound nice, but when it comes to your job, try to imagine not getting the equipment you need for months instead of days making it nearly impossible to do your job, imagine trying to get important tasks done on your lunch break only to find that there is a 2 hour period during the lunch hours where everything (and I mean everything) shuts down and then everyone gets off work at 4:00 or 6:00 at the good luck trying to get things taken care of in the window of time you are offered. Forget about Sundays. Everything is shut down all day, every week on Sunday and shops close even earlier on Saturdays then they do during the week. Better stock your fridge and get all the things you need for the weekend before the weekend hits. That's unheard of in America. We have 24 hour shopping and restaurants back home. We work long hours. No matter what time of day or night it is, you can most likely get what you need in a timely matter in America. Not here...that is just not the Swiss way of life. EXTREMELY laid back way of thinking.

Everything is twice as expensive here too. (I will think twice before complaining about most American prices when we return) Every day items are shockingly high in price. A single sheet (not a set, just a single bed sheet can be as much as $60.00 depending on the size you need. A McDonald's meal will cost you $15.00 for a regular cheeseburger value meal where in the States you could feed a family of four at McDonald's for that price! One thing I do appreciate is that it forces you to eat healthier, to live healthier. We don't go out to eat here, dining out is a luxury. It's much more cost effective to cook your own meals and you have to watch for prices at the supermarket too. Meat is a luxury. Try paying $15.00 for 4 chicken breasts or a pound of ground beef.....  Fruit and vegetables are reasonably priced so that's what we eat. And we take public transportation everywhere we go. Saving energy and cutting down emissions...that part of Swiss culture I als like. We have to walk nearly the market or to the train has definitely doubled my exercise time. Again, another plus. It's forced...I don't have a choice...but when it comes to living healthier I needed this forced change. I was eating what I wanted, when I wanted and rarely exercised. I've already lost quite a bit of weight because of this lifestyle change. (DEFINITE PLUS!)

The hardest hurdle by far has been communication. We live in a country where there are four primary languages...French, German, Italian and Romansch. There are some who speak English but it's a gamble when trying to communicate if they do or don't. I was sitting at the train station and a gentleman came up to me and asked for directions in French...I told him in French that I spoke English so he went around asking others in French for directions....he had to ask 5 different people before he found someone who spoke French and the ironic part was we were IN THE FRENCH SPEAKING REGION!! I think most Americans, myself included, have taken for granted the fact that you can go up to anyone and 95% of the time you will be able to have a conversation with that person. The odds are not in your favor here. Hearing English spoken here is like music to my ears! Jared and I are going to enroll into a French course that is provided free to his work employees and their spouses. Knowing both languages will help!

We have also learned just how difficult it is to move to Switzerland. In fact, it is the hardest place to move to in the world. No joke. Look it up. You have to have your visa approved, then you must apply for a permit B, which is like a resident's card. But get this, they only give out a set number of these permits and they are given according to your educational and pay status. So because Jared has a PhD and where he will be working he moves closer to the front of the line. There is a guy who's profession is a hairstylist who says he's been waiting for his permit for FOUR YEARS! Crazy, right?! That wouldn't fly in the U.S. there would be rioting and lawsuits about discrimination and whatnot! But here, that's how they operate, everyone understands that and no one challenges it. So after you have all the necessary paperwork THEN you can apply for an apartment. If you do not have a permit B you cannot rent an apartment or own a home. And even with the permit it is close to impossible to find a place to rent. There is limited housing so instead of you going to the leasing office and signing a lease and moving right in after maybe having a background are in competition with other people to even be interviewed for the apartment and the landlord/agency picks who they want as a tenant out of all of the applicants. Jared's boss' daughter has still not found a place to live and she is a Swiss citizen.

So to say the least, we are BEYOND BLESSED to have successfully moved here and secured this apartment because truthfully, all the odds were against us. But God is on our side and there is proof of His signature on everything we've accomplished thus far. He has opened doors that we never could have without His help. I'm so thankful for a God who meets our needs and takes care of every last detail. These last few weeks have really put our faith to the test. But through it all I can see how it has strengthened my faith and brought me closer to my Saviour who has been right there with us every step of the way.

I'm certain there are more trials and hardships ahead but I know that we will never have to endure them alone.I'm holding on firmly to His promise that God is with us.

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