Switzerland

Does Your Insurance Co. Send you a Birthday Card?

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Today I received the yearly card I get from my insurance provider and I thought about writing this post, since it's a very important thing to think about depending where you're moving to. One very distinct difference between Brazil and the US or England or Switzerland is that Brazilians (in general, with a few exceptions) don't like paying for stuff they don't think they need. If they don't think they need car insurance or house insurance, or worse, health insurance, they won't get it. I never learned how important it was to have all of that until many years after I had left the country.

In the US you have insurance for everything. Is it a horrible industry? Yes, do I like insurance companies? Nope, but it's a necessary evil. And my opinion is, get the best that you can afford at that point in your life. If you then get a better job and can afford a higher premium, with a better company, go for it.

My insurance is State Farm. I looove state farm, ok, maybe this is an exaggeration, remember, it's a necessary evil. No, they're not paying me to say that, it's just the opposite really, I'm paying them a lot of money yearly, but they are good.

When I lived in S. Carolina, and got my first car ever, I went with Allstate, it was cheaper and it, but then I had a problem and they weren't helpful at all, made everything so difficult, that I changed. I hired State Farm. What a difference. They made my life so much easier.

After I married, I realized that Paul also was a fan, so we stayed with State Farm, everywhere we lived in the US, we've hired them to take care of our stuff, and by that I mean, cars, homes, motorbikes, daughters, dogs...

They aren't on the cheaper side, but at least we know they will get it sorted. A few months ago, I bought a new car, it wasn't even 3 months and when I was riding the freeway, a stone hit the windshield, making a big damage. The crack was getting bigger by the hour, especially with the hot weather. Within a day of calling them, they had sent someone to replace it.

So, here are a few things to consider when purchasing home or car insurance in the US and a few links to the main ones:

Price - always check not only what the premium will be, but any hidden costs. Do they offer a discount if you pay yearly or maybe if you have car/house/life insured with them? Ah, and in some states the rates are set by law, which means that if you're paying a cheap price, you're not getting all the coverage you would.

Coverage - what will they cover if something happen? Does the company you are talking to cover everything you need?

Deductible - how much will you have to fork out if anything happens?

Access - can you reach them easily? Is there a live body you can talk to? Do you feel comfortable when you visit their office and speak to them face to face? Do they return phone calls?

Main insurance companies in the US, in no particular order:

  • State Farm
  • Allstate
  • Aflac
  • Geico (auto only, I think)
  • Liberty Mutual
  • Nationwide
  • Prudential

Funny, as I was writing the names, their ads all came to my mind, the jingle for nationwide, the duck for aflac, the gecko for geico... oh dear, I'm losing it...

In summary, each city or state has hundreds of other companies, it's worth having a look and researching, what is good for me, might not be good for you... just make sure they send you a birthbday card ;-)insurancecard

Simply Looking for Nail Scissors

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My nail scissors finally died. I bought them in Switzerland years ago and they've been traveling with me ever since, they were just right, the perfect pair of scissors. They were old, so, no wonder, they went. When they did, I got rid of them thinking I could just walk up to the first shop and get another pair... big mistake! CVS, Walgreens, WalMart (I can't stand that place), Target, Beauty shops... nothing! They have nail clippers. Well, nail clippers are no good for me. I wanted scissors. They also had cuticle scissors?!? I'd never even heard of cuticle scissor, but you just know that if they're made to cut cuticles, they're no good for hard nails. I was looking for nail scissors forever!

It drove me crazy. I guess, since I'd had mine for so long, I never ever gave it a thought. Seriously, how hard could it be to find one?

Apparently... very.

When Paul and Victoria went to England for their holidays, I asked him to get it, and since he was at the grocery store, he just went to the toiletries section, and there they were, he texted me back with "do you want it curved or straight?" Since I didn't even know what I needed, he got them both.

Sometimes when you're an expat, you will come across things like that. Something that seems so simple to you, back home, is not really that common somewhere else. You live and learn. Now I need to go to Germany or Switzerland to get a good pair that will last me another 20yrs.

First Impressions - Switzerland

Switzerland

I remember like it was yesterday the very first day I arrived in Switzerland. I actually remember all my first days in every country I lived in, but today I am talking about my loved Switzerland.

I landed in Zürich and we drove to Weggis (about 40min), all I remember during my drive were the homes. It was August and all of them were like doll houses with flowers on the windows. I couldn't believe it was so beautiful. I wasn't too impressed with Zürich, it's just a big city, but the rest of the drive was amazing.

The fun thing about Switzerland is that it's such a small country, but it's basically divided into 4 parts, each with its own culture, food and architecture. I was lucky enough to have lived in both the German and French parts and traveled all over. We used to rent cars and drive go for day trips. It's such a small country, it's easy to go places.

Language

Each part, also has its own languages, Swiss German, French, Italian and Romansh. Most people speak English (the younger generation anyway), and they not only speak the main language from where they live, but dialects and other languages as well.

Prices

Switzerland is an expensive place to live. I remember going out to clubs in Geneva or Zurich and being broke for a month after. Being a student and having our own student bar was very handy because prices were student friendly. Rents were expensive as well, when I lived in Lausanne, I paid almost a grand for a tiny studio, and when I say tiny, I mean tiny. Bedroom, bath and kitchen, no stove, just a sink and a small fridge. Seriously, it was smaller than tiny.

Housing

You will see a lot of high rises in big cities. In smaller towns, you will see a lot of houses and small buildings. It's charming, it is cute and it is well preserved. Within the architecture, you see roman ruins and castles all over. Like the rest of Europe, you breath history.

If you visit a Swiss person, you will be required to take off your shoes before entering the home. I love this habit, although I don't do it in my home anymore, I used to when I lived in Switzerland. A much cleaner habit.

Flowers everywhere, spring comes around and you see flowers in every windowsill, every balcony, it's so pretty!! Can you tell I love that country?

Chateau

Smoking

I'm not sure if this is the case, but when I lived in Switzerland, everyone smoked. Very common. Mind you, this was in the mid to late-90's, so quite a few years ago, (ssshhhhhh, let's keep it as our secret), things might have changed now.

Food

Just like in architecture, food varies a lot depending where you are in Switzerland. And no, the Swiss don't eat fondue and raclette for every meal, I do have to say that I could have eaten it forever, I love it.

The Swiss eat a lot of game, I tried veal, rabbit and ostrich for the first time during my time there. Ostrich and veal are delicious, rabbit, not so much, too fatty for me (and I am sorry for vegetarians and vegans out there, it is what it is). Fridays is a day for fish, hardly any other meat.

Another really delicious dish is Spätzle, I can't explain, it's like a pasta dish, it's so, so good. It's made with eggs and flour, and you eat it mostly with meat with sauce dishes.

Do you like chocolate, wine and cheese? This is the place for you... or not, depending how you look at it.

Social Scene

You can hit some of the best parties in Europe in Switzerland, I know I did. My life in Switzerland revolved around a good party and it was great, I tell you. My introduction to techno music was in Zürich, you have street parties, week-long carnival parties... Oh dear, just talking about it brings me right back. You wouldn't think, but Switzerland is a brilliant place to party.

Transport

The best public transport, ever! Taking a train? A bus? They leave at 5:03am and not one second before or after. If you're not in, you lose it. You can get anywhere with their trains. I used to take an early train in Winterthur and it's like a school bus, all the kids are in, traveling from one place to another to go to school. Bicycle is also another really common method of transport. In some cities, it's normal to get a bike that is parked outside the train station and drop it off back afterwards.

Army

Mandatory army for every man and voluntary for women. I wasn't going to add this here, but one fun fact is that you go to the army base, you keep your guns at home, and it's very common for you to be traveling in a train loaded with soldiers and their guns. At first it was very weird to me, but with everything, you get used to it.

Prepare For Your Foreign Outlets

Last week I asked my husband if he had any post ideas for me and at first he came up with nothing. Apparently he knows everything about everything that there is to do with moving abroad and when he moves he doesn't need any information at all.  He's that good! So, after a few minutes he gave me the idea to write about foreign electrical appliances. Old Radio

 

Pretty boring stuff, but very important when you're moving to another country, especially because nowadays every household has, what I call, an army of electrical appliances. Be it in the kitchen, in the bedroom, in the living room. Honestly, I'm all for that, it makes my life much easier.

One of the things to check when you move abroad is the country's voltage and what kind of sockets they have, foreign outlets and plugs can be a pain. For instance, Switzerland and England, both use 220v, while Brazil and the US use 110v. Actually, in Brazil things are even more exciting! Voltage might vary from city to city, yeap, you read it correctly, you might have voltage 110 in one city and change to 220 in a city 2hrs away. Oh and don't forget the different outlets... They're all different, funny when you think about it, not so funny when you don't have the right stuff.

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When we moved to England we bought about 3-4 transformers, super heavy and hard to maneuver (and they hurt when you kick). We also brought loads of little adapters. The transformers were mainly for our big stuff that take only 110v and the adapters for the actual plugs.

adapters  voltagetransformer

 

 

Stuck

When I was 15 I went to Toronto for 4 weeks to learn English. It was brilliant, I had an amazing time and more than anything I learned a whole lot, not only about living abroad, but mainly about trusting myself and sticking to my guts. After I landed, there I go to the immigration line and when I got to the window.... red flags everywhere... a 15 yr old travelling alone, they got very suspicious. I had papers from the school, my visa was right, but they had to do their job.

Into a little room they took me, my English was so bad at the time that they had to find a translator and on top of it all, I couldn't understand why they didn't believe me. I am glad that this wave of self-confidence came over me and I was just telling them over and over why I had traveled all the way from Brazil to Toronto... to study English!!!

A couple of hours later they made some phone calls, the school also confirmed, that indeed, I was meant to be going to school there. Alleluia, I was free.

Funny enough, or not, the first time I went to Switzerland I got stopped! Again! Maybe I just look suspicious... apparently, the schools pass on the information to immigration about any foreign students they have and this school hadn't done it for me. This time wasn't so bad, I was 20, knew my place in the world kindda thing, plus the Swiss are super organized, it took only a few minutes and I was off.

If you find yourself in a situation like that, all you can do is stay calm. Immigration will do their job, we are entering a different country and they've seen it all. A lot of times they get it wrong, and unfortunately, I truly believe that they do. But I also believe that most times they are right. If you have nothing to fear, then you will be fine.

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