I am …

We were having dinner with a group of people, one of Marc’s work things, introductions were being made, and someone said to me, “How about you, Mary? What’s your career?”

It caught me by surprise, and I burst out laughing. I knew it wasn’t very elegant of me, but I couldn’t help it. “That’s a very good question,” I said. “I wish I knew.” Continue reading

Neatnik, Swiss-style

A while back I wrote a post on stereotypes. Okay, it was a long while back, when Harold Camping was predicting that the world was about to end. In that post I recapped some pretty standard Swiss stereotypes:

The Swiss go on eating Rostis and chocolate and dipping day-old bread into oozing pots of cheese fondue, occasionally heading down into their fallout shelters for another bottle of Chasselas or Pinot noir, which they deftly open with their ever-handy Swiss army knives, accordions playing cheerily in the background.  When they’re not conducting secret bank deals involving covert Carribean cash transfers, that is. Or cleaning their ovens with toothbrushes. Or hiking up an Alp behind a herd of fat cows whose bells ding and dong sweetly into the picture-postcard valley far below.

Today, I came across something that made me laugh. It’s a story of a Swiss person who has taken the Swiss neatnik stereotype to such an incredible extreme that he completely defies another Swiss stereotype: the one that says the Swiss have no sense of humor. It seemed like an appropriate thing to share on April 1st. It’s no joke, though. Continue reading

Time of reckoning

Last week, when I was writing about the kilogram and got sidetracked into calendars, I realized two things:

One. Gydle is a year old now! The first post was on March 2, 2011.

Two. We’ve been living in Switzerland for 7.5 years, 8.5 if you count the sabbatical year in 2002-2003.

Time flies, huh? There’s way too much in these two momentous events for a single post, so today, I’m just going to bask in the glow of Gydle’s one-year birthday. I’ll write about number two tomorrow (maybe).

Continue reading

How to Swiss kiss

Bonjour! (Kiss, kiss, kiss)*
Hey! (hug)
Hello. Nice to meet you. (right hand extended, waist level)
* language and number of kisses may vary

These appear to be the accepted Western greeting rituals. But which to use? With whom? When? And how are they properly executed? It’s no big deal until you screw it up. One moment is all it takes to go from potentially interesting person to totally awkward inept proto-caveman. That first impression is everything, right?

As an expat, this issue comes up frequently. Continue reading

Mindset Mapping

I keep returning to the idea of stereotypes. Or perhaps the idea keeps finding me.
As the poet John Donne so aptly put it:

No man is an island; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

That’s the human dilemma, isn’t it? We’re alone, yet not alone. We each have our own unique perspective, the way things look from the island of moi. And yet we want so badly to belong, to make sense of all those other islands whose views are so unlike our own.

On that geographical note, I thought I’d share a series of maps designed by Bulgarian-born London-based “graphic designer slash illustrator” Yanko Tsvetkov. He has taken the idea of stereotyping up a notch, with maps that stereotype how different people stereotype each other. The whole idea is wildly politically incorrect, yet …  You’ll see what I mean. Continue reading

Pop that bubble

Eli Pariser did a Ted talk recently about how Google and Facebook and so on track just about everything you do online and feed this data into algorithms that personalize the way you experience the Internet. What you see and who you interact with are invisibly decided for you based on your past preferences, and you probably are not even aware of it. Or if you are aware of it, you’re also aware that there’s not much you can do about it.

See, you’re surfing in a “filter bubble” surrounded by people just like you and things you’ve already expressed an interest in, and you’re increasingly cut off from differing viewpoints, unbiased information and new ideas. Here’s a link to the video: it’s worth a watch, if you have nine minutes. Continue reading


Well, only one more day to go. Over here, several time zones away from where Harold Camping is campaigning, no one has said a thing about the Rapture. I’m sure if the local press got wind of it, they’d love it, but the news is full of Strauss-Kahn’s arrest and the odd Schadenfreude of watching a French politician go down in flames. Continue reading