Merry Swissmas!

Swissmas 1This year’s Holiday season post looks back at last Christmas  – better known as Swissmas 2013.

Ever since our first Christmas as a couple (2006), I’ve always gone back to my family for the Holidays and my boyfriend has always gone back to his. We’ve always done our own little Christmas thing before and after my trip to the USA, but we were never actually together on Christmas day.

Well, last year was different.

Last Christmas, both of us stayed in Zurich, and we got to celebrate our first Christmas together! What’s more, both of our families came to Switzerland (from the USA and Italy) so we got to celebrate with them too! My boyfriend and my family for Christmas!

It was also the first time that our families met. We were obviously a bit nervous,  but it all went so well! We were both busy showing our families around the city, finishing shopping, organizing dinners for all of us, and translating so that everybody could actually communicate. It was a fast-paced Christmas, but was something I will never forget!

Swissmas 2

This year, I’m back in the USA and Francesco is heading to his family, in Italy. I guess we’re still not quite ready to renounce seeing our own families at Christmas, but I suppose this is something that many international couples face.  Eventually, we’ll start creating our own Christmas memories and traditions, as a couple, but for now I can say that I’m so happy to have had the experience of last year and happy to be with my family this Christmas too. There’s always next year to flip a coin and see whose family we spend the Holidays with.

Not to bore you with personal photos, but I wanted to share a bit of the magic that is Switzerland at Christmastime and one of the best memories I have.

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

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Deutsch ist schwer!

German Flag

German is difficult! (This is the truth, and also the translation of this blog post’s title).

I’ve been taking a German class for about two and a half months now and it sure as heck isn’t easy! Actually, me and my boyfriend have been doing it together, which I think is insanely cute. It’s a way that we get to spend some more time together during the busy work week, and we learn a new skill to boot!

I’m at the point where I can say “The cat is on the table” (Die Katze ist auf dem Tisch), so I’m not quite ready to write anything profound about the German language right yet. I just wanted to share this little image with you, here below. It’s the grading system for the bi-weekly tests we have in our German class, and I thought it was pretty cute.

Bellingua School

I have yet to be crushed by the Deutsch boulder…. fingers crossed!

Train Pies!

SBB CakeThis was definitely an “only in Switzerland” moment!

The train station near our place has been undergoing a lot of construction, for a long time. I’m sure it’ll look great when it’s done, but for the moment, it’s a noisy eyesore.

Well, heading to work the other morning, there were two people dressed in SBB uniforms (the Swiss train service), passing things out to commuters. I wasn’t exactly sure what they were handing out at first but my internal “Ooh! Free stuff” alarm went off, so I took one.

Turns out, they are little “please excuse the mess” pies that announce, on the wrapper, that trains which used to depart from track 4 will temporarily depart from track 6, due to construction work. There is even a little number 6 baked right into the pie crust to remind you.

How adorable and distinctly Swiss is this, right?!?! And, it was delicious!

Take a Hike

Swiss Hike

Fresh air, beautiful scenery, the tinkling of cow bells, and panic attacks. Ah, the joys of hiking!

I went on my first real hike in Switzerland a few weeks back. It was much harder, longer, and treacherous than I’d thought it would be. Honestly, it was explained to me as a “fairly easy, two-hour walk where you could even just wear good sneakers, if you didn’t have proper hiking boots.” And honestly, I wouldn’t have agreed to it had I known how hard it was really going to be. But honestly, it was a great experience and I’m proud of myself for having done (and survived) it. Also, it was October (my favorite month) which means we had the added bonus of leaves changing colors!

We were a group of 10 people, all together, and we went up the Appenzell Alps (a part of the Alps located in the gastronomically famous Appenzell region) to the Meglisalp guesthouse, where we spent the night eating local foods like spätzli (little dumplings) and cheese and drinking herb-infused Appenzeller liquor. The next morning, we worked our way back down the mountain to the breathtaking Seealpsee lake before finishing our hike and calling it a weekend.

Me thinking: "Whoa! Some people actually hike HIGHER than this!?!"

Me thinking: “Whoa! Some people actually hike HIGHER than this!?!”

I’m usually the photo guy that people can count on to snap pics of the entire adventure. However, this time I was a bit more concentrated on trying not to die and so couldn’t focus too much on the photos. I was able to take some good pictures from the top, but for photos of the climb and descent themselves, I had to refer to my boyfriend’s camera roll. Some of these photos are unreal beautiful, no?

Will I go hiking again? For sure! Will I affront such a difficult climb again? Meh…

My legs are no longer sore and the fear I felt (especially going back down … so effing steep!) has faded, leaving me with only good memories of my first hike up the Alps.

My much deserved Appenzeller beer. The background of this photo is the label on the bottle. So cool!

My much deserved Appenzeller beer. The background of this photo is the label on the bottle. So cool!

I’m baaaaaack!

working on my blogOk, so it’s been over one year since my last blog post. For shame!

What’s the deal? What’s been going on? Well, dear blog readers, I have two reasons. One more excusable, and one not so much.

  1. The good excuse: Moving to a new country and experiencing a new culture that brings a new language, new people, new customs, new cuisine, new traditions, and new ways of going about life takes a lot! It takes time and it takes energy. Honestly, I’m very excited to bring Change of Underwear back to life, but even now, after almost one and a half years in der Schweiz, I’m still not all that sure on what I’ll be writing about for my posts on Swiss life. It takes a while to be able to get into a culture and discover those interesting pearls that only one who has spent any significant time in another land can find. Also, Switzerland is very multicultural, with influences from all over the globe that can make it harder to pinpoint specifically Swiss things. Not to mention the fact that  my knowledge of the German (or Swiss German) language hasn’t really grown that much, which only adds to my difficulty in getting into the culture to the max.
  2. The inexcusable excuse: I haven’t had time! With moving to a new country, getting situated, and starting and maintaining a new job, it was really hard for me to set aside the time to dedicate to this blog. I didn’t like that I wasn’t blogging, but my job has been keeping me really* (*read: too) busy and the fact that I wasn’t having amazing ideas rain down upon my head didn’t exactly contribute to my motivation.

But, the good news is that I’m back! The tell-tale sign that Change of Underwear is at it again is the new logo that I’ve got which is also on the Facebook and Twitter pages for the blog. Isn’t it fun? It’s me and all the nations of underwear that are relevant for the blog … plus a bird! My friends at DesignLibero did it for me. Thanks guys! The logo really needed a makeover!

Change of Underwear logo

I’m ready to write again and I’m ready to share my experiences, opinions, and ideas with you all.

To those tried and true readers: thanks for sticking with me.

To new underwear changers: thanks for joining, and I hope you’ll like what you see.

To all of you: I’m looking forward to getting back into the blogging world and interacting with you guys here on changeofunderwear.com. Please feel free to leave a comment with any ideas, suggestions, or things you want to know more about.

Now,  *rolls up sleeves* let’s do this thing!

Swiss Pride

Swiss Flags

Boy oh boy, do the Swiss love being Swiss!

There’s a lot of Swiss pride going on here. They just really dig their culture, heritage, language(s), and food. The Swiss flag can be seen everywhere, people are genuinely happy when you show an interest in trying out some new Swiss aspect of life, and a product being Swiss made - whether it be cheese, an electric razor, or underwear – is a definite added value.

Made in the USAIt sort of reminds me of the USA. Not that there are that many things “made in the USA” nowadays, but we do have a strong sense of patriotism. The Americans and Swiss are proud to hail from their respective countries and will brandish their flag with fervor.

Italians, on the other hand, seem to always look down on their own country and even feel embarrassed to be Italian, which is a shame since it’s such a great place. In fact, the only time during my time living there when I really ever saw Italian patriotism was during the World Cup.

Gennaro Gattuso

The topic of Swiss patriotism came to mind because today is Swiss National Day! That means that Swiss flags are popping up all over the place in celebration. It takes me back to growing up in my hometown when my Dad would decorate our front yard with tons of little American flags whenever it was Memorial Day or the 4th of July. So cute!

1. August-WeggenThe supermarkets here in Zürich are particularly decked out. There’s all types of Swiss paraphernalia and even this special bread called 1. August-Weggen (August 1st bread) with the Swiss flag’s cross baked into the top. In typical “Garrett loves all things authentic” style,  I’ll definitely be trying some today! Most likely on the Swiss paper plates and accompanied by the Swiss paper napkins that I bought.

Here are some pics I took for you guys from my local Migros. I got chided for taking pictures, but when the security man heard my horrible (read: nonexistent) German, he said “Ok. Tourist. You can take a few photos.” so it all worked out for the best.

Happy August 1st! In an effort to unite the blog title with the topic of today’s post, I’ll be sporting these bad boys:

My Swiss Underwear

My Swiss Underwear

Yes, they’re made in Switzerland! :-)

The Extra Kiss

Kiss Me Candy HeartAmerican singers Hall & Oates sang about a kiss being on their list. Well, if they were European, that list might be pretty lengthy and include kisses from just about anybody (friends, neighbors, colleagues) for just about any reason (saying hello, thank you, congratulations). Europeans are very kissy.

Fashion SnobOf course, I’m not talking about sensual lip-to-lip kissing, but of friendly cheek kissing. You don’t even really actually kiss the cheek. It’s more like you place your cheek on the other person’s and then sort of just kiss the air next to them. To get a better idea, think of the snobby, fashion-conscious, female character from any Miami or New York-based TV show who always wears designer sunglasses, carries her little dog around with her in a Louis Vuitton bag, and says “ciao” to everybody when she leaves an exclusive rooftop party. These people, even if they’re American, do those kisses too.

These cheek kisses are a very European thing and I’m all in. I even give them to my friends and family back in America. I guess I caught them off guard at first, but they know to expect it now. Though I should probably specify that you don’t really give people you just met kisses to say “hello”. However, if you get along swimmingly and bond a bit, I think there’s nothing wrong with giving goodbye kisses. For me, it’s a way of saying “ok, we know each other now”.

Men KissingThese kisses even happen between two men and two women and I find it much nicer than the awkward, man-on-man hug/back-thumping that leaves plenty of room for the holy ghost. And this has nothing to do with being gay. I just think that the American “we’re both men and I care about you, but we have to stay macho because feelings are lame-o” embrace is silly.Man Hug Rules

Italian LipsNow, back to the subject at hand and what I’ve learned of kissing culture in Europe. Italians generally do two kisses, starting on the right. Starting on the right. If you mess that up, you might both go the same way and get more than you bargained for… which can also be fun. Just sayin’!  Anyways, it’s two quick kisses and that’s it! No way to really mess that up too badly, as long as you can count as high as two.

Swiss LipsSwiss, on the other hand, do three kisses. The “extra kiss” was something that I wasn’t prepared for when I first moved here. I think I left a few people confused and perhaps hurt some feelings, but I’ve got it down now. In fact, I’m a professional at the Swiss Triple Kiss. I don’t really get why they do three and I personally think it’s one too many, but if it’s what they do here, then ok. Three kisses it is! I just want to fit it, all right? My horrible German already makes me stick out, so at least let’s do the kissing correctly!

So throw your fears about personal space aside and remember, when packing your bags for Europe, bring your passport, your coolest shoes, and some mouthwash for greeting people.

Do you guys know of kissy greetings in any other countries? Let me know with a comment below!