The mysterious flying rodent insect … who wants your teeth

B Horror MovieOk, so I know the title of this blog post seems like a cheesy B-horror movie title, but the subject matter is really quite cute, so don’t throw yourself into a fright! I want to talk about the tooth fairy and her equivalent in Italy and Switzerland.

the tooth fairySo, in the USA we have the famous tooth fairy who flies into children’s rooms while they sleep to collect their fallen-out baby teeth and leave a bit of money behind. In my family, we had this adorable little tooth pillow that my Mom bought at a charity fair, in which me and my brother would leave our baby teeth for the tooth fairy to take.

I lost my first tooth!  This is me with the tooth pillow.

I lost my first tooth!
This is me with the tooth pillow.

la formichina dei dentiI guess because I don’t have any children of my own and am not really in contact with that many children since I have been living abroad, I just sort of assumed that the tooth fairy visited all little boys and girls around the world. But, I was talking with my boyfriend the other day and he told me that in his family, they didn’t have the tooth fairy. They had the “formichina dei denti” (little tooth ant).

This got me thinking, so I did some research and polled some Italian friends to discover that in Italy, some houses have the little tooth ant while others (perhaps the majority?) have the “topolino dei denti” (little tooth mouse). These characters have the same job description that the tooth fairy does, although they have to have mad skillz to crawl/sneak into the children’s bedrooms, instead of simply flying.il topolino dei denti

I was then curious to know what goes on in Switzerland. It turns out that they have the tooth fairy and the little tooth mouse, depending on which part of Switzerland you’re living in. My thorough research (read: some WhatsApps sent to some Swiss friends) shows that the German cantons tend towards the fairy, while the French and Italian cantons tend towards the mouse. And, oddly enough, the children can only redeem baby teeth that were lost while eating top quality, 100% pure Swiss chocolate. Something about keeping the economy healthy… No, ok. I kid, I kid.

So, while it’s too late for me to personally experience the tooth-takers in Switzerland, I thought it was pretty interesting to know that the tooth fairy, as we know her in the USA, is not the only one out there that’s climbin’ in yo’ windows, snatchin’ yo’ teeth up. Try ‘na steal ’em. So hide yo’ incisors. Hide yo’ canines. An’ hide yo’ molars, ‘cuz they thiefin’ all them teeth out here.missing tooth smile

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!

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! 

Time to change my underwear

Unpacking in our new apartmentHow often do you guys change your underwear? My mother would expect the answer to be “every day”. I guess she’d be appalled to know that I’ve finally just changed my underwear again after a little more than seven and a half years. About time, huh? ;-)

Ok, ok, I’m not talking about real underwear, and if you thought I was then I’m pissed at you for thinking so low of me (although sometimes I do skip a day … or two … sorry Mom!). I’m speaking in the metaphorical sense. I mean “changing underwear” as “stepping into a new culture“. My very first blog post initially talked about this (and sort of explained the title of the entire blog). I think it’s kind of a cool way of thinking about it, though if you asked me for some riveting story behind how I came up with that metaphor, then you’d be sorely disappointed. I was just brainstorming for a name for my blog and happened to have my own pair of stars and stripes undies and a pair of Italian boxer-briefs that I had bought to take home to my brother as a Christmas gift. I thought to myself “well, it’s certainly more fun than taking a picture of myself with two flags”, and there you have it. A blog was born! But I digress…

My original blog banner ... it's gonna have to be reworked now

My original blog banner … it’s gonna have to be reworked now

Crazy but true. After all these years I’m leaving Italy. Actually, I’ve already left. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this directly from our new apartment in Zürich, Switzerland!Zürich Map

What happened? Did I get sick of Italy? Certainly not! I love Italy very much and it will always have a special place in my heart. What happened is that my boyfriend got relocated for work. I’m always up for new adventures (that and the fact that we’re in love and want to stay together). So here I am in the land of chocolate, skiing, and fondue.

What does this mean for the blog and for you, dear blog readers? It only means more exciting stuff! The blog shall go on! It’s going to have to undergo some restyling graphically and in terms of its set-up, but we’ve come too far now to just let it fall into online obscurity! I’ll still be writing about life and experiences in Italy because I’ve still got lots to say about it. However, there will also be posts on life in Switzerland as well. Bonus! I’m also going to try and add a German Phrasebook to the Italian one, but you guys have to give me a bit of time with that one. I mean, I’m just beginning to learn German myself!

Thumbs UpAnyways, I want to thank all of you for your support, comments, and inspiration. I need to ask you for a bit of patience these days as I get my life sorted out and settled into Switzerland. I promise that I have not forgotten about you and there is definitely good stuff on its way.

I’ve had a litte more than seven and a half great years in Italy. I’ve fallen in love, made amazing friends, experienced and learned so much, and had a ton of laughs along the way. Grazie Italia. Grazie di tutto!

Now, let’s get into this new pair of underwear and see what it has in store for us!Swiss Underwear

Italian Food Facts: Cappuccino

Pouring CappuccinoCiao ragà! It’s time to learn some more cool stuff about the Italian foods (or beverages, in this case) that we all love.

Hot n’ frothy! No, it’s not the name of an adult film … well, actually it probably is … but that’s not the point! Today, we’re talking about cappuccino!

Ok, so you know what a cappuccino is, right? Sure you do! You’re a card-carrying citizen of planet Earth! How could you not? But do you know the meaning behind the word “cappuccino”. No, no you don’t. That’s why you need me.

The word “cappuccino” means “little hood” in Italian. No, I’m not talking about a small urban area known for its tough streets. I mean “hood” in the, “head covering attached to a sweatshirt” sort of way.

Capuchin MonksThis famous Italian coffee concoction got its name because of its light brown color – the result of the espresso and steamed milk coming together. This shade of brown is the same as the one found on the robes of the Capuchin monks, they themselves being named after the hood on their robes. See the connection? There are tons of pictures I could show you of real Capuchin monks to illustrate this point. I, however, have opted for the salt and pepper shakers that my grandparents used to have.

These sure bring back memories!

These sure bring back memories!

A few more quick points on cappuccini (note the correct plural form in Italian is “cappuccini” and not “cappuccinos”):

  1. Good luck trying to order a cappuccino in Italy after 11 am or (horrors!) after a meal! That’s sort of against the rules here. Something to do with Italians believing that milk will block your digestion.
  2. Have you ever gotten a cappuccino with cinnamon on it? Mamma mia! It’s good stuff! Try it!
  3. There are some real cappuccino artists out there. Baristas who decorate the top of the cappuccino with the foam or cocoa powder. It always puts a smile on my face when I order one and it comes with a little extra care put into its aesthetic quality. Here’s a few examples of cool cappys!