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! :-)

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I hate the word “nougat”

Classic Italian TorroneNougat” is a gross word. Like “moist”, “plump”, “fondle”, or “panties”, I hate even pronouncing it. *Bleargh* :-(  However, I’m going to have to tackle the word “nougat” in order to take on today’s Christmas blog post. Ah, the things I do for you guys. ;-)

There is a very typical Italian Christmas candy called torrone. It’s basically made of honey, sugar, and egg whites to form a ….. *sigh” … nougat. (I just puked in my mouth a little bit…) Then things like hazelnuts, almonds, candied oranges, vanilla, and chocolate can be added to create different variants. 'Nilla & H-Nuts

My first experience with torrone happened back when I was young. I remember my Italian Consolazio grandparents bringing it to our house every Christmas. They brought bite-sized pieces of torrone, individually packaged in little boxes with an Italian bakery guy on ‘em, and there were flavors like classic, orange, and lemon.

One great place to pick up torrone, here in Milan, is the Oh Bej! Oh Bej! Christmas market. The name of the market means “Oh So Nice! Oh So Nice!” in Milanese dialect. That’s usually where I get my torrone to bring home at Christmas. If I dared show up without any, I’m not sure if my parents would even let me in the house…

The Milan Christmas Market

The Milan Christmas Market

Since my parents will probably read this (they better!), I’m gonna have to prove that I’ve already picked up this year’s supply. Here’s a picture of me below with the torrone I got. So, Mom & Dad, hang my stocking by the chimney with care, because I’m coming home … with nougat!

Italian Torrone - American Boy

Italian Torrone – American Boy

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Spooky and so very “in”

It’s Halloween time once again!

I, for one, am wicked excited! As I’ve talked about in previous blog posts (click here and here) I seriously love Halloween! This past weekend we decorated our house for the holiday with lots of things given to me by family and friends back in the USA. This includes having Halloween themed bowls with some fun candy.

Halloween candy in our apartment

So, we made our apartment all ready for Halloween, complete with the smell of a freshly baked pumpkin pie (the 1st one I’ve ever made … it turned out ok, nothing spectacular). However I felt that I, myself, wasn’t quite ready for the holiday. This has been kind of a hectic and busy month for me and I didn’t really get the chance to enjoy October as much as I’d usually like to. I feel as if I didn’t do enough “autumny/Halloweeny” things.

Well, a little pumpkin bracelet has made me feel better and has put me a heck of a lot more “in the Halloween spirit”.

Italian brand Cruciani has these colorful bracelets that are EVERYWHERE in Italy now and were extremely “in” this summer. It’s impossible to go anywhere without seeing somebody sporting one.  The original form is that of a four-leaf-clover, but various other shapes (hearts, butterflies, lock and key) have come out since then. Now, just for Halloween, they made a pumpkin version, available in orange or black. As soon as I saw them I decided “you shall be mine, pumpkin-shaped bracelet!”, so I ran out and picked one up this weekend.

The window display at the Cruciani store in Milan

These bracelets are so very me! I mean, they really scream Garrett! I’m wearing mine right now as I type this and it serves as a sort of Halloween reminder, right on my wrist! It may seem silly to some of you, but this little piece of Italian fashion has made me feel better about how my October has gone and makes me all “Halloween Happy“.

This last picture I’m leaving for you guys is what I’m rocking on my wrist right now. You’ll note the orange Cruciani pumpkin bracelet and traditional green four-leaf-clover one. In the middle I’ve got a knock-of version that I got in edicola that I thought was cool because it’s got a skull and crossbones. I know this picture looks like something from Teen Beat magazine for young girls thanks to all the added images, but I couldn’t help but play around with all my photo editing apps on my iPhone! :-) Happy Halloween!

Halloween Fashion!

 

Get Out of Town

:-D Happy Ferragosto! :-D

Non-Italian blog-reader: “The hell is Ferragosto ‘sposed to mean?”

Me: “Whoa, calm down! No need to take a surely tone with me! What are you stressed-out today? You need a vacation or something? Well, lucky for you, it’s Ferragosto!”

Non-Italian blog reader: “But I still have no Idea what the fu…”

Me: “Auu! I’m getting to that! Geesh!”

Ferragosto means summer vacation time in Italy! It’s a holiday that takes place on August 15th – smack dab in the middle of the month. It’s kind of a weird holiday because there are no special cakes, no special songs, no special gifts, no special anything. It’s just sort of a national “let’s close up shop and head to the beach” day. The only real way that you’d ever know it was Ferragosto would be if you tried to go to the local pharmacy, bar, post office, or shoe store. Everything, everything, is closed! You find empty stores, empty piazzas, and empty streets and not only on the actual day of Ferragosto. Places close for the weeks before and after the holiday as well! The only thing you’ll see are lots of these “closed for vacation” signs.

If you didn’t speak Italian and didn’t know that “chiuso per ferie” means “closed for vacation”, you might erroneously believe that all of Italy has caught the plague and that the Italians have decided to announce this woeful fate by means of hanging up whimsical, neon-colored signs everywhere! You’d think to yourself “Oh, those colorful Italians”, as you began to apprehensively second-guess your stuffed up nose.

Now, please don’t freak out if you’ve planned your summer vacation to Italy during the month of August. More touristy places and the shops in the city centers are often at least partially open. And the beaches are most definitely booming! Let’s just say it’s not the best time to visit Italy. Also, because it’s hot as balls!

As a matter of fact I’m not even in Italy right now! I wrote this blog post ahead of time and pre-programmed it to publish today. I’ve been on the beach in Croatia for a week already, soaking up the sun. Now I’m in Amsterdam, and then I’m heading back to Italy with some good friends from the USA. Even though we get back to Italy after Ferragosto, we’re still on the tail end of the summer vacation period. My only problem is going to be trying to find a restaurant to bring my visiting friends to that will actually be open!

What are you guys getting up to this summer? Leave me a comment!

Gay Flurries

It seems as if a homosexual blizzard has hit Italy, dumping gay snow all over the streets! That’s right, it’s Carnevale time once again here in Italy!

I love how at this time of year you can see colorful confetti all over the place! It’s so fun and is definitely one of my favorite little things that I enjoy about this country!

Buon Carnevale a tutti! 

Confetti on the streets of Italy

Gay snowstorm collage

The Christmas Witch

Buon Natale a tutti!

My non-Italian readers may find the above picture to be strangely out-of-place during the Holiday season. It seems more like a Halloween thing rather than a Christmas one, doesn’t it?

Well, this witch with a heart of gold is very Christmasy in Italy. Her name is La Befana (or “Beffy” as I like to call her). She flies around on her broomstick and fills the stockings of  little boys and girls on the night of January 5th for the Christian holiday called Epiphany on the 6th. She gives candy and small toys to good children and coal to bad ones, just like Santa Claus does in America.

In the USA we have Santa that does both presents under the tree and the stockings while Italians have Babbo Natale (Santa Clause in Italian) for Christmas presents under the tree and La Befana for the stockings at the beginning of January.

Apparently, Italian Santa Claus was too busy enjoying “la bella vita” to get around to taking care of stockings, so he enlisted the help of the good witch.

Personally, I think it’s kind of cool to have the gifts split up between two different holidays that are close together. Getting presents on multiple days is sort of like a mini Hanukkah!

Well, I hope you’ve all been good this year or Beffy will be leaving you a lump of coal. If you’re lucky, maybe she’ll give you some candy coal instead of the real thing!

Let me give you some advice

  • I meet up with my friends outside the bar where we’re going to have a few drinks and one of them asks ” Shouldn’t you be wearing a heavier jacket?”
  • I dunk my french fries in ketchup and a fellow McDonalder says “I don’t think you should use so much of that stuff, it’s not good for you.”
  • I’m at a store looking at some candle holders and shop assistant states “You should look at those silver ones over there. Also, make sure to buy 3 because 2 is bad luck.”

Unwanted and unsolicited advice is one of the things that drives me most bananas about living in Italy. I’m talking a big ol’ bunch of ripe Chiquitas here!

Italians love, lovelove voicing their opinion and giving you advice whether you want it or not. I, being an outgoing-yet-humble guy, have absolutely no problem voicing my opinion (which has a time and a place) or asking for advice (which needs to be left to the individual to decide whether or not to ask). But, Italian people (God love ‘em) for some reason think that their opinion/advice is exactly what you have been searching for and longing to hear.

Among themselves the situation goes without a hitch. An Italian will respond to unsolicited advice from another Italian by responding with some of their own. Both parties seem content to have expressed their opinion or shared their advice and then they both continue happily with their day. This is not so with me.

An unsuspecting (and essentially innocent) Italian will gawk at me with an expression of hurt surprise on their face when their unsought advice is met by my gruff “Who the hell asked you?!”

I know my jacket is light, I understand that too much ketchup isn’t good for you, and I am perfectly capable of selecting candle holders all by myself thank you!

I don’t want to seem hostile or non grateful towards my host culture, so, being that today is Thanksgiving (at least back in the USA), I’d like to close with something positive: I am thankful for my life here in Italy and all the wonderful/strange/exciting/frustrating things that come along with it!

Italian bog reader: “You know, Garrett, you really should have started your post with the Thanksgiving thing and I’m not sure that the Chiquita banana reference was pertinent.”

Me: “Shut it!”

(Okay, I just had to get one last zing in there) :-P

Ottobre*

* (that means “October” in Italian)

It’s my absolute favorite month for many reasons! Here are the top ones:

  • Halloween
  • my birthday
  • cold “snuggle” weather that’s not quite as bone-chilling as winter

Luckily, I can enjoy these three things living in Italy just as much as I did when I lived in America. There are, however, some things that I really do miss about being in America, especially in New England, during the month of October.

This year in Italy we had the warmest September in the last 150 years. It’s true! If you don’t believe me check out the story from the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. It’s in Italian though, so if you don’t speak Italian, you’re just going to have to go ahead and trust me on this one. Anyways, it was crazily warm here! I was going around in shorts and sleeping with the windows open until about two weeks ago. Even though this year was warmer than usual, autumn in general is less chilly than in Boston. I’m not sure if it’s because of the warmer temperature or different types of trees between The USA and Italy or even a combo of the both, but leaves here don’t put on that same spectacular show of changing into beautiful shades of red, yellow, and orange like they do in Massachusetts. The leaves in Italy seem to go from green to brown overnight and then just drop to the ground without any fanfare. The leaves changing color is something that I really miss! Not only because it’s always cool to see, but because it was also a sort of “signal” for me that October was here and that my two favorite holidays are coming up. (Yes, I consider my birthday a private holiday).

Another thing that I really miss is cinnamon flavored Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, candy apples, and pumpkin spice anything (latte, cookie, pancakes …). I love all autumny-spiced foods!  Every time I see an American friend’s Facebook status say something like “Having a hot pumpkin chai! Yum!” or see a picture they posted of them and their boyfriend/girlfriend making candy apples from the apples that they went and picked that weekend, I always think “That must be fun … insensitive jerk!”.

That said, there are some things that Italian October offers that American October doesn’t. One main thing, as I talked about in last year’s Halloween blog post, is the fact that the day after Halloween is a national holiday here, so you always have the day afterwards to rest up after your crazy Halloween party. Another thing is that you can find pumpkin ravioli and fried pumpkin flowers, which are both really delicious. Also, many small mountain towns in Italy have festivals in October where you can spend the day in the mountains wine-tasting and eating warm polenta. In fact, this year I went with my boyfriend and a couple of our friends to Morbegno for a fun wine-tasting where you get to go right into the cellars and sample the local wine accompanied by some brown breads and cheeses.

fried pumpkin flowers

So, it’s not a complete loss. There are plenty of ways to celebrate October right here in Italy, and fried pumpkin flowers are almost good enough to forget about the leaves not changing colors!

It’s the 4th of July! Where are the fireworks?

I just wanted to say Happy 4th of July to all of my American readers…. and Happy Normal Monday to the Italian ones! ;-)

Buon 4 luglio a tutti!

P.S. My Mom once asked me “What do the Italians do for the 4th of July?” … I responded “Um… well, being that it’s a holiday to celebrate American independence day, and Italians are … well … Italian… they do nothing at all”

I love you Mom! *kiss*

Somethin’ Fishy Is Going On

Hey guys! I just wanted to thank all my blog readers for following my adventures during these last 5 months.

Unfortunately, I won’t be writing anything else. My blog is being taken offline. Apparently the “powers that be” have a problem with an outgoing American living in Italy and writing a blog about his thoughts, ideas, interests, and observations.

Time to wrap it up kids!

So, this is it. It’s been fun, but now I gotta run.

Best,

Garrett

APRIL FISH!

I’m just kidding! I love keeping up my blog and I have no intention of quitting now! You can’t get rid of me that easily! :-P

Today, being April 1st, is April Fish day in Italy! It’s like April Fool’s day in the USA… ‘cept for with fish… and in Italy…

Nobody is really sure where Pesce d’Aprile (April Fish) originally got started (or at least none of the sources that I found on the internet could explain why!).

All I know is that you’re supposed to play pranks on people, so I chose you guys!

Pesce d’Aprile

I’ll be back soon with some more underwear changin’, don’t you worry!