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

Switzerland: where water flows like … water

Poland SpringsI’m not a big fan of having to pay for drinking water. If I live in a place where the tap water is perfectly drinkable, it irks me to have to buy a bottle of water to drink, when free stuff is just flowing out of the taps.

In America, we’re much less into bottled water than in Europe. Ok, I mean, maybe if we’re out on the town and buy a hot dog from a street vendor, we might buy a bottle of water to go with it. But in general, America is a big tap water drinking nation. At restaurants in the USA, waiters bring you a big cold glass of tap water without even needing to ask for it (unless, of course, you’re at some fancy-schmancy place where they offer you San Pellegrino… at a price). At home, we just turn on the kitchen sink when we’re thirsty (unless you’re my Mom, who since moving to California from Massachusetts, thinks the local tap water tastes weird … but that’s an exception and a totally different story).

When I lived in Italy, I noticed that they had some ornate water fountains around on the streets and in the piazzas that you could fill a bottle up with or even drink directly from. At first, I wasn’t exactly sure what the deal was and was hesitant to drink from these fountains. They looked purely decorational, plus the water is constantly flowing from these European drinking fountains. There is no “on/off” switch that you need to press.  The concept was so foreign to me.

We, of course, have free public fountains in America, but they are usually indoors, located in places like a school, gym, or waiting room. They’re clearly for drinking and are pretty standard.

typical water fountain

typical water fountain – easily seen all over the USA

These fountains in Italy that I’m talking about were decidedly more ornate and were located outside on the street, in the open air. They were part of the ambiance of the city … but you could also get 100% free, completely drinkable water from them. So cool, right? I used them often, and whenever I knew I would be out for the day, I would just toss an empty water bottle in my bag so I could fill it up whenever I was thirsty. Free thirst-quenching win! Here are a few examples of Italian water fountains:

a water fountain in Milan

water fountain in Milan

water fountain in Bologna

water fountain in Bologna

Now that I live in Switzerland, I can enthusiastically report that Zurich has tons of free drinking fountains all over the city, and it’s awesome! There are so many, in fact, that when I have visitors, I make them play the “water fountain game” where the only rule is that you must take a sip from every new fountain you see as we meander around the city. Now, I carefully chose the phrase “make them play” because there are so many fountains that my visitors usually end up water-logged, begging me to quit the game. They can’t. Fun!

These fountains range from very simple to simply astounding. Some even have a separate spigot near the ground for dogs, like this basic Swiss water fountain here:

Simple Fountain

I spent a lovely sunny afternoon strolling around Zurich taking pictures for you of some of my favorite fountains that you can drink from. Just click on any of the below photos to see ’em all nice an’ big!

 Well, that’s all for today. Let’s close with a water seeeeelfie!

Seeeeelfie

 

 

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! :-)

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!

Instagram Addiction

Instagram ItaliaRagazzi, I have to tell you something. I’m addicted to Instagram. I first hinted at my addiction in a previous blog post, but now I think it’s full blown! I need help! I feel compelled to photograph everything I see, play around with filters and frames, and share them with the world. I think I’ve even gotten to the point where I actually consider myself a real photographer – one of the last symptoms of somebody with this type of addiction.

This addiction, unlike many others, does have a positive side to it: you guys get to see a bunch of pictures of Italy! So, revel in my dependency and enjoy the photo gallery!

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This is garbage!

I love the 80's The 80’s are totally back! For sure! 

I don’t know if it’s the same right now in America, but in Italy the 80’s are back with a vengeance! Fashion-wise, things like bright neon colors, retro printed tees, and bangle bracelets are all the rage! Music seems to be referencing the 1980’s more and more too with synthpop tunes that are best listened to on oversized 80’s-style headphones. Even some 80’s toys are back, like GPK (that’s Garbage Pail Kids to those of you not in the know).

Adam BombGarbage Pail Kids are these crude sticker-cards that feature gross-out situations and aptly named kids. I loved them when I was young. In fact, I still have a box full of them in storage somewhere in my parents’ house. I was thrilled to find them here in Italy too, especially because they’re even cooler since they’re in Italian! Toilet talk is just classier when it’s in another language!

Cerno-BillGarbage Pail Kids were originally launched in Italy under the name Sgorbions (playing off of the Italian word sgorbio, meaning ugly and freakish). The version I came across is the re-released edition that are called Kakkones (playing off of the Italian word cacca, meaning poop). For some interesting history on GPK in Italy click here.

 

I took a few pictures of Italian Kakkones and a re-release pack of American GPK that I picked up back in the USA. I wanted to delve into the different ways that these two cultures treat barf, snot, zits, and flesh wounds. This is some truly groundbreaking stuff and I expect to be asked to speak at some honorable universities around the globe on this very topic.  ;-P


One last point. Having a more unusual name like Garrett is neat-o, but it always meant having a harder time finding keychains and decorative license plates with my name on it. It also meant that I never found a Garrett Garbage Pail Kid. That’s something I’ve always yearned for. I would get mad at my friends when we found a card with their name on it because I was jealous. I mean, it wasn’t my fault that my parents were more creative than theirs! Butt-bit Brandon? Screw you! Messy Melissa? Unfair!

Some online research unveiled this one here below, but it’s spelled with only 1 “t” so that doesn’t count.Gassy Garret

Luckily, some creativity and an iPhone app have finally made it possible for me to chase down one of my dreams. I leave you today, ladies and gentleman, with the world premier of the Garrett GPK!

Grody Garrett

Grody Garrett