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What I Didn't Do On My Holiday – Basel, Switzerland

I got up at 5 a.m. this morning-not because it seemed like a good idea at the time, more because my body was convinced that it was 11 a.m. and I’d slept in. Such is the thrill of jetlag after returning to Harvard from three months in Basel, Switzerland.

We had a fabulous summer with great coffee, frequent trips to the mountains and an endless supply of sunny days. But instead of ranting on about what a fine time it all was I thought I’d tell you some things that I didn’t do in Switzerland.

I didn’t shop
Basel made Boston look cheap. I never thought I’d say this but it has been pleasant coming back to Boston’s ‘sane’ prices. I will hopefully never again have to pay such an insane price for a pound of flesh. We were vegetarians for a while there until we discovered that meat was a third of the price across the border in Germany. Similarly silly sums of money were passed over for children’s shoes, toy cow bells and train tickets. It’s a good thing that their currency looks like Monopoly money…
I didn’t lose out on calcium

Switzerland is not for the lactose intolerant. The cheapest things to eat were unfortunately chocolate and cheese. And both were abundant. It wouldn’t surprise me if there is a local delicacy somewhere in the Alps of chocolate-coated fondue. Needless to say, our plans of losing a little weight over summer were quickly dashed and we are once again relying on Boston’s chilly winter to shed those added pounds.

I didn’t like diets
That is not to say that I wasn’t on a number of diets while in Switzerland. My least favorite was the e-mail diet. This is where extortionate costs for internet access reduce your online time from eight hours a day (thanks to SFP’s high-speed lines) to two-and-a-half minutes a week. To those of you who still have me on your contact list, thank you. I plan on gorging myself in true ex-dieters fashion to make up for lost time. Such was the trauma of ‘e-mail separation anxiety’ that I am even looking forward to receiving spam.

I didn’t listen to Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’
And did you know that there is no word in Swiss-German for emancipate? (Well actually there is-it’s ’emanzipiert’ but it probably translates as ‘something that happens in other countries’). Women only got the vote in 1971. I found this particularly upsetting since it meant there is only one generation of women who believe that their place might be anywhere other than the home. This also meant that being seen outside of the home with children meant that any passer-by could loudly pass judgment about your parenting skills. In this way I learned that children should not be out of the house before 8 a.m. nor between the hours of noon and 2 p.m. nor during their nap times of 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Effectively, children were supposed to be locked up at home.

I didn’t get claustrophobic
During the second week there I was introduced to our own personal bomb shelter. Yes, regulatory requirements in buildings stipulates that every rental property must have its own double concrete and steel-enclosed space in which you can… well, store you crates of chocolate, of course.

I did return to Boston confused
Perhaps the hardest thing to get to grips with, on returning to Boston, is the correct etiquette for greeting old friends. In Basel it was four kisses for the French, three for the Italians, a handshake for the Germans and a friendly slap on the back for a fellow expat. Heaven forbid that you should call someone by the informal “you” if you hadn’t known them for at least a decade (this I learnt to my detriment after being too chummy with my landlady). On returning to Boston I’ve taken to vaguely kissing the air until the other person stops or looks at me funny.

So there you have it-what I didn’t do on my holidays. I can safely say that I wasn’t underwhelmed, I wasn’t too unpleasantly surprised, I certainly didn’t not miss my friends and I am not unpleased to be back.

And with so many double negatives I need to go and have a little lie-down. I can only blame the jetlag.

September 15, 2003
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