I never know what I’m doing here, but one of the perks about plucking yourself out of your normal routine and plopping yourself down in unfamiliar territory, is that you can immediately feel OK about not knowing what you are doing. Living abroad can be confusing (and embarrassing), but it is also comforting to know that it’s not (all) just me being ridiculous. Sometimes I think I could write a book about how to embarrass yourself abroad, but then I realize that for me it would simply be one instruction: walk outside. Here are a few examples of me doing just that. Continue reading
We casually mentioned to friends and family back in the states last November that we were heading to Ireland in March for the kids’ spring break. Within a few days, three people had booked flights to meet us there. Turns out, most of the people we know in America are part Leprechaun and have been waiting for an excuse to visit their motherland and gather more lucky charms. We wanted to explore the Atlantic coast and were able to find a great house to rent that fit all of us on Dingle Peninsula.
“I can’t wait to go to Hamsterdam!” our four-year-old exclaimed shortly after we booked our late-March weekend trip. And while a city full of giant, fuzzy rodents driving clear plastic balls to work or walking around town through colorful tubes sounded awesome, we had to break the news to her that Amsterdam did not have an “H” at the beginning of it. But (almost as cool?) there were going to be tulips. Millions of tulips, maybe gazillions. Tulips in every color: blooming here, blooming there, blooming like they just don’t care!
In the late 1980’s in America there was a drug store chain that changed their name to “Osco.” Nobody in corporate did a foreign language search on the word “Osco.” Turns out it sounded just like “Asco” which translates to “disgusting” in Spanish and sales suffered in markets with Spanish speaking populations. In the present-day world of the internet, you would think that companies do a bit of international research on their brand, but perhaps they should also employ some teenagers to check for international slang meanings? Or maybe they shouldn’t, because, really, do we want to live in a world with an “Ass Bar Bakery” or do we want to live in a world without one?
As we’ve been wandering around Switzerland and western Europe this year, we’ve been compiling a few of our favorite examples of German/French brands that translate into American English slang.
Going to a thermal bath/pool was at the top of my list of ‘Switzerland Goals’ this year, and it overlapped quite nicely with our girls’ constant drive to find a pool. Finally, in Locarno near the Swiss border with Italy, I found my opportunity. Even though it was February, the pool was warm (a terrific 95 degrees F), and you could swim to both indoor and outdoor sections of the same pool. The outdoor part had an *amazing* view of Lake Maggiore and the nearby mountains of both Switzerland and Italy. It was the perfect thing to do on a February afternoon that was a bit too cold to spend outside. What I didn’t realize is that what I thought of as the perfect confluence of relaxation and fun, turns out to be my husband’s own personal hell. In retrospect, I can see where our paths diverged.
“What is that yellow circle emoji in my weather app next Friday?” Barry wondered out loud as he scanned the ten day forecast for potential places to do a weekend trip. “The sun.” Jana replied. That’s right, a sunny day was being forecast for a weekend in February in Bellinzona, Switzerland. Within an hour, plans were finalized for a quick trip down into the Italian-speaking, and slightly warmer, region of Switzerland. Unfortunately, the next day that forecasted yellow circle emoji was replaced with a cloud. We went anyway–there are palm trees there, how cold could it be?
Beginning the first Monday after Ash Wednesday each winter, the normally reserved Basel-folk don masks, grab their piccolos and let their freak flags fly for exactly 72 hours straight. Okay, by “freak flags” I mean lots of marching, confetti and satire – this is Switzerland, after all. Basel’s Fasnacht is said to be the largest carnival in Switzerland and dates back to, at least, the 14th century (many city archives were destroyed in the earthquake of 1356, so it is hard to say exactly when it began here). Continue reading