Send your toast soldiers back to the barracks. Switzerland didn't get to be the country it is today by having a soft centre.
All year round, but especially come Easter time, hard boiled eggs are a snack of choice. You can't help but notice the "Picnick-Eier" (picnic eggs) in the shops. The shells of these ready-boiled eggs are brightly painted in every shade of the rainbow. Sometime they're patterned too, or they even sport the Swiss flag. The shades vary in many different ways. But when it comes to eating them the rules are, as we've come to expect in Switzerland, exact (or should that be eggs-act?).
After you've peeled off the luminous shell you need to season the egg before you bite in. And plain old salt and pepper won't cut the mustard. Ironically, neither will actual mustard. You need to sprinkle your egg with a magical powder know as "Aromat" (shown below).
This stuff has been around since the fifties and I think the best way to describe it is as a powdered version of a stock cube which, incidentally, was invented in Switzerland).
I'm not sure, however, that crumbling an oxo cube on your boiled egg will have the same effect. This stuff is a unique blend of salt and spices. And it's pretty good. I'd recommend giving it a try.
Zoe loves the eggs, albeit without the Aromat. She eats them at least twice a week for breakfast.
For this Brit, however, you can't beat a dippy egg. And pass me the plain old salt.
Immigration is a hot topic in Switzerland. As you may have heard, a little while back Switzerland voted to limit immigration using a quota system. The vote was passed by the slimmest of margins, just 0.3%. Worth noting is that the cantons (regions in Switzerland) that voted in favour of a cap on immigration tended to be those that are more rural. They are also the ones that I've not been to yet. In fact, there's actually a clear correlation between the cantons I've been to and a positive view of immigration. Interesting...
Anyhow, I thought it was pretty cool that the Cantons with big cities that have large expat communities were against limiting immigration. Since the vote, many people have implied that the Swiss are xenophobic, but I think that's an extremely unfair generalisation.
For me, and for many of the Swiss folks we know, the international feel in Zürich is one of its biggest attractions. When I get on the tram in the morning I can hear a mix of English, German, French, Spanish, and Russian. Not all from the same person you understand. The Swiss are good at languages, but they're not that good.
It's a bit like getting on the tube in London, in that respect (though thankfully not in others – see earlier post on Swiss transport).
On an international note, I play football every week with a group of lads from all over the world. It's awesome. We all have different backgrounds and nationalities but the beautiful game transcends all language barriers. The stereotypes are all conformed to as well. The brazilians like to dribble, the spaniards try and play pass 'n' move and the English miss penalties (sorry again boys).
If, or rather, when, I miss a chance, I get chastised by teammates in about six different languages. The plus side to having terrible shooting skills is that I've now learnt swear words in pretty much every language.
The office is really international too. Amongst others I work with lots of Swiss folks, some Germans and a fair few Swedes. My boss is American. I even heard a rumour there was someone from Madagascar working in the building.
But I think probably the best thing to come out of my new international environment is the information I am about to share with you.
As you've probably sensed, the British royal family has quite a following, even way beyond the Commonwealth. It's no different in Spain, where celeb magazines like Hola! like to run pics of Wills, Kate and baby George. If you were to look at captions however, you'd be a little surprised.
You see, as I've learned from Spanish colleagues, and the Spanish ladies in my German class, the Spanish translate the names of major public figures into Spanish. So, for them, the next in line to the English throne is not Prince Charles, but, wait for it, Prince Carlos!
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge? Oh, you mean Catalina and Guillermo. And how cute is their baby son Jorge !?!
Plus, just like the tabloids, the Spanish press like to keep tabs on what the rebellious Principé Henrique is up to! (That's Harry to you or I).
Isn't that awesome? Prince Charles seems much cooler if you refer to him as Carlos. I think I'll be doing that from now on.
Mike Stuart moved to Switzerland in 2013 when his better half Zoë landed a job in Zurich.