Bahnofstrasse Zurich

We have only been in Switzerland a short time (10 weeks, at last count!), but have had to use the healthcare system six times already!  Wow, I hadn’t actually counted until just now.  That’s a lot for such a short time period.

The week we arrived Jillian developed an infection and was feeling absolutely rotten.  It was 5:00pm on a Saturday night, and we quickly realized that we didn’t know who to call or what to do.  Not even our pediatrician in Minnesota would be available for a phone consultation.   So thank goodness for the internet!  

In Zurich, at the Bahnofstrasse (train station) no less, is a walk-in Urgent Care clinic.  Peter took our girl to the clinic, but because it was quite busy was directed to a kinder version across the street where they guaranteed she would be seen immediately.

Some new friends of ours have used this clinic, called Permanence, and it sounds like the physicians even handle folks with broken bones and cardiac problems!  Glad we haven’t had to deal with that.  

We hadn’t yet signed up for the compulsory health insurance, but received great care — Jillie was seen by a Pediatric Surgeon who was on-call, and the rest of the staff were equally professional.  A dose of antibiotics and some ibuprofen and she was feeling as good as new.  And front desk staff apologized for the bill — because it was emergency service which included lab work, ultrasound, and all medications.   The bill was $185.  Can you believe that?






And here is the reason that we are living in Switzerland:



The Tonhalle Zürich is an amazing concert hall built in 1895.  Isn’t it beautiful?  I am in love with those chandeliers.  The concert hall will undergo a renovation in the next year.  The pillars lining the hall were painted decades ago, but underneath the restorers found intricately decorated scenes.  

The Grosser Saal (Great Hall) was inaugurated by Johannes Brahms performing his Triumplied op. 55.  In another life, Peter would have loved to sit down and have a beer with Brahms — so to be working on the stage where Brahms conducted is thrilling.  

It would be an inspiring place to work, no?


Old Town – Alstadt


gratuitous photo of Frederick in his darling little hat

It is still cold, though we’ve had a brief glimpse of Spring here and there.  But this weekend, we were out and about walking through the Old Town of Zurich.  I am constantly amazed at how much beauty there is in these old stucco and stone buildings!  The windows are so charming and adorable, aren’t they?  And the flowers in the window boxes seem to bloom year round.


The bakery above is still in operation.  Can you believe that?  If you’ve walked the Independence Trail in Boston, it’s a marvel to see the crooked stone homes and fence posts.  Now add a few hundred years (or a thousand!) and — wow.  It’s incredible to be surrounded by so much history.


Alstadt – Rathaus Bridge, Fraumunster Cathedral, and Zunfthaus zur Meisen

The next time I’m not pushing a stroller loaded with kids (Frederick is 25lbs at six months!), I’ll show you the beautiful storefronts that line the cobbled streets in Alstadt.  Believe it or not, there’s even a Carhartt store.


Trip to the grocery



Those of you that know us well know that we love good food. (I sometimes like to show my love for food on my hips. 🙂 Some of our favorite experiences in our new home city so far have been finding food at the markets.  There are little shops like the one above, and larger chain grocery stores, and really wonderful outdoor markets (I’ll share on this another time!). 



Prices are the much the same as shopping at a food co-op in the States, and sometimes quite different.  Huge bottles of sparkling mineral water?  Amazing bars of chocolate?  Fresh , warm baguette?  Organic tea?  Super cheap!  A bottle of mineral water is about 25 cents.  And Swiss chocolate — about 80 cents each.  Oh…it is all so good.  

It’s Switzerland, so some grocery items are more expensive, such as meats and cheese and milk.  Livestock is more time, space, and energy-intensive to care for, so all in all, I guess it makes sense that it cost more to produce.   We eat a little less meat and a little more bread and chocolate.  It all works out.  Each time I pick up a package of this or that I get a little kick out of seeing the Swiss flag representing something produced in the country. It tastes better, I swear!






Family Stories

A friend recommended a fascinating article from the New York Times called  The Stories That Bind Us.  Have you read it?  The piece is about the discovery of the importance of a healthy family narrative and its impact on the emotional well-being of children.  

The researchers developed a measure called “Do You Know?”, a set of 20 questions that ranged from Do you know where your grandparents grew up? to Do you know where your parents met? and Do you know the story of your birth?


It turns out that the more a child knows of their family history, the more control they feel over their lives.  The scale turned out to be the biggest predictor of a child’s emotional well-being and happiness.  Isn’t that amazing?



Quinn at the Zurich-see

The article is timely for me.  This family has been in huge transition for the past six months:  We have added a new baby to the family, lost a job, gained a new job, sold our home, packed or donated everything we own, said good-bye to family and friends, moved across the world, and immersed ourselves into a new culture and language.  We are tired!  😉

Every day we try to check in with the older kids to make sure they are doing well.  The little ones need an extra dose of cuddling too.  While we are in the midst of this great experiment and creating new stories, this article is a great reminder of the importance of family history.   Tonight we will add a bedtime story to our routine…


Before we moved to Switzerland we had already decided that the kids would be enrolled in the local public school.  The International School teaches essentially a US curriculum and the classes are spoken in English, but tuition is around $30,000 a year per child!  So, yeah, just a tad outside our financial reach.  Our hope (and frankly, our only expectation) was that if nothing else happened, they would learn German and make some friends.  Everything else can fall into place in due time.

We have always been homeschoolers, so this has been an education for all of us.  Slowly we are all getting the hang of the school schedule.

The Swiss schedule absolutely works best for homes with one parent at home.  School in Thalwil begins at 8:20am and shuts down each day from 11:55am to 1:40pm.  Depending on the age of the child, some days they go back until 3:20 and some days are home for the rest of the day.  Every Wednesday is a half day of school for everyone.  Quinn has two ‘whole’ days of school per week, and Jillian has four ‘whole’ days.

From Kindergarten (age 6+ here) forward, kids are encouraged to walk (or even take mass transit) by themselves or with friends.  Depending on their size, small kids wear a school-dispensed “collar” with  reflectors for crossing streets.  Quinn was ecstatic to be tall enough to not have to wear the collar!

The school calendar has taken some getting used to — one full week of school followed by a week-long “ski holiday”.  Then two weeks in session followed by a long weekend or a “spring break”.  I’m thinking they avoid the traditional summer “brain-drain” by keeping the vacations dispersed throughout the year.  The Swiss school summer vacation this year is only 5 weeks long.

The days are spent doing lots of (Swiss) math and with German tutors, but also include lots of recess/play time, and trips to the swimming pool or ice-skating rink.  The kids have each already taken a trip to the woods where they hike and then build fires to roast sausages.  In a couple of weeks, Jillian’s class will be spending time in the forest building a bridge.  🙂

All in all, the kids are loving school and have adapted far better than we could have imagined.  And in only a few weeks we are astounded at how quickly they are acquiring the language — and friends.  Yay!

:: Welcome ::


Since our move to Switzerland we have been trying our best to keep in touch with all of our friends and family. (Yes, sorry, that was our best effort….) Almost every day I am feeling some form of guilt over how the days have passed without a phone call to Grandma, or a thank you note to friends for hospitality while we were in transition. Instead of doing mass email dumps or amping up news coverage on Facebook, I will instead write about our experiences on this blog.  And this way, I figure, when I talk about the the places we’ve visited, Swiss public schools, the price of down comforters and off-brand diapers, applying for a Swiss Visa, or the national ban on corn syrup, well, you’ve been warned. If you are reading this I will assume it’s because you WANT to read it. 🙂

Get ready for lots of photos and snippets of our new life as transplants from Minnesota and this Swiss American Life.  Here we go!