Ashley and I have been in Lausanne for about 10 days now, so I thought it would be interesting to write down some of our first impressions as we start to make it our new home. Of course, there are a few things that will take some figuring out and some getting used to. But overall we are very happy to be here, and have had a nice experience so far!
Here are some things we've noticed:
Everything is closed on Sundays (and apparently it will be worse come Christmas!)
When we made our travel plans, we never considered how complicated it would be for us to arrive on a Sunday. As it turns out, *everything* is closed here on Sundays. Grocery store, pharmacy, everything. We had to buzz the security guard at a deserted IMD to pick up the key to our apartment. We didn't have any bed linens, and there was nowhere that we could go to buy any, not even in Geneva! Thankfully we happened to know someone in Lausanne who graciously agreed to lend us pillows and a comforter. Lifesaver!
When in doubt, go to the Gare
If you made the same mistake we did, and found yourself with no food on a Sunday, head over to the Gare (the main train station). There are a couple stores that are open, where you can find some food and basic necessities to get you to Monday morning.
Transportation is as good as advertised
We've had a chance to take multiple means of transportation at this point, and have been impressed with every single one. When we first arrived, we picked up a rental car and drove from Geneva to Lausanne. What a fantastic drive! We've been riding the buses and the metro pretty regularly to run our errands, and have been very pleased with how clean, frequent and punctual they are. We even took a longer CFF train trip this past weekend, and that was a great experience as well. If only every country could have mass transit like this!
The lake and mountains are awe-insipiring
Every time we catch a glimpse of the lake through the houses or the mountains in the distance, it makes us stop and appreciate how incredible they are. We're lucky we've had a string of good weather and clear days, including some spectacular sunsets.
There are a lot of logistics
It's a little overwhelming to try and figure out all our new responsibilities now that we are residents of Switzerland. As expected, there seem to be a lot of rules. The problem is we hear about them, and want to make sure we don't break them, but we can never find full information. A couple of the biggest things: if your building has communal laundry, you will be assigned a time slot when you can actually use the machines; for trash, you must use the ridiculously expensive, "official" green and white garbage bags. I'm sure we'll stumble upon many others over the next few weeks.
Superb doctors and healthcare
Since we arrived we've been able to see a couple of doctors and visit a couple of hospitals in anticipation for the arrival of Little Marshmallow. We are very impressed by how attentive everyone has been. The doctors have been very thorough and have spent a lot of time with us understanding our situation, running all the checks and tests. They have gone the extra mile explaining to us what to expect over here and how things here may be different from the US. We were a little apprehensive about having the baby in a new country, but we feel much better now that we've had such a good experience.
Yes, things really are expensive
Nothing new here - we knew we'd get here and immediately feel the impact of how pricey everything would be. What's been surprising is that some things are exorbitant, and some others are actually fairly reasonable. Meat, for example, is absurdly expensive. That's rather upsetting for a big carnivore like myself. Cheese, however, is pretty reasonably priced considering the excellent quality. Other things I've found to be pretty reasonable: renting a car wasn't bad at all; our new printer wasn't too bad either. Maybe in the future I'll come up with a more thorough list.
Speaking French would be helpful
Although I speak practically zero French, I've been able to get by somehow. I've been able to find a language in common with whoever I am trying to talk to, or worst case, the old hand gestures have done the trick. Most people speak multiple languages, and a lot of the time English is one of them. I have had to improvise in Italian and Spanish a bit too. No question though, knowing at least some basic French will prove to be helpful. Thankfully Ashley has been handling most of the communications, and has also been patiently trying to teach me.
As it turns out, German would be helfpul too!
As we've been learning, if you ever try to surf the internet from within Switzerland, you will inevitably come across some sites that are automatically in German. The craziest thing - some don't even have a French, Italian or English page. It's been fun navigating through the Babies R Us website trying to figure out which link would take us to the strollers and the cribs.
Living here involves a lot of climbing
Going places here inevitably involves going up at least one huge hill or staircase. Poor Ashley, can't be easy to do when you're 8+ months pregnant! The one good thing is that it does prove helpful when we need to find our bearings. Up, toward the city, down, toward the lake. Sadly it always seems to be that everything we need is "up."
Charming local stores
I love how, at least in our neighborhood, there are so many local "mom and pop" type stores. There is a butcher shop, a fromagerie (cheese shop), bakery, tea room... so much good stuff, just walking down the street makes me hungry every time.
The weather makes a big difference
When we visited in April the weather was always overcast and never managed to get a peek at the mountains. We left with the impression that Lausanne was a little gray and gloomy. This week we arrived and have had some gorgeous sunny days, and we now the city feels a lot more vibrant and exciting.
We could get used to this view