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Subtle Differences

There are some huge differences in living in Switzerland versus Minnesota, such as the language, the mountain scenery, and the centuries old city, but there are also some subtle differences we didn’t think of such as…



All the keys I’ve seen in America have been a pretty standard form; a long piece of metal, with ridges and flat areas at different heights to work the pins in the lock.  Here, however, we were given a set of weird looking keys like the one shown above for our apartment. There are holes on all four sides of the key and a weird little sliding part.  I’m not sure how the pins in the lock work, but they do look more futuristic so they might be more secure too.


Door knobs: 

It might just be where we live and where we’ve been visiting, but I haven’t seen a door knob yet in this country.  Everywhere I look its the push down type of door handle.


Light Switches:

No light switches here either.  Everything I’ve seen is a push button type like the picture above.


Toilet handles:

Our apartment, hotels, stores, Melissa’s work, none of the toilets have toilet handles or tanks.  They all have a two button system, one button flushes a little water, the other flushes a little more.


Garbage Bags:

Lausanne requires all residents to buy special garbage bags at 2 francs a piece.  It was quite the ordeal to find them.  The stores sell the standard clear, and black bags in their aisles, but to get the proper bag that you can actually put in the dumpster you have to ask the cashier for them.



I’m not much of a fashionista, but even I’ve noticed a few things. The men all seem to love wearing scaves, and there is a particular haircut with the hair shaved about a quarter inch all around the bottom and sides, but left 2 to 3 inches long on the top that a lot of men seem to have.  The women wear a lot more high heels and skirts, and everyone seems to be dressed more formally all the time.


No one checks train tickets:

Melissa rides the metro to work everyday, and I’ve taken it a few times too.  So far no one has checked our tickets.  We have been told that they are randomly checked, but it doesn’t seem to be too often. Something tells me a public transit system like this,  where tickets are bought on the honor system, wouldn’t work well in America.


Store hours/Sundays:

It hasn’t been much of a problem for us yet, but another thing we’ve noticed is the store hours are considerably shorter here.  Most stores close at 7PM and are closed all day on Sunday.  It does take a little planning to make sure we have supper for Sunday night,   but one good thing to come of this is that the streets are nearly completely empty on Sundays.


Good Chocolate:

Both supermarkets we visit have an entire aisle dedicated to chocolate.  Even the most inexpensive chocolate bars are silky smooth.  I don’t think there is any of that chalky, cheap chocolate you can find in America.


Bad Beer:

The beer selection here is surprisingly disappointing.  There are a lot of lagers, and belgian styles, but mostly big brands like Stella, and Feldschlossen.  We have had no luck finding ales, or hoppy american style IPA’s.  The silver lining to this is the wine selection. Both Melissa and I are more keen to drink beer but in time maybe we can turn into wine snobs, who drink nothing but the finest from France, Italy, Switzerland and Spain (as long as it costs less than 10 francs).

6 thoughts on “Subtle Differences”

  1. In my time spent in eastern Europe I learned to appreciate the plumbing we have in America. Also, I never understood by a European plugin is 3x the size of an American plugin…conform already.

    1. The worst part about the plugs is not even every country in Europe has the same types. Switzerland’s are just different shaped enough to sometimes not fit in French outlets.

  2. Good luck finding an IPA in continental Europe. Time to develop a taste for pilsners. America in the last 5 or so years is basically the only place where IPAs have ever been widely available.

    That being said, the wine, chocolate, and cheese there is much higher quality. Sausages were also way better in Germany.

    1. I forgot about the cheese, they have about 100 varieties in the supermarkets, and we’re been slowly trying different ones. Cheese might be a good enough subject I could write a stand alone post on it. I’ll mark it for later…

  3. In regards to light rail transit systems, many of them in the US are similar to what you are finding there. Where the ticket is purchased on an honor system. All of the light rail in the twin cities is that way. Several other cities I have visited were that way too.

    I love the contrast to America discussion! To quote one of my favorite comediens, “It’s like those French have a different word for EVERYTHING!”

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