Life by the wild stream.
The first week in Zurich I was staying at the Schweizerhof and everything was so unfamiliar, I didn’t even dare go on the tram so I walked. It was the first time I lived someplace where I didn’t know the language. True, everyone in Zurich spoke English but hell, I couldn’t speak German. I couldn’t read the signs or know what other people were talking about.
Even with the language barrier I felt more at home there than in New York, the first thought when I landed at the airport was elation that I was back in Europe. The buildings and roads and the way people behaved, it was European, no question about it. But I can’t exactly put a finger on how European, it was just a very strong feeling. I gradually got used to blocking out what other people around me were saying. And I learnt enough Swiss German to take care of daily stuff.
I only saw 4 apartments and I could easily have chosen 3 of them, they were all nice. Where I finally ended up was even better than I thought, the reason I chose this apartment over the other 2 candidates was because it was within a very short walking distance of a Coop and the tram stop. The others were on bus routes and not as convenient. Little did I know that I’d managed to secure a place in Seefeld, where good apartments were rare as gold dust. Luck, pure luck.
It was one of four apartments in that house, nice and cosy on a quiet street. One apartment per floor, plenty of space. And our own basement storage space for boxes, suitcases and booze. And the basement was never dark or creepy, it was always clean. The washing machine was in the basement too.
Now let me stop here for a bit and talk a bit on the rules about living in Switzerland. Most people rent, property is expensive to buy. Leases can generally only be terminated each April and October although dates are becoming more flexible, I started my lease in August and terminated in February with no problems. Depending on how strict the building is (and by extension neighbours) there is a ban on doing laundry, cleaning and any noisy work on Sundays. Some buildings the laundry facilities are only “open” up to around 10pm. The most extreme case I’ve heard of is no flushing of the loo after 10pm for fear of waking the sensitive neighbours who might have already been in bed (!). Seriously.
Garbage must be placed in specially designated, and expensive, garbage bags. This goes along with the principle of “polluter pays” – the more trash you generate the more you expect to pay in disposal services. Makes a strange kind of sense. Garbage must also be sorted properly, items that can be recycled like glass, tins, pet bottles, batteries and the like should be removed and placed in appropriate recycling bins. Every couple of weeks is the newspaper collection, the paper must be stacked neatly and tied with string for easy collection. Once every month or so is the cardboard collection. Failure to comply with these garbage disposal rules will bring on the wrath of the dreaded garbage police and a hefty fine. To be honest, after a while it becomes automatic and it’s all towards a better envrionment anyway.
Back to my apartment. Reason I knew immediately it was the place: gas hobs, carpeting, wall panels and wooden ceiling panels. Oh and the fabulous dark wood, fully equipped kitchen with the did-I-mention-them-before gas hobs? Most places have electric and having gas was an absolute godsend. The kitchen opened out to a large dining room and that’s where me and my friends spent most of our time. To have a semi-open kitchen/dining room was so great for dinner parties, once for dessert I made everyone make brownies there and then and it was a blast. I moved to Zurich without possession of a dining table and I was glad my friends forced me to buy one so they can fully utilise it. Hee.
TV wasn’t interesting, and there were limited channels I could understand, so the living room wasn’t used that much. Eventually I gave the blue carpet away because it didn’t fit in the space. It had windows on 2 sides and would get both the morning and afternoon sun. The view out during snow time was pretty good too.
Bedroom was a boring square shaped room. I only had the bed and chest of drawers there so it really wasn’t interesting at all. The study was the bigger room of the two. I had the second closet, desk, bookshelf, my entire X-files collection on the floor and my rug in the centre and there was still plenty of space left. It was the one room in the apartment that didn’t have open views, from the window facing my desk I could see what the neighbours were up to very clearly.
Usual place to shop was either the Coop near work which was open till 8pm, for special foods either Jemoli or Globus. Not much point going to the Coop at home during the week cos it closed at 6pm, it was useful on a Saturday if I need something quick. Oh yes, shops close early in Switzerland and only shops at train stations and airports open on a Sunday, and only to sell certain stuff. Immaculate planning is usually required. Most non-food shopping, like clothes and books and shampoo and even getting a haircut I would do in London. I kid you not. I would fly back to London at least once a month, it was so easy to just book a flight on the net and fly the same day.