Stranded in Switzerland

April 16, 2010, 4 Comments

A Vulcan in Ireland. That’s how a Swiss person explained the current flight problem to me. It took me a couple of moments to get past an image of Spock drinking Guinness in Cork, and wondering how that was affecting European air space (perhaps there’s more to the mind-meld than we first thought?). Then I twigged that volcano in German is Vulkan and the islands of Iceland and Ireland are only one letter apart. Given all the dust flying round the atmosphere, it was easy for the translation to get lost somewhere over the North Atlantic. But thanks to a certain volcano in Iceland (which no-one on the Swiss news ever attempts to pronounce), I’m writing this in Bern instead of waiting for my luggage at London City airport carousel.

My non-trip to London has truly brought home what it means to be an expat. And not just any expat, but a British one. If I were one of the many thousands of Germans living in Switzerland, I could just hop on a train or hire a car to go back and see my family, but that 21 miles of water between Calais and Dover prevents that. It may have saved Britain from Napoleon and Hitler, but it certainly can be irritating at times. Early thoughts of catching a train via Paris or driving to Calais vanished as quickly as the last remaining tickets. Britain has never felt so far away as right at this moment.

The 21st-century has transformed expat life. I live in Switzerland but I no longer have to read three-day old papers, wait for handwritten letters to come in the post, or sit through badly-dubbed television programmes. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology I can watch EastEnders, read The Guardian online, have text conversations with friends and talk to my family on Skype. It’s actually not that different from living in Britain except that the trains run on time, there’s no litter in the streets and the cheese has holes. Oh, and you don’t understand a word once you step outside the front-door. So it’s rather like living in Glasgow. Now if the Swiss supermarkets could just start selling Ribena and golden syrup, I’d be happy. Salt & vinegar crisps arrived earlier this year (a big moment for those of us with withdrawal symptoms) so there is hope.

So tomorrow I’m making the most of a few unanticipated days off work and going to Germany. By car. Instead of meeting my publisher at the London Book Fair, I’ll be climbing up Ulm Cathedral. It’s 768 steps up to the top of the world’s tallest church spire. Let’s hope it’s not high enough for it to be closed too.

4 Comments on "Stranded in Switzerland"

  1. Tam Friday April 23rd, 2010 at 09:15 PM · Reply

    I think Globus on Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich sells Golden syrup…..

    I enjoy your newly found blog. I heard you have agreed to come to the American WOmen’s Club in Zurich so that will be interesting.

  2. swisswatching Saturday April 24th, 2010 at 08:12 AM · Reply

    Thanks for the tip Tam. I’ll check in Globus here in Bern first, though knowing Globus I will need to take out a mortgage for the golden syrup! Looking forward to meeting everyone at the AWCZ.

  3. Janie Friday May 7th, 2010 at 02:02 AM · Reply

    Just wondering if the book will be sold in the US.

    • swisswatching Friday May 7th, 2010 at 08:11 AM · Reply

      Hi Janie. Of course it will! Official US publication date is 16 July but you can pre-order on Amazon already – just click on ‘About the book’ at the top of the page and there’s a direct link. Or you can pre-order it on Barnes & Noble online, and by July it will be in all good bookshops. Hope you enjoy reading it.

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