Nine-Month Anniversary

For our nine-month anniversary of living abroad, I thought I’d switch things up and update everyone BuzzFeed-style. So without further adieu, here are nine things I still haven’t adjusted to as an American living in Geneva:

1. Subtitles.

When you go to the theater to see a movie in English, you’ll find subtitles in French and German filling the lower half of the screen and I still find it super distracting… Why was Newt renamed Norbert in the French version of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”?*

2. Price tags.

Not original, I know, but they never cease to amaze me. The latest shocker: Getting charged 36 francs — basically on par with $36 — to print a very simple poster for my group project. In the words of my father-in-law, holy cow.

3. Celsius.

I still can’t communicate with anyone about the weather. How warm was it in the mountains last weekend, I’m asked. Uh 25? 20? 15? Jeans and a light jacket? Why oh why America couldn’t you use the same measurement system as everyone else? And that goes for miles and pounds too. Speaking of…

4. Being on the hook to explain all things America.

The most recent queries have been, what the heck is the electoral college and what exactly do Americans do with marshmallow fluff? (courtesy of the giant vats in the “American” section of the supermarkets here). Not to mention all things Trump… 

5. How the buses and trains are never late.

This still amazes me and I absolutely love it, but if your train is scheduled to leave at 9:14am and you arrive at 9:15am, you’re going to be out of luck. That’s why when the train itinerary gives you only three minutes to switch from one train to another, you can do it without any hang ups. Amtrak should take a few notes…

6. Transience.

People were always coming and going in Washington, DC, but Geneva takes it to a whole new level. Since we got here in March, I’ve already seen several new friends leave for fresh pastures and others will sadly be departing soon too. We’re expecting to be here for two years and crazily that’s considered to be a long-term contract for the expat crowd in Geneva.

7. Never getting my passport stamped.

Don’t get me wrong, the ease of traveling within the Schengen zone is wonderful and was only confirmed by our more than hour-long wait to go through passport control in London this summer. Still, I had to get a new passport a few months ago and it remains sadly and somewhat suspiciously blank, particularly since U.S. citizens living abroad are given the thicker model with extra pages. Clearly we need to plan a trip to Moldova.

8. Multilingualism.

I always found it extremely impressive how Gui can move back and forth between English and French with such ease. But in Switzerland and other parts of Europe, it seems that’s somewhat the norm. One of my friends at school speaks French, Spanish and English fluently and is at a higher level in German than I have yet to reach in French. Quite humbling isn’t it, fellow Americans?

9. How much I’ve already gotten used to.

It’s funny how so many of the things that I found to be a hassle when we moved here – the fact that everything is closed after 7pm and all day on Sundays, the fact that you have to hold the shower nozzle in your hand while you shower, the fact that I can’t contact anyone in the states until the afternoon because of the time difference, the necessity of being able to switch between French and English as I go about my day – are just a normal part of everyday life now. I guess I’m more adaptable than I thought.


Wishing everyone a wonderful month of December from Geneva!


*The original post said Newt was named Norman in the German subtitles, rather than Norbert in the French subtitles. Please excuse my “N” name and language confusion 🙂

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