Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Bad Week to Not Be Swiss

This week is Fasnacht, which is a the biggest celebration you have ever seen. It's like a Mardi Gras or Carnival, but it is held after Ash Wednesday instead of before. Why? Because when the Protestants took over Basel, they also took over the party. The Catholics threw a great Fasnacht party and the Protestants wanted to continue it, but didn't want those nasty Catholics participating.

So, they put their heads together and came up with a great idea--they moved it to after Ash Wednesday so that all the Catholics would be in the midst of Lent and couldn't come. They stole the party and kicked out the originators. Brilliantly mean.

But, I digress. The point is, this is a big week so no school, and Jason was off work for a day or two. And Monday morning my doorbell rang. My neighbor (incidentally, the one who informed me that the inside of my mailbox was a little dirty) informed me that all of the neighbors have been talking about how horrible we are.

We are too loud. We do too much laundry too late in the day. We use our drill all the time. We come and go at all hours of the night.

Now, I'll agree to the loud thing, and the laundry. Bad us. We don't own a drill and we don't go anywhere late at night. That is other people, but being blamed on us.


But, as she continued (she started out with, "I hate to tell you this," but it was clear that she did not hate to tell us this. She lives for such things.), she also had some helpful advice:

1. Buy a car
2. Buy a vacation home
3. I should try to understand that other people in the building actually have to work, so they need their sleep. I wouldn't understand this at all because I don't work.
4. We should pull Sarah out of the International School and put her in the Swiss schools, so we would understand.

Ahh, it all becomes clear. This wasn't about noise. This was about not being Swiss. And I think a bit of class envy. This woman also wanted to know Jason's salary, and when I wouldn't tell her began to guess. She came surprisingly close. I suspect, given the rent here, that our income is higher than our neighbors and that she has shared that information with them.

She can't understand why we won't buy a car (it's about the chocolate croissants, not about the money), nor a vacation home since we are obviously swimming in money--as indicated by Jason's perceived salary and my status as a Hausfrau. We don't speak German very well, and we don't understand.

It's an interesting cultural lesson for us. Of course, I'll be better about not starting laundry after 5:00 p.m. (Really! That's what they want. Incidentally, that same evening we heard someone else doing laundry at 10:30. Go figure.) We'll try harder to keep our children from screeching. (Suggestions welcome.) But, the real problem is the culture and the language.

Suggestions are welcome for that as well.


  1. Fascinating.

    What a jerk you are to do laundry after 5pm. Huh?

    So, how about sharing some of those millions with us? ;)

  2. Umm, how exactly did she know about the inside of your mailbox?

  3. Um, wow. And people in the U.S. think they have trouble with overzealous homeowners' associations!

  4. The inside of your mailbox? Good heavens, I'd be doomed.

  5. We used to have "Fasnacht" day at my high school, that was the day they gave everyone a free doughnut. I don't often get such helpful advice, but I do sometimes get that "oh, you actually raise your own children?" kind of eyebrow raise.