Zurich: Count to Three

As kids, we loved watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail. One of my personal favorites from the movie was the scene in which they face the man-eating rabbit. After some failed negotiations, they’re forced to use the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. And this particular weapon comes with some hilarious and very specific instructions:

“And the LORD spake, saying, ‘First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin, then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.'”

Count to three. That’s the gist of the rule. You have to count to three before you throw it. But in the instruction code that’s read, we get a long and unnecessary extension of that simple rule. In fact, the rule is so specific and tedious that we’re likely to lose sight of what the main point of the rule was in the first place.

For us, that’s what it kind of feels like in Switzerland sometimes.This is most certainly a place of rules and regulations and expectations. I know every where you go has rules, but Zurich places a higher value on that set of rules than most places I know. And while those rules are probably easy, they’re not as easy if you don’t speak German, if you’ve only been here a few weeks, etc. So Katie and I are in the process of wading through the LONG instructions to get to those simple, fundamental rules. Here’s a few examples:

1. Thou shalt have a train pass – At all times. If you are without your train pass? An automatic, on-the-spot fine of 100 Swiss Francs. So naturally, Katie and I bought our train passes straight away. But wait. Our train pass only works in Zone 110. So what if you have to go outside of that? Oh, just buy a temporary zone extension. Got it. Wait, what’s that? The zone extension somehow doesn’t work for the place we went to and are now returning from? No? It says that right there in German?

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The thing is, I know the guy was right. That rule is right. I’m sure the ticket does say something. I just can’t figure it out. Luckily, Katie and I were spared being fined 200 Swiss Francs and the scary, but also kind, ticket checker just had us pay the difference. Again, thou shalt have a train pass, and it better be the right one.

2. Thou shalt not forget something at the register – Just spent five minutes trying to explain that we bought tzatziki last night and accidentally left it. They weren’t having it. Like, not even a little bit. Food Lion would have probably given me the tzatziki and a random cake that no one wanted to buy.

3. Thou shalt not wear flip flops – Because apparently it’s weird. The rule of style seems to be slightly tight pants, maybe a splash of ankles, and snazzy dress shoes (or non-athletic sneakers). I break this rule. Every day.

4. Thou shalt not assume thy Starbucks gift card will work here – It doesn’t.

5. Thou shalt not get on a train unless it’s clearly marked. – This morning, Katie and I boarded. A man quickly opened the doors behind us, signaled us off, and quietly said, “This train isn’t going anywhere. It’s route is done.” Thank you, sir.

6. Thou shalt wait for things

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Usually, the waiting is done in a nondescript building, such as the one above. Bank accounts, immigration approval, anything. We’ve got delays on just about every official document we need. I’d complain more, but apparently the only country known for being worse about immigration times and shipments? The United States of America.

So those are a few of the rules. We’re enjoying every minute of it, but it’s definitely a challenge and a learning experience. Mostly we’re trying things out, then looking at each other and saying, “Ok, we won’t do that next time.” Which is life, I guess.

For the weekend, we’re going to be touring around Zurich a bit more and our first guest is coming next weekend. I’ll probably break from the blog for the weekend and get back to it on Monday. Have a great weekend everyone! Be inspired by the picture below of Zurich Central Station and go somewhere fun!

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