Monday, March 1, 2010

Becoming Swiss?

It’s happening.  The creeping tentacles of Swissiness are invading silently, yet surely.  I am unaware of their presence and the depth to which they’ve burrowed until I catch myself doing something Swissish.  For example, I just changed my cell phone to military time.
Now, my children are going to find that statement hilarious, not because of the military thing, but because of the fact that I even figured out how to change the time format.

Well, I had to do it because it is just too confusing to have all of the shop signs, the advertisements, the notices of opening hours, the arrangements you are making to meet for coffee, etc. all in military time and your brain and cell phone on 12-hour time.  The first time you hear yourself say “thirteen o’clock” out loud, you know it is time to fix your cell phone.

The other day I was walking in the morning with my girlfriends and Intrepid Girlfriend shows up in “street clothes”, not exercise clothes, cute little pocketbook and scarf included.  To go walking with possible sweat involved.
She apologized but explained that at the end of our walk along the lake she was going directly up into town to track down some grape leaves to make a new recipe.  I said that I would go with her because I had to go to the grocery store, as well.

OK, she looked at me strangely and I realized what I had done wrong.  While it is a little weird to go walking in street clothes, it is much, much, much worse to go shopping in exercise clothes.  Now, ten months ago, I would have been like, oh, get over it, Swiss people.  So I’m buying a loaf of bread and wearing warm-ups, so what?  In America, people go shopping in their pajamas!

Needless to say, I did go to the grocery in my tacky attire, but I was uncomfortable doing it.  And then I was uncomfortable that I was uncomfortable.  Was I losing my American-ness?  Was I doomed to never be spontaneous or fun again?  Let’s just say that I was soooo uncomfortable that it made me sit down and really contemplate what was happening here.  I had an epiphany.

The Swiss are not being unfriendly, rigid, humorless, etc. when they make and keep to all of these rules.  They are just being civilized.  For over a thousand years, they have all been playing by the same rules because they are all of one culture.  When you do something for 1,000 years, and everyone else is also doing it, it tends to become a habit.  So, my friends, when I get back to America for good in a few years’ time, please do not think that I have become terribly snobby.  I am just civilized.  I prefer the trains to run on time and I prefer yogurt and granola for breakfast.  I carry my own shopping  bags and say things like, “I’ll meet you at fourteen hours for coffee”.

It’s not just me that this happens to.  I have another girlfriend back in the States who married a Brit 10 years ago.  Well, the longer she is with him and the more time that they spend in the UK, the more civilized she is becoming.  We will call her The Queen because that is whom she is resembling more and more.  The Queen pronounces “been” as “beeeeeen” instead of “bin”.  As in “I’ve beeeeeen thinking. . . “  OK, Queenie, you are from South Carolina.  Where are you getting this beeeeeen from?  The Queen is rockin’ her Chanel suits, her triple-strand pearls and her vintage Louis bags on her evenings out now and looking regal.  If she and I get any more civilized, I think our other friends are going to be forced to do an intervention.

They will drop us off at the nearest WalMart in our pajamas and force us to fondle clothing constructed of man-made fibers.  Afterward, they will drive us in the back of a pickup truck to the nearest fast food restaurant and require us to order something Super-Sized from a drive-thru window.

They will make us skip our afternoon coffee/tea and have a martini.  They will make us eat vegetables out of season whilst wearing a fanny pack.  It will not be pretty but I’m sure in no time I’ll be back to swearing in public and wearing non-black clothing.

The Swiss part of me just shivered and had to go for a bit of a lie down.

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