am destined to be without a sewing machine on my ex-pat adventure. I have killed another one. You will remember that I blew up the first one that I sent over with all of my other stuff on the shipping container. One day, I forgot to plug it into the transformer before plugging it into the adapter before plugging it into the wall. Apparently that was just one too many electrical gizmos for my brain to remember that morning. TRANSFORMER, ADAPTER, WALL. I bypassed transformer altogether. KABOOM!
Any sane person would have then gone out to the local Swiss sewing machine store and bought a Swiss machine with a Swiss plug and Swiss innards and called it a day. That would be what any filthy rich, sane person would do. Being neither filthy rich nor entirely sane, I opted to try and save Mr. Big a couple of thousand dollars by waiting and just buying a new machine in the US the next time we went back, just because I am a nice, thrifty person like that. Ahem.
The mayhem that is the holidays kept me from using my new machine, but a few weeks ago things finally slowed down and I trotted out the new machine in all its’ splendiferousness to reupholster a leather chair cushion. I was OH SO CAREFUL to get all my electrical ducks in a row. Transformer, adapter, wall. Check. Begin sewing.
ME: Mr. Big, can you come here for a minute? There’s something wrong with this machine.
MR. BIG: Huh?
ME: Listen. It doesn’t sound right.
MR. BIG: (after listening for about 8 nanoseconds) It sounds fine to me.
ME: No, really. I’ve been sewing for 30 years and I’m telling you, it sounds funny.
MR. BIG: You’re just paranoid because you blew up the last one. It sounds--
(Machine dies as he is speaking.)
MR. BIG: %#&^!!!! @&^*(%#@!!!!! You have done it again!!!
ME: WAAAH! I want my mother!!!!
Y’all! It was so not my fault! It turns out it was HIS stupid transformer that screwed up my beautiful new toy. Ergo, I made him carry the broken, dead carcass all the way back across the ocean because he is under the misguided impression that the store where we bought it in the US is going to give him a new one. Really? I was just going to put it in the bottom of the closet with the other one as part of my new collection: THINGS I HAVE RUINED IN SWITZERLAND THAT I CAN’T AFFORD TO REPLACE.
I have to tell you, I did try to get it fixed in Switzerland at the Husqvarna dealer. That didn’t go so well. First of all, I had to study all morning to find out how to say “transformer”, “slow, painful death” and “it was not my fault” in French before I could go to the store and make myself understood.
It is really hard for me to speak French when I have a crazy husband yelling in my ear. TELL HER ABOUT THE ELECTRICITY ISSUE! ASK HER IF SHE CAN FIX IT! ASK HER HOW MUCH MONEY IT WILL COST! ASK HER IF SHE HAS A SCREWDRIVER AND I WILL SHOW HER THE PART TO ORDER! Wait. Screwdriver? I don’t know the word for screwdriver, AND WILL YOU PLEASE SHUT UP FOR ONE MINUTE so I can speak to this woman?
It was not pretty. Needless to say, she called three days later and told us to come pick up our still-very-much-dead machine and never, ever darken her doorstep again.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Gosh, I am having a really hard time writing this one. This is my fifth draft, no lie! Every time I start, it always comes out like I am America-bashing, so I start over. Let’s see if the 5th time is the charm.
What, pray tell, is American-style shopping? Well, duh, it means going to the mall. All day. It means comparing prices, looking for bargains and trying to get exactly what you want for the lowest possible price. It means picking and choosing between all of the thousands and thousands of choices that you have. You see why they don’t have a word for it? Europeans don’t have thousands and thousands of choices of anything. They have, like, six. And none are on sale.
OK, I’ll grant you, the bigger cities try. When anyone, other than an American, walks into a big city European “mall”, they are like, WOW (in whatever language they speak). An American walks in and says “Um, good try. It’s close. Sort of.”
Here’s the problem. When Europeans visit America, they all go to the same place—New York City. Is there a mall in Manhattan? No. Are there any Europeans booking tickets to King of Prussia, Pennsylvania or South Park Mall in Charlotte? No. When they visit LA, do they venture down the highway to South Coast Plaza in Ocean County? No, they go to Rodeo Drive in Hollywood. Have they ever even seen the glory that is a Restoration Hardware located directly adjacent to a Cheesecake Factory nestled right up against an Anthropologie? No. If they only knew.
No, Mr. and Mrs. Europe. You are in tourist Mecca. No AMERICANS actually go shopping on Fifth Avenue. Those stores are strictly for tourists and the Sex and the City Girls. Not real people. You want some bargains? You need to hop on a bus and get yourself across the bridge to New Jersey and go to a mall.
Here is where I have been running into trouble in my four previous drafts. I am going to describe shopping for clothes, shoes and handbags in Europe, WITHOUT making it seem like Americans are a bunch of penny-pinching, discount-loving, perfectly-happy-with-fake-Chinese-crap, people. Wish me luck.
Take, for example, my town. Lausanne, Switzerland. Population 126K people. By any definition, that is little more than a large village. By comparison, it has the same population as Waco, Texas; Coral Springs, Florida or Bellevue, Washington.
So, when your only choices are really good stuff that will last for years and years and, what I call throw-away clothes, i.e. clothes that will last through only two or three wash cycles before they 1) fall apart or 2)shrink/stretch out of shape, what do you choose? Let me give you another piece of information to help you decide. Those clothes in H & M? Those down-market clothes? A t-shirt, A T-SHIRT!!, cannot be had for less than 39.90. Seriously. You think I’m kidding. I’m not. Yesterday, to research this, I went shopping IN THE GROCERY STORE at the Coop for a tan sweater.
Fast forward to the real topic of this blog post. The sales. Twice a year, the stores have sales to unload the end-of-the-season merchandise that did not sell. This is really excellent stuff that is marked down 50-60%. Everybody, and I mean everybody, goes shopping during these three weeks in January and July. (Not in Switzerland. Switzerland doesn’t get it. The stores here have like one little measly rack marked down 30%. Hello, Switzerland, that is not a sale. That is just a tease.)
This was really hard to write and, it turns out, it’s not very funny, either. Sorry. It needed to be said, if for no other reason than to lift the veil over shopping on either side of the pond. A lot of misconceptions out there. Next time, I’ll go back to crazy food or arcane Swiss rules.