Matterhorn view

It didn’t take more than a glance at a photo similar to the one across the top of today’s blog post to convince me that we had to return to Switzerland. We had been there for a week last July, mostly in Geneva, but this time we were going to be on the opposite end of the lake and beyond, enjoying spectacular views while riding luxurious trains through mountain passes and across aqueducts in the Alps. Those details I’ll save for next week while today we’ll concentrate on our 4 stopover cities that definitely have name recognition: St. Moritz, Zermatt, Interlaken, and Montreux.

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Undercover boss

Get your handkerchiefs ready—we’re going to talk about Undercover Boss. If you’ve never seen the American version of this reality TV show, the concept is that the head of a huge corporation is disguised to pass as a trainee in various positions throughout the company in hopes of learning what is or is not working for the employees and the firm. To explain the presence of the TV cameras, a video production team is supposedly charged with documenting the experiences of this “newbie”. The participants are then summoned to headquarters where they believe that they will provide an evaluation of this worker’s performance and potential as a new-hire. In reality they meet the boss, out of disguise, and hear how she or he felt the employee did. There are at least a dozen countries that have their own adaptation of this program, including France, so we wanted to see how our local one compares with the US.

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Supermarket sweep

When we used to come to France on a regular basis for vacation it was always fun to rent a house or an apartment and pretend that we lived here. Part of the charade was stocking the refrigerator and if we happened to arrive on a market day then that just added to the illusion that we were genuine locals as we went from stall to stall picking up fresh produce. More often than not, however, we ended up going to the supermarket which always meant guessing how something was going to be labeled, how it might be packaged, or even where it would be displayed. Now we’re used to seeing eggs and milk (UHT) displayed side by side on unrefrigerated shelves but at the time it was quite the novelty for us. Prices weren’t a major concern since we simply wanted to get the food bought so that the sightseeing could begin but now as residents, comparison shopping is important.

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We 💖 farmers

Years ago we saw a movie called “The Girl from Paris” (the original French title was Une Hirondelle a Fait le Printemps) that told the story of a 30-year-old woman who is bored with her life as a computer specialist and decides to become a farmer. First she must get a 2-year degree in agriculture, including an internship on a working farm followed by sorting through the farming opportunities to find the best one to attain her goal. I remember being surprised at the time by two things: that an adult woman in Paris would strike out on her own to undertake such a big project alone and that there were educational options available to her that I had previously associated only with teenagers. Now that we live in France in a city surrounded by growing fields and where we have our own “wine high school”, it’s all falling into place.

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To live decently

The headline in one of our local newspapers was “How much do you need to live decently?” My first question was “What exactly does that mean?” not only because it was a new word for me—décemment—but also because it would seem fairly subjective as far as what could be considered as a reasonable standard of living. Sure enough, a definition was there in the next paragraph, “households have the capacity to participate effectively in social life without the risk of experiencing significant deprivation”. Spoken like a true economist which is not surprising since the study’s author, Pierre Concialdi, does indeed have that title at the l’Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES), just outside of Paris. So, I had to read further.

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Buy here, buy now

Blog reader John sent us (thank you!) an article entitled “7 Reasons to Buy a Property in Carcassonne”. It was sponsored by a real estate company so there were lots of enticing photos with descriptions including words such as “mansion, garden, village, views, marble fireplaces, and wooden floors.” Everything you want to see and read when you are fantasizing about your French dream life. Since we’re already living that dream, it was easy enough to look past all of the beautiful marketing to see the concrete reasons that someone might want to buy here or elsewhere in France, for that matter. We’ve included some of our own observations with each of these ideas from author Karen Tait.

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Cheapest places to live

For administrative purposes, mainland France is divided into 96 departements, each with its own presence of the federal government at the Préfecture. Not only is that convenient for the elected officials in Paris but it’s also handy for comparisons when you’re trying to decide where you might want to live. Here on our blog if you click on the Tag “Where to live in France” (in the right hand column) you’ll see posts that have sometimes included that division in the results. Today we’re adding one more article to that list with the topic being “cheapest” since it’s about the cost of living while others have looked at factors such as healthcare, recreation, and weather. After all, it’s probably pretty inexpensive to live on a desert island but the quality of life might leave a lot to be desired.

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