How Exactly Did You Plan On Ensuring Staff Wear Appropriate Underwear?

ubs

ubs (Photo credit: twicepix)

When we were preparing for our move, we tried to learn as much as we could about Switzerland.  We heard that they are pretty conservative and rule based.  We’d also heard that the way of doing business and the work environment would probably be different than we were used to in the US.  Nevertheless, we were surprised to hear UBS, a large Swiss bank, issued a banking giant UBS a 44-page dress code (a couple of years ago).  At 44 pages, it is (not surprisingly) quite detailed.  Staff was expected to:

  • Wear suits in dark grey, black or navy blue
  • Keep their jacket buttons closed.  When seated, they must always be open.  While on the subject of jackets, they were also required to completely cover employee’s rear (not a good look for a shorty like me).
  • Black knee-high socks were preferred.
  • Female staff’s skirts should reach the middle of the knee…
  • Underwear was supposed to be of good quality, easily washable and undetectable.  How exactly did they plan on ensuring this?
  • Trendy spectacles were forbidden.  While at it, the color of the metal on your glasses should match the color of your jewelry.
  • Men were not to wear bracelets or earrings, since this is Switzerland wearing wristwatches was encouraged… as long as it didn’t threaten safety.
  • Women were not to wear black nail polish or nail art… it has only become more popular since the probation was issued.
  • Men were not to have stubble or excessive facial hair
  • Men were from covering their grey with hair color

It also had other advice on a variety of subjects including”

  • Don’t eat garlic or onions to avoid bad breath
  • How to wear your scarf
  • When to apply perfume
  • The importance of well-trimmed and filed toenails.
  • Skin-colored underwear is recommended
  • Do not put much of anything in your jacket pockets to avoid deforming them
  • My favorite  advises employees to neother wash, nor iron their shirts themselves.

UBS may sound familiar because it has been in the news when it was bailed out in 2008 (after losing around 21 billion Swiss Francs) and for its long running battle with US tax authorities.  Perhaps the tomeic dress code was an attempt to improve its image.  It has since been somewhat revised.  Although when I go into a UBS, I don’t see much color…

Advertisements

Another Cultural Difference…Men In Spandex

We’ve reported on the fashion in Europe and in Geneva, but never on workout wear.  Spring is here and people have taken off a couple of layers so you can actually see their workout attire.

Runners here wear a lot of spandex.  More specifically, male runners here wear a lot of spandex.  I’m not saying that we don’t wear spandex.  I’m guilty of it on occasion.  We both wear bike shorts when cycling.  However, most male runners in the US don’t wear spandex.  If they do, they usually wear shorts over them.  It is definitely something we aren’t used to seeing.

We’ve had great weather and I’ve been running along the lake.  On one run, I counted 29 guys running in spandex shorts (I had to entertain myself somehow).        If you come to run in Geneva and forget to pack your spandex, don’t worry.  You can buy them everywhere.

We spotted these puppies at the auto show. You can get them everywhere.

 

Tschäggättä. Tschwhata? A Swiss Valley’s Unique Carnival Celebration

Tschäggättä are frightening figures that wear furs, giant cowbells around their waists and carved wooden masks.  Every inch of the person underneath the costume is covered to prevent their recognition.  Tschäggättä walk the streets during Carnival waving large wooden sticks,  scaring and/or tossing soot (nowdays confetti) at their unsuspecting victims.  An unwritten rule, allows only unmarried men to do this.  Go figure.  Guys always try to arrange things so that they have all the fun.

It sounds like a rockin’ good time to me, but some may ask whyTschäggättä stems from a time when winter cut the Lötschental Valley off from the outside world during winter.  It was fairly isolated the rest of the year.  Like many rural places, the church dominated many aspects of daily life.   Local peasants saw the time around Carnival as an opportunity to let off some steam, an expression of anarchy and rebellion.   Or, it could come from the heathen tradition of scaring away the spirits of winter.

The legend of Tschäggättä describes them as wild men, thieves from the no longer existing town (but poorer) across the valley that would come to steal.  The thieves dressed themselves up in frightening costumes to create fear and aid in their larceny.

 

Les Incompetents Vol. 7 – Locked Out!

It was bound to happen sooner or later.  Apartment doors here automatically latch shut when they close.
Right after we moved, I heard a story about a poor lady who was 5 months pregnant getting locked out at 8:00 a.m.  They were so new, she didn’t know her husband’s work phone number and had no money on her.  Luckily, she got some assistance from the American Women’s Club and made it through the day until her husband returned home that evening.
Yesterday, I went for a run.  I walked out of the apartment and shut the door…with my keys still on the table by the door!  I was locked out.
Some people look cute when they work out.  Check out Jessica Biel above.  She definitely looks cute on her runs. I do not. I wasn’t wearing any makeup. I had on running tights with a burgundy dry fit top.  My clashing red sports bra was visible.  My blue gloves and white hat (covering up my greasy hair) didn’t exactly coordinate either.
This is perhaps the only running gear that is worse than what I had on.   Normally, I just don’t care what I look like when I’m running.  Once the door locked, I regretted my apathy because it meant I had to run across town to his work to get the keys.

I showed up at his very busy office building 45 minutes later looking like a hot mess. I was mortified. Compared to me, Snookie is looking good for a workout

Unfortunately, he was in meetings so I had to sit and wait in the lobby while people walked by.  It was worth it though because I was able to get the keys from him.  Once I had them in my hot little hands, I got the heck out of Dodge and ran back home.

 

My First Go ‘Round With Customer Service In French

Every expat in Geneva has laundry horror storiesblogs are full of them.

  • Washers are tiny, and hold about a third of what they do in the US.
  • Sometimes, entire buildings share them with each resident receiving 3 hour slots each week (or every other week) during which they are permitted to use them.
  • Doing laundry at a laundromat is astoundingly expensive (give or tai $5 for a tiny load).
In November, I opened our dryer to find broken glass in with our clothes and a wire hanging down into our dryer.  During the cycle, the bulb had come loose, been tossed around and broken.  I called the repairman who came to fix it.
We bought our dryer when me moved here and it is still under warranty, so I was shocked when I received the significant bill for the repairs.  Nothing gets under my skin like wasting money, so I prepared myself for a giant test of my French skills and called to dispute the bill.
My repairman didn’t have a snazzy uniform like the one above. Ladies, don’t you want to get your man one of those?
I was transferred around from one customer service representative to another.  Finally, I got to speak to someone with some authority.  Their first question was “what did you do, that doesn’t happen.”  They may as well have asked when I stopped beating my wife.  Of course I did something, I used the dryer to dry my clothes.   Try explaining that you didn’t do anything wrong (a) in another language, (b) to someone who doesn’t want to hear it.
Yep, that’s me.  Cheap.  They told me that it wasn’t covered by the warranty because it didn’t render the machine inoperable.  I told them that although, in theory the machine might still have been able to dry clothes, no one will put wet clothes in a place with wires hanging down and turn it on.  Therefore, you can’t operate it and it should be covered.  Seriously, we went around and around on this for about a half an hour.  When I hung up, I burst into tears (probably from suppressed anger as I remained polite and did not use any of my nice collection of French naughty words).

The next day, someone from the company called me. As I hadn’t conceded defeat the previous day, my file landed on their desk.  I went through the whole story once again and…success!!!!  We don’t have to pay.  When I asked them to send me something confirming this, they replied, “this isn’t America, we don’t go around suing people.” 

I only wish I had spoken to them on a hamburger phone…

In the US, this would have been a single item crossed off a “to do” list. Here, this was a huge victory for me. First, I’m super cheap and would rather spend the money on something else.  Secondly, it was hard to figure out a way to tell the story (including describing all the washing machine parts) in French and persuasively explain my side.  I felt like shouting “I made fire” a la Tom Hanks in Castaway.

 

Our Obligatory Laundry Story

If you read Swiss expat blogs, you will soon realize that everyone has a laundry story.  It is inevitable and they are usually humorous.  Ours arrived ahead of schedule…

Having heard laundry horror stories, we decided that it was essential to get a washer and dryer immediately.  We hadn’t even been in the country two hours when we were investigating our laundry hookup to buy a machine.*  Above is what we saw.

The former tenant removed everything, and I mean everything. The man at the appliance store had to arrange for special plumbers to come and install them.  They were installed the day we were on our last pair of clean underwear!

*We met our realtor immediately after landing to pick up keys to our place. This is very, very unusual. When I tell people this they get a shocked look on their face and their jaw drops.