How to survive in Zurich (and how not to make dinner)

I just spent the better part of this afternoon struggling through my German homework.  It’s pretty sad;  I had to look up practically every word, and then it still didn’t make any sense, so I had to type in whole phrases verbatim into Google Translate to see if it could work wonders.  All this heartache and headache for a fill-in-the-blank one-pager.  Yes, my German is that pathetic.  😦

I had wanted to get some exercise this afternoon in my first attempt to slim down for the bridesmaid dress, but by the time I finished doing my homework, it was already past 7 pm, so I decided to make dinner instead.  Yes…  gasp!  I actually attempted to cook today.  

For those that know me, I live like a total bachelor when I’m alone.  I just eat whatever is lying around the kitchen…  cold, frozen, straight from the package.  I don’t even bother to assemble things together, so I’ll grab some bread and devour that, then eat cheese slices while standing in front of the refrigerator, contemplate what else is edible, then maybe grab some yogurt, raisins, banana, maybe throw an apple in there for something healthy.  I’ve been known to eat baking chocolate and spoonfuls of Nutella and peanut butter from the jar when I’m desperate for something sweet and fatty.  I recently bought a jar of molasses, so along with my jar of honey, I still have two more options to stuff my face with pure, liquid sin.  If I am still hungry, then I much on roasted, salted peanuts.  Sometimes I’m actually able to pour some cereal in a bowl and top it with milk instead of just eating the cereal dry from the box, and then drinking the milk later separately.  Shame, shame…  I know.

But today I decided to cook some frozen veggies, since I have two bags of the stuff that’s been sitting in the freezer for months.  But I started off by preparing a salad my lunch for tomorrow and then realized that I still have a lot of fresh veggies, so I just prepared a double quantity and threw half of it in a container and the other half into the sauté pan.

White button mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, bagged salad greens, black olives…  they all went into the pan.  I was cutting up a hard-boiled egg to put in tomorrow’s salad, but then I ate the second one cold because I don’t think it would have blended well into the stir-fry.

So I cranked up the heat and started pouring in the sauce.  I don’t know how to season stuff, so I just throw everything in–rapeseed oil, hot chili powder, garlic powder, ground ginger, paprika powder, MSG, fresh cracked pepper, Italian seasoning, oyster sauce, siracha–and gave it all a good stir.

The veggies shrunk a bit in the pan, so I thought I could throw in some dry couscous to beef it up.  I’ve never cooked couscous this way before, but I suppose it could work, right??  I even added some water for good measure.

I tasted one of the granules a short while later, and it was hard and gross.  Ugh.  So I added a lot more water and put a lid on to steam for a bit.  I think that worked.

Took everything out of the pan, topped it with spicy pickled bamboo shoots (because I had some in the fridge), and I tasted my disaster dinner.  It was really sour and spicy and salty.  I wonder if this is what Thai food tastes like?  Haha…

So I ate the entire thing with a plain rice cake to help absorb some of the spicy oils.  It went down okay, but I started sweating throughout the meal, and now my tummy feels a bit strange.  I don’t really like spicy and heavily seasoned food.  Don’t ask why I made this for dinner.  I can’t cook.  Sorry folks–there’s no photo to share with you tonight, because the final dish looked like hot mess that I didn’t feel comfortable exposing to the public.  And besides, it’s all in my tummy now.

Anyway, the real reason for today’s blog post was actually to share some tips for living in Switzerland.  I had started off talking about learning German but somehow got sidetracked into a detailed description about food.  That seems to happen often with me.

So…  anyway, anyway…  I actually already posted this to Facebook last October, so it’ll be a repeat for those who already read it then.  But I thought it was useful enough to post again here as a reference for all eternity (or until WordPress decides to pull this page down).  So here we go…

I-Lin’s tips for surviving in Zürich

Last October, a Swiss coworker asked how I’ve survived 3 years in Zürich without speaking German.  I thought about it and came up with this.  I suppose it could be a good how-to guide for others, too…

At the grocery store:
Say “Grüezi” and give the cashier my M-Cumulus card or Coop Supercard.  Bag and pay for my groceries.  Take the receipt and say “Merci, Ade!” and walk out of there.  (I will admit though that the first couple of times they said “Quittig?” I just stared blankly in confusion and walked away.)

At the cafeteria:
Say “Grüezi, Menu zwei” (or “eins” or “Veggie Menu”, depending on what I am getting).  Say “Ja, ist genug,” when they show me the plate of food.  Say “Merci vilmal,” and take the plate of food.

On the phone:
Say “Sprechen Sie Englisch?”  If the answer is, “Ja, ein bisschen,” then proceed in English. If “Nein,” then hang up and look for someone to translate for me.

At a restaurant:
Say “Apfelshorle” when the server asks for my drink order.  Point to what I want to eat on the menu.  When I want to pay, say “Zahlen, bitte.”

On the tram/bus/train:
When someone comes up to me and says “Blah blah blah frei?” nod my head and say “Ja,” and watch them sit down next to me.  Ignore all the announcements because I can’t understand them.  But watch if everyone suddenly gets off the bus or goes to another platform.  (I once got yelled at by a bus driver because I didn’t know the bus had stopped and we all had to get out.)

If someone talks to me:
Say “Oh I don’t speak German,” and then walk away.

Other than that, just go to work and come home.

That’s it. 

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