…okay so I’m not an expert yet- in fact, I am far from it. But I have learned a few things since I have been here, and today being the 10 day anniversary of my arrival in Lausanne (a very special occasion, of course), I decided to write down a few things that I have learned that may benefit someone else planning on visiting Lausanne (or you could just read it and feel educated)

1. Public transportation- it’s…easy!?

Public transportation is definitely a new concept for me. All of the research in the world could not have prepared me for having to get used to a whole new way of getting around (okay, so maybe all of the research in the world could have, but who has time for that?)
I’ve already mentioned my bad experiences with the doors that close extremely fast, the mobs of people who pile onto and off of the metro, and the large gaps between the platform and the train (the perfect size for my foot).
But what I haven’t really mentioned, are the amazing benefits to learning how to deal with the public transportation.

One of the most important things is to purchase the Mobilis pass for the metro and buses. It’s not very expensive, and if you don’t own a car, it will pay for itself within the first week. If you don’t have the pass, you will have to purchase a ticket that’s only good for one hour, in a particular zone. It can get complicated because many of the machines only take coins, and sometimes you can miss the metro or bus because you are waiting for your ticket to be printed (not fun). Of course, the public transportation in Lausanne is on the honor system (meaning they don’t check for tickets) so you could always just hop on and hope you don’t get caught. I wouldn’t recommend this however; seeing as, if they do decide to check for tickets, you will get fined on the spot- a very large amount of money.
Once you have the pass, you are free to move about Lausanne on all of the metros and buses…which makes life a LOT easier. There are plenty of maps you can carry with you and there’s also a nifty website as well where you can map out your route. I guess the main thing is to not allow yourself to be intimidated- after a few days of mistakes, getting lost, and learning to always bring along a map, you will become a master of the public transportation system!

The Mobilis pass is better than having to buy a bunch of tickets

2. Having Denner for Dinner

Finding food is such an obvious need that I did not put much thought into it before coming. Oh yah, there were the all of those rumors that everyone hears, like “oh, you can’t get insert American food staple here in Europe!” and “eating out is so expensive in Switzerland!” And I was sure to tell all my friends so they could “oooo” and “ahhhh” about how I was going to have to survive in this strange land that doesn’t have peanut butter.
But the truth is, if you really want something, you can find it. I soon learned that although peanut butter is very hard to find, they do sell it here. There are some differences however….the label says “Easy Rider: The American Way of Life” and there is also a picture of a guy on a motorcycle. Not your typical peanut butter. I still need to try it to see if it makes me feel like Peter Fonda….

But I digress- the food is different here. The names of things are hard to translate. All of the cheese is white (and some of it smells extremely unappealing) . And food is very expensive. That’s why I have learned very quickly to adapt to the Swiss way of shopping (actually, it’s the poor folks’ way of shopping- but same difference).
First of all, shopping must be done in smaller quantities and more frequent intervals, because all groceries must be carried by hand all the way home (unless you hire goats to pull carts for 20 Swiss francs/hr).
Secondly, you have to know where to find the best prices. So far, I have discovered several options:
For my immediate needs, and general items, I go to Pam, a smaller grocery chain with a location just a few blocks from my apartment. The prices aren’t great, and the hours are not always convenient, but it’s nice to have something close when I need something quickly.
For more hard to find items (aka Easy Rider Peanut Butter), I go to Coop (pronounced “cope”) or Migros. Migros generally has the better prices, but both stores have locations everywhere, and you can find almost anything you need there. Migros is my favorite place to go and I have learned to search for the green boxes that say “M Budget” (it’s the off-off-off brand) and the signs that say “ACTION” (this means that something is on sale, and needs to be sold).
Now, if I’m really feeling frugal, I have discovered an amazing store called Denner. It is a smaller store, with very discounted prices. It is normally good to go there if you do not have something specific in mind, but are just looking for some good deals. There are some random things there, such as ready-made, frozen macaroni and cheese (with some surprise chunks of ham inside!) and REAL miracle whip and ketchup.

Eating out can be very expensive (50 Swiss francs for a Chinese buffet), so it is probably best to save that for special occasions. Going shopping with friends and then cooking a meal together is a lot more fun- and ends up being really cheap when everyone splits the cost (and stays afterward to help with the dishes!)

3. Try French!

One thing I have learned is that many people here speak English (or at least understand it). Upon discovering this, it is tempting to simply lapse into English whenever it is inconvenient or uncomfortable to make the effort to say something in French. However, this is a bad decision. Switzerland is unlike France (again this is just another one of those rumors- cause I have never actually been to France) in that people will not generally be angry with you if you try and fail at speaking their language. I think it has to do with the fact that there are so many languages being thrown around here that people are used to accents and broken sentences (or it could just be the Swiss hospitality!). But seriously, people normally are extremely patient and appreciate it if you at least give it a shot.
I have had more good experiences when I try to say things in French, than when I give up and lapse into English. Yes, it is awkward the first few times, and yes, the moments during which your mind goes blank and your mouth is stuck open will feel like an eternity (or maybe that just happens to me….) but that first instant when you realize that you just had a successful conversation with someone in another language is completely worth it.

I had initially entitled this post “10 tips for your first 10 days in Lausanne”
….very clever, yes. But unfortunately I only have time for 3 tonight.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I’m headed to Basel. More pictures and anecdotes to follow!