2008-01-24

Life in Lausanne

It has been great living in Lausanne so far. Although IMD has kept me living in a bubble for most of my time here, my few ventures out have been very pleasant. Following is a brief survey of some aspects of this city that I have noticed.

The people are, generally, very nice. If I look like I'm not certain about where I'm going, someone will invariably stop and offer to help. The Swiss are very courteous to pedestrians. If I look like I'm even thinking of stepping into a crosswalk, cars coming from every direction will stop immediately. They're all willing to work with my rusty, rusty French too, which is a plus.

Speaking of languages, I have found Lausanne to be very international. Walking down the street I can hear French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and other languages that I can't recognize being spoken. There is a great little pizzeria around the corner from my apartment called Le Pinnochio; so far it has proven to be the best non-IMD venue for practicing my Italian.

People on the streets seem very . . . European. There have definitely been several Euromullet sightings and females wearing tight pants with high boots seem to account for roughly 85% of the population. Smokers are everywhere (What did this continent do before the discovery of tobacco?!) but one rarely sees cigarette butts on the ground due to the rigorous Swiss attention to daily street/sidewalk cleaning.

Dogs aren't very friendly to strangers, which is a shame. I see a golden retriever out for a walk and I want to go say hi, pet it, etc. but I get the impression that such just isn't the way here. Anywhere dogs might be walked is lined with pooper scooper bag dispensers every few hundred feet and owners seem to take their clean-up responsibility seriously. The risk of stepping in something unpleasant is very low--this will be important when I'm late and running to campus for an interview!

Half bottles of wine are widely available in both wine shops and restaurants. I am told that this is in reaction to Switzerland's tough drunk driving laws. Whether I drink a full bottle or just a half, there are multiple recycling bins on each block. Recycling here is much more segregated than I have experienced in the US: glass, aluminum, tin/steel, oil, paper, plastic, and organic waste all have their own labeled containers.

Laundry in my building is a real pain. One must reserve a seven-hour time slot (morning or afternoon) for the laundry room well in advance. As I spend 16-20 hours a day on-campus, this limits my options pretty significantly! When I do manage to match my schedule with an open slot, I face my next challenge: crazyeurolaundrysystem!

The washer itself isn't that bad. To use it, though, I have to pay 3 Swiss Francs. To pay 3 Swiss Francs, I have to hold up an electronic key in just the right position by a noncommunicative metal box. To procure such a key and add money to my "account," I have to track down the concierge (an apartment resident who acts as the on-site manager) during the few, late hours I am at home. So it's a challenge, but not insurmountable.

The dryer, on the other hand, is something else. Instead of a "tumbler" dryer, as I'm accustomed to, the laundry room just has lines for hanging clothes after they have been washed. With an ambient temperature of ~40 degrees F and poor ventilation, this doesn't get the job done very well. Not to worry, though, there is an elegant solution: a giant fan/dehumidfier. Essentially you just leave your clothes on the line, turn on the machine, leave the room, and return when your time slot is up. I've found this approach to yield semi-dry clothes with the stiffness of cardboard--just what I'm looking for in my underwear and bed linens! Perhaps I'm just a spoiled American. Perhaps I'm doing something wrong. If you have any helpful hints, please send them my way!

2 comments:

Robert Morton said...

That's funny about the washer/clothesline setup, it's the same situation I had in Munich. The washer required special metal tokens that I had to get from the apartment manager, and the clothesline left everything completely stiff. Perhaps that's why Europeans wear the same clothes for several days/weeks, since you have to break 'em in for a day or two!

Mowry said...

Awesome, I'm not the only American who enjoyed the European laundry and recycling experience. I fixed the laundry problem by buying a real dryer :)