My time in Switzerland started with me hopping off of my plane from Hong Kong, and right into the meeting I was to present about being a parent of a child with Down syndrome. Fast and furious, but a friend had given me some “No Jet Lag” pills, and I think they actually worked! My experience with my European counterparts was fantastic. They were all so welcoming, and went out of their way to make my experience great. They truly seemed to appreciate the my story and perspective. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to come and give this presentation. I hope that it helped change or strengthen their opinions of people with Down syndrome. Plus, it’s always fun to talk about my life with Carsten!
I decided to stay two extra days after the meeting to explore a little bit of Switzerland. I mean why come all this way to see only an airport and meeting room? Switzerland is beautiful, immaculate, organized, well preserved architecture, and fascinating. I am so glad I was able to see so many beautiful sites in such a short period of time. I do have to say though that the people here were not as friendly as I thought they were going to be. Of course I interacted with some very friendly Swiss people, but it’s always the stinkers that stand out.;) I will give you a couple examples that I witnessed.
Getting on the plane for Zurich in Hong Kong, I saw a Swiss man start ranting at the airline workers that he was one of their best customers, and he couldn’t believe how he was being treated (apparently he was upset that they hadn’t upgraded him free of charge to business class). Now I have seen Americans get crazy ridiculous with airline workers in the US, but not because they didn’t get a free upgrade. I was just praying I wouldn’t have to sit next to this negative energy for 13 hours….luckily I didn’t. All I could think was that this guy obviously didn’t have any “real” problems in his life. Instead he should be thanking his lucky stars!
While I was riding on the train, there was a group of 10 or so Korean tourists riding in the same car. A Swiss family was also in the car (a mom, a dad, a daughter, and a son). I was shocked when the parents started openly mocking the Koreans. They were not hiding their mockery, and it disgusted me. Why would they do that? What are they teaching their children for heaven’s sake?
I also got lost wondering around one morning. I went up to a local gentleman, and asked for help with directions. I had the area I needed to get to open on my phone. He asked me in German if I spoke German. When I shook my head no, he rolled his eyes, and walked away.
The final example I will give I witnessed while riding in a van at the end of a tour. A young man had his vehicle break down in the middle of small road, which was backing up traffic. One man got out of his car and started cursing on and on and on in German while flipping the bird. I asked the tour guide why they didn’t just get out of their cars, and help push the disabled vehicle to the side. She looked at me puzzled and said, “No. He will wait for a tow truck.” All while his receiving a tongue lashing. Seems ridiculous to me. Why not pitch in and help? Everyone would get further faster….and faster and timely are key here! I know road rage happens in the US, but this was not this man’s fault…poor guy had his vehicle quit and was getting verbally assaulted.
Now I have to admit, I am not a savvy international traveler…yet. This was also my first time traveling international by myself, and my first time in Europe. Lots of firsts and inexperience, I will grant you that. However I always had a sense of uneasiness while traveling around. I think I was constantly afraid that a local would turn and have an outburst on me. I should also note that I was coming immediately off of a week in Bali where people bend over backwards to provide excellent service and experiences. I am sure this played into my experiences as well.
Now to finish with some positives! The second day I went into the Starbucks one of the ladies working their remembered me, and gave me a very friendly, “Guten morgen!” Also while waiting in the airport in Hong Kong, I meet a very sweet, young lady who was an off duty flight attendant. She was super sweet, and once we landed she helped to point me in the right direction of my hotel. All of this was even more sweet when you know that she was finally seeing her boyfriend she had been away from for one month, and still took the time to help me.
On both tours, I met two fabulous new friends. Both are Americans, and have amazing stories of solo travel around Europe. They are both career women…one in healthcare and the other in finance. It was nice having someone else to walk around with, have dinner with, and share experiences. I love chatting with strong, smart, kind-hearted, adventurous women!
I hope I can stay in touch with all three of these women! Thanks to Facebook….I think we can!
I am thankful for all of these experiences. The next time I encounter a person who doesn’t speak English in the US I will now take the extra time and energy to make sure I help them any way that I can. It has opened my eyes wider to the world we live in as well.
I can’t wait to get home to my babies. I have missed them so much, but know they have been well cared for while I have been gone. I may have 5 extra guests in my bed tonight! I need time to hold them again!