One of the topic that I had to remove from my list of go-to conversation pieces was my latest and greatest shopping deal. In general, talking about money is a no-go in Switzerland, at least your own personal spending habits. It’s perfectly acceptable to talk about broad scale spending, such as the national budget or the USA’s national debt (sigh). But as soon as it comes around to stacking coupons or a great sale on organic ground beef and how much I saved on my grocery budget, well… it’s time to practice some restraint.
This is my conclusion. A good Swiss wife knows how to save money, clip coupons, shop sales AND she does it all in secret! She has the sly skills of a cat, and can spread her table in a way that looks like she has no cares in the world, while at the same time secretly collecting her Migros points (popular local grocery chain) and browsing websites for the best money saving deals. It is allowed to use subtle communication about your great saving skills, but not outspoken verbalised bragging or quoting actual prices. I learned this the hard way. As soon as I say for example, “oh, I got all my fruit for the week at Coop, because they have this kickass fill-a-bag for 7 CHF deal going on” the conversation will stutter, no one will engage the topic, they’ll simply say something polite like “yes, they have good fruit” smile in response, then change the subject. I made this cultural blunder many times in the first year, because where I come from talking about sales and saving opportunities is something that many women enjoy and bond over. It’s safe and fun, so naturally I assumed it was the same in Switzerland. It’s not.
So what are good topics to try out when you’re with a group of Swiss ladies? The weather is always safe, as are recipes, your progress in learning the local language and family vacations, just as long as you don’t mention how much your latest excursion cost you or how you found a crazy-good flight deal ;-).
I realize that my list of “safe” topics isn’t very long and that’s because I’m still building it. I plan on dedicating an entire post to this someday, once I’ve added more than four items to my list! Becoming a good Swiss frau is a work in progress 😉
For now, I can only advise that you refrain from presenting yourself as the frugal coupon crunching lady.