Happy CInco de Mayo to everyone. ONE thing we cannot seem to find here is good Mexican Food. Basically every time we find a place that says it serves Mexican food we stop, but so far we have been pretty disappointed. We found a chain that serves decent americanized mexican food, but that is the closest we have come. So I am making soft shell tacos for dinner. Have to celebrate somehow. I made a comment on a Reddit thread in regards to Swiss dining about mexican food, and was told there is a really good one near Interlaken. When George is over in a few weeks, we will have to take a road trip and see if it is a good place.
The last few days, I have come to realize that some things are just messed up no matter what country you live. I am thinking cellular companies. Updating a phone in the US is a major pain. Especially if you have the phones attached to a business plan. It could take hours to get a phone attached to Verizon and that does not include transferring apps and other data. I was hoping things would be different here, but it turns out to be much the same.
My birthday is this month, and since Kaylee’s cat decided to see how fast my cell phone could fall from the counter top, I have been living with a busted screen. Since the only things on my list were 9,000 and 18,000 CHF each ( I really would like a new bike, and a Rolex watch!). We decided a new cell phone would have to do! This actually turned out to be a lot more difficult than I thought.
I decided to go with a new iphone, as I really like the Google Pixel Android phones, but they do not sell them anywhere here. I also had (well, thought I had) a coupon code good for 10% off a new phone. Julie signed us up for UPC when we got here, because it was just the easiest. It was a true one stop shop, where she got internet, television, and mobile all at the same time. So the coupon was good only at a UPC store, so I hopped on my bike and rode to the nearest store. This turned out to be an adventure all on it’s own.
I somehow managed to swallow a bug about 1/2 a block from the store, and could not stop coughing. There was no way I was going into the store like that, because everyone would think I was spreading COVID; so when I finally got to the point the coughing spasms were over, I went to a Kiosk and bought a bottle of water and some Ricola to get me by. By the time I got back to the store, there were now five people in front of me, with only one assistant in the place.
So I wait patiently in the lobby. I once again felt inadequate because an older gentlemen came up and started talking. I explained I did not speak german well, but if he would talk slower I would do my best. I also asked him if he spoke english. With no hesitation, “I speak German, Italian, French, and Spanish, but I do not speak English.” Said in perfect English!! He then immediately walked away. After waiting about an hour, I finally got my chance. I was trying so hard to do the transaction in German, but we hit a roadblock and had to switch to English. The roadblock was…. Julie is on the contract so they cannot sell me a phone unless she is there. The assistant then tried telling me I could order online, and we would not need Julie, but that doesn’t work, because the only plans online come with multiple year payoff schedules, and I do not like those. I then explained about the coupon. She told me the coupon was not good on phones, and when I showed her the message, she said “It must have been translated wrong, because that is NOT what it says in German.” I tried explaining to her that I did not translate it, UPC sent it to me, but all to no avail. So I basically wound up wasting a couple of hours and got no where.
When Julie got home that night, I explained what happened, and she said she was working from home the next day; so we could just go to the store in Thalwil and get it there. We both figured she had to be there, since the assistant I had already talked with was so adamant that I could not buy the phone without Julie. The next day we got to Thalwil, and Julie was not happy, when the clerk just sold me the phone with no questions asked!
We got back home and I got the phone set up, with no problem. But here is where I realized I am out of practice with technology stuff. Apple makes getting a new phone very easy. I had everything moved over to the new phone in under two hours. I made a test call to and from the phone and I thought everything was fine. Until this afternoon…..
Today I had to run some errands, so outside of the house, I tried to look something up on the internet. NO DATA CONNECTION… In fact no nothing.
When I made my test calls it never occurred to me that I was using WIFI in the house. I had assumed, that since the clerk at the store had asked about our UPC information he had done something in the system that automatically updated the SIM card info to UPC. I was ecstatic about how easy it was to update phones here compared to the US, and was telling myself that the US really needs to learn how easy this stuff can be.
As I was troubleshooting the issue, I looked at the system settings on the phone, and quickly realized there was no SIM card in the phone. I could not remember the last time I bought a new phone that did not come with a sim card already in it. It was then I remembered: Yes, I do remember, it was almost three years ago when you bought a new phone over here. I had to wait for a while, because they would not sell me a phone until I could show I was a resident. You can buy burner phones here, but you cannot get a cell phone on a “plan” unless you are a legal resident….
So I get back home, and immediately swap the sim card from the old phone into the new phone. Reboot, and all is good. Kind of… The new iphones are supposed to be 5G capable, but my old phone was only 4G; so I started going through the process to get a new sim card that will take advantage of the 5G system. Tried valiantly online to order a new SIM card but I had no success. For some reason UPC will not take our Residency ID numbers. Next is where I really learned how out of touch with technology I am when I called UPC to try and get a new card.
You see I just assumed that most places in Europe was more advanced than the US in regards to cellular. I mean, there has not been one place in this country that I could not get a signal. Even at the top of some of the most remote mountain areas there is a cell signal. The person on the phone asked why I did not just put the old card in the new phone. I told him I had done that, but I was only seeing a 4G signal, and since the new phone was 5G I figured I needed a new sim card to make it work. He laughed and told me that UPC does not have 5G in Switzerland. I was gobsmacked. Primarily because UPC merged with a company called Sunrise last year. Sunrise advertises they have the most comprehensive 5G network in the country. Pretty PO’d to find out the two companies have integrated everything EXCEPT that.
I also learned that extra privacy settings and different security settings make getting a new phone a bigger pain here versus in the US. The biggest thing being resetting up the banking apps. I really am glad about the security level for our bank apps, but what I find a little silly is that I now have to wait for an actual letter with a security code before I have access to the bank on my phone. What is really frustrating is that because of the way the bank has relied on the phone for two factor authentication it is now even harder to log into the bank via the internet.
Heading back to the US
We are heading back to the US in a week for graduations. It is an exciting time. One is graduating with her undergraduate degree and the other graduating from Law School. Still upset that both graduations are on the same day, but we are making it work. Getting the packing lists written out, and also the lists of stuff we need to bring back. I do not think it will ever cease to amaze me that we always go back to the US with lots of room to spare in the suitcases, but coming home we always worry about how much extra we will have to pay in baggage fees!
One thing that concerns me a little is how quickly I will lose some of my bike riding fitness. It costs way to much to send a bike back and forth; so I will be jogging to try and at least keep my general fitness level. I have really just started my hill workouts for my ride in September. I am hoping to add one more peak to my hill workout before I head home, but it looks like it is going to be raining almost every day from now until we leave. The weather report is showing the only chance for me to get a real bike ride in before I leave is the day I have to take Julie to the airport. (Since we are going to different places we did not coordinate our flight schedules.) That means I wind up doing a lot of kilometers on one of our balconies.
The balcony rides are kind of like running on a treadmill. You work up a good sweat, you get your heart pumping hard, but at the end of the exercise it just still seems kind of underwhelming. Maybe what I should have asked for as a birthday gift is a better bike trainer. If I could find one that would actually simulate hills that would be great! Oh well, Christmas comes soon enough.
I hope this finds you well. I will try and get at least one post in before I leave, and also one from the US, otherwise I will talk to all of you again in late May.