Smoking In Switzerland

Can you guess from which age a child can legally purchase cigarettes in Geneva? 15 years? 18 years? Perhaps even older? I bet not many of you would have guessed that a child can buy tobacco here as soon as it is able to walk and talk. There is absolutely no restrictions. You could, if you wanted to, send your toddler into a shop to buy your cigarettes.

This really threw me, when I heard it on the news yesterday. The legal age from which children are able to buy cigarettes is set by the Cantons, the Swiss states, not the central government. Which means that you may be able to send your three year old for cigarettes in Geneva, but if you go to neighbouring Vaud, you will have to wait 15 years until your child is 18 years old.

When I mentioned this to friends last night, two of them said that they often see children as young as 13 or 14 years old smoking. Both of these friends live near high schools in Geneva.

Today I searched for information about smoking in Switzerland, and found this:

Most 11-13 year olds in Switzerland have never smoked, only 10% of 11 year old and 31% of 13 year olds have tried smoking

9% of 13 year olds smoke

25% of 15 year olds smoke

When asked if they smoke regularly, ie. weekly or daily, 4% of 13 year olds , and 17% of 15 year olds admitted to doing so.

I wondered about that, and how it compares with other countries, so searched and found research from the Child And Adolescent Research Unit in Edinburgh which has collated information on children’s health and wellbeing throughout Europe.

Many more children in Scotland try smoking at an early age. Around 4% of 11 year olds and 19% of 13 year olds have tried smoking

6 % of 13 year olds smoke

18% of 15 year olds smoke

When asked if they smoke regularly, ie. weekly or daily, 4% of 13 year olds , and 10% of 15 year olds admitted to doing so. The figures in Scotland are split into girls/boys so show slight variations to the Swiss ones. (PDFs)


I was certainly surprised that Switzerland, with it’s clean and healthy image, has more under-age smokers than Scotland.

Does the availability of cigarettes make it easier for children to smoke? Perhaps. In Scotland you cannot walk up to a cigarette machine, put your money in and pull out a packet of cigarettes. Making cigarettes more difficult to buy could well help prevent so many Swiss children smoking.

To do that they would have to either remove the machines, or do what they have done in Germany. A few years ago they introduced a new system that to buy cigarettes from a machine, you have to enter a bank card (or a drivers license) with electronic chip that has the age of the holder saved on it. Not foolproof, but certainly a step in the right direction.

My eldest child is 9 years old, and the thought of her lighting up her first fag in just over a year is pretty scary. Looks like we shall have to have a little chat soon about the dangers of smoking.


Banana Cupcakes with Caramel Fleur de Sel

When I renamed the blog, I decided that I would make Salted Caramels and perhaps use the photos for the blog logo. Easier said than done, I discovered. When I searched for a recipe, I found that almost all of them called for what the Americans call “heavy cream”. This is a cream with a fat content of 36 to 38%, in between single cream and double cream. The closest I can find in Switzerland is Vollrahm, in French Crème Entière, with 35%.

For making caramels, it is incredibly important to have a candy thermometer, which I did not have. I bought what I thought was a candy thermometer but it was a jam thermometer and did not go up to the required 120°C.

So my caramels were not exactly a success. They taste great but were very difficult to cut and have been lurking in the fridge since I made them. Caramels are of course extremely sweet, and I can only eat one at a time so they may last for some time.

I will try again when I find a candy thermometer, perhaps using a different recipe. Once I have found the perfect recipe, I will of course share it with you.



For now, here is the recipe of the Banana Cupcakes I made today, using some of the caramels.


















The Joys of Expat Life

Ok, forgive me my self-indulgent and whiny post yesterday.

The sun is shining in Geneva once more, my friend is on her way to a new adventure, who knows what the next year will bring both her and my families. There is change coming, and it cannot be stopped.

Today, I am going to concentrate on the good sides, the sweet side of life. What I enjoy about living in Switzerland. In Geneva.

Chocolate – this is a given. Switzerland has a lot of chocolatiers. Here in Geneva we can chose from Martel, Rohr, Auer and many others. We went to the chocolate festival in Versoix this spring to see how chocolate is made. And to try some.



The school. As I have posted before, the schools here are very good. I love that we walk down the hill to school, along by the lake. I love that the children are happy there. That the school provides each child with Caran d’Ache pens and pencils. That school dinners are more likely to feature Coq au Vin than Turkey Twizzlers. That my children eat vegetables at home because they are used to eating healthy food at school.



That we can take our dog, Daphne, pretty much everywhere. The only place you cannot take a dog is the supermarket. She goes shopping with us, into restaurants, bars and cafés. They are extremely dog friendly here, we rarely have a problem finding a hotel or bed and breakfast. We find it difficult when we are in UK as she has to stay in the car, or we have to sit outside in a café.



Our bunker. As a talking point, it is quite something. Good for storing wine, groceries and a variety of junk. I am not going to take a photo of the bunker as it is now, because I can barely get into it. *blush* Time for another tidy out session.



Filets de P̻rces Рthe delicious little fish from Lake Geneva. That I can buy on my way home from the school run.






Driving in the Alps in an open top car, the wind streaming through my hair, the sun warming my face.





All this and more. Life is good. And I am not going to waste a moment of it by moaning or complaining.

Saying goodbye, au revoir, auf wiedersehen…

No matter in which language you do this, it is a bitch. And if you are living the expat life, then it is something that you have to do occasionally. I have had acquaintances come and go but today was the first time I have said farewell to a true friend. And it hurts.

So I did what I do when I hurt. I baked. I cried. I drank wine. And I sat down to write.

While I pounded the dough for the pizza we shall eat later, I considered this side of expat life. The side that no one tells you about, when they extol the fantastic lifestyle, the mind-broadening experiences, the fun and the glamour of life as an expat in Geneva. The side of expat life to which my American friend would say, “this sucks big time”.

In a city like Geneva, where over 45% of the population are not Swiss nationals, it is easy to find friends. Or at least it is easy to find acquaintances. Finding friends is slightly more difficult. Join one of the many international clubs to meet other people, head out to one of the many city bars, everywhere there is the chance to meet new people.

I recall my first evening in Geneva, when I came alone on a house hunting trip. I sat at a lakeside bar, a teeny glass of white wine in my hands, watching the boats sway gently in the breeze and listening to the soft flow of conversation around me. The United Nations building was just a couple of miles away, and I felt that the international community was all around me. French, German, English, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and dozens of other languages – I heard the babble of a thousand tongues, as I sat there, as wide eyed as a country girl on her first trip to the city.



While I picked the metaphorical straw out of my hair, I wondered at this city. So full of colour and multicultural experiences. I later found the flip side. The slightly staid, very typical Swiss reserve that explains why my French language skills are so bad.

The Swiss, it has to be said, keep themselves to themselves. The expats befriend the expats: very few of us have Swiss friends.

Today, almost 3 years later, I understand their reasoning. The constant flow of arrivals and departures is fun at first, but then you finally make good friends, and they leave after a few years. The Swiss are protecting themselves when they stay aloof and reserved. For living here permanently means that new friends come and go.

And when they go, sometimes the parting is hard. I would have liked to have spent more time in the company of my friend, but we shall have to content ourselves with emails and phone calls. And the promise of a visit in a far off country sometime in the not too distant future.


The Swiss Apartment Rules

Did you know that the Swiss have rules that restrict many activities that most of us would find totally normal? The Swiss apartment rules are particularly strict, so we’ve always been thankful that we live in the countryside with no direct neighbours.

Today my husband was preparing for the big 4th July Party that we are hosting on Monday. Part of this involved a bit of garden work – we have a large linden tree in the garden, it’s yellow flowers are pretty for about 30 seconds before it sheds the flowers onto the grass. Raking the flowers and leaves takes a lot of time and effort so we bought an electric leaf blower/vacuum last year.

He was thankfully almost finished with the work when a neighbour came by to tell him that the use of a leaf blower is not allowed until November. Just what we should do with a leaf blower in November, when the leaves start falling in early summer, I don’t know. Maybe we could use it to blow the first snow away.

We have never met this neighbour, in the two years we have been living in this house, so it was a surprise when she said, “I am asking you very gently to stop using this machine”.

It was the first time that we have fallen foul of the Swiss obsession with rules and regulations – we have found that here in the French speaking area of Switzerland the Swiss seem to be less stuffy about their rules. We were warned about these rules before we moved to Geneva. Some of these rules are similar to those in Germany – such as not cutting the grass on Sundays – but other regulations were rather more restrictive. Such as the rule that prohibits showering after 10pm or even flushing the loo.

As many of these rules are limited to those who live in apartments – such as the bathroom ones – and as we live in a house, it has never affected us. Similarly, we can use the washing machine whenever we wish to. Many city apartments have a communal washing machine, the usage of which is strictly regulated. The tenants have a time slot in which they may use the laundry room. This would be a nightmare for me as I would find it hard to be so organised to wash on one or two set days of the week. What do you do if you have small children, or if a child is ill and you need to wash bedding?

One evening I was in town with friends and we were chatting as we arranged another meeting. A Swiss man stopped and told us that it was already after 10pm. We nodded and agreed that he was correct, it was indeed after 10pm, almost 10.30pm in fact, before realising that he was scolding us for talking too loud. We weren’t THAT loud – honest. It does take some getting used to that someone would actually tell you that you are being too loud, or that you should not be using a leaf blower – although we can be thankful that they did as some Swiss citizens simply call the police.

The Swiss are fond of their rules, and when you live here you have to abide by them, even the rules that you think are ridiculous. So my husband put the leaf blower away and fetched his trusty rake to finish the rest of the garden work.