Thursday, April 30, 2009

Zurich Expat Bloggers Meetup - PART 3 : Google Zurich Tour (continued)

(Continued from Part 2...)

During our tour of the Zurich Google offices, we were lead all over from floor to floor, down two poles, over the bridge (outside connecting the two buildings with an awesome view of the Alps in the distance) and through the woods (nature floor)... and eventually we were led to the sea. By that, I mean the quiet room. There are about 3 or 4 massage chairs in this totally dark space and about 6 different fish tanks. More than one of us (Kerrin especially!) got a bit comfortable here. I was happy to plop myself into this tub. If I had had a magic marker with me, I might have been tempted to write "Jessica was here" European graffiti style on the bottom of the tub.

Speaking of relaxation, Googlers also get free massages in house.

Can we get more jealous than this? NO.

My favorite quote of the day was when someone asked Marie what kind of massage she gets - Swedish or whatever. She said, "I don't care... just milk me." I loved it... and no doubt so do the rest of the Googlers. Everything in the office is designed so that the Googlers are taken care of and are able to do what they do best - organize the world's information (according to the Google mission). And if that takes a couple of massages a week, I am down with that... have an extra Cherry Garcia while you're at it. We appreciate what you do and understand it's all part of the job. ;)

After checking out all the floors and meeting spaces, the gym, large conference rooms, games room and more, it was time for the big finale... and well, it's Google, so why wouldn't you expect an in house slide that leads straight into the on-site cafeteria. We all had a bit more luck with this than the pole. Nik, one of the Googlers that joined us for the tour and had all kinds of interesting stories and anecdotes on hand (love the story about the coffee machine rack!), said that from time to time the table in front of the slide is staffed with Googlers at the ready with score cards. I am sure my slide performance was a perfect 10... I so nailed that landing. I am so in. ;)

After the tour we met up again for drinks in the library, and Kannan, our host, also came in on his Sunday after a long week of traveling to meet up with the group. It was awesome to hear about his experiences at Google, and he mentioned an article coming out soon in Wired Magazine about a recent uber fascinating trip he took. I will link to that at a future date. Stay tuned.

All in all, I think we all know that Google is an amazing company to work for and that they take care of their employees almost as well as they they take care to keep their search algorithms secret... (I threatened one passerby for the secret formula but he said no and offered me some free gummy bears and a game of guitar hero and I was soon distracted... )

But what I really learned from this awesome opportunity is how generous Google is when it comes to giving back to the blogger community. The Google office was a great place to kick-off our Swiss Expat Blogger Meet-ups, and I think everyone was well impressed and invigorated by the opportunity to tour the amazing Google Zurich offices - I know I was!

Thank you again to Kannan and Marie for this awesome opportunity to get a close up view of the company that creates many of the cool online tools we use to connect with friends, family and expats while living in Switzerland. If you ever need someone to clean all those whiteboards full of Google secrets, you know who to call...

The bloggers that went on the Google tour - Juanita, Carla, me (and my hot stuff... I was taking those glasses off, I swear...), Kerrin, Kylie, Isaiah, Amanda, Jace, Rob and Tina. Thank you, Kerrin, for sending the photos through and to Marie for taking them!

This is an essential and the latest edition is due out in July. Pre-Order your copy today! Living and Working in Switzerland, 12th Edition: A Survival Handbook

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Zurich Expat Bloggers Meetup - PART 2 : Google Zurich Tour!

That's right! Here is Part 2 of the First Swiss Expat Blogger Meet-up that took place in Zurich on Sunday (Part 1 here). I love this shot above, because we are all high after our tour of the Google offices. YES! You read that right! We had our own private tour (thank you again, Marie for giving up your sunny Sunday afternoon!). Kannan, a Swisstory reader and Googler, as they call themselves, invited us to have our first meet-up in the Google library and repay the favor for all the helpful information available on our expat blogs... and we jumped at the offer! Numbers were limited, so invites went out to those who RSVPed for the meet-up early on. See - it pays to RSVP early for our events. ;)

We were not allowed to take pictures inside, but I found these photos online and am hoping the photographer does not mind me 'borrowing' them to describe our tour.
After we got our name tags, Marie started our tour with the library. It is really posh and has hundreds of games and books that Googlers can borrow. That fireplace is a video on loop by the way! In the library was one of the many kitchens at the Google offices with free drinks and snacks on offer, too. Jace just told me that was his favorite part - the free coke. I wish I could say he was kidding, but he is probably not. He loves his diet coke. ;) We dropped our bags in the library faster than you could say "Tell me the algorithm or I will shoot" and we were on to the tour!

Each floor has a theme... there is a sports floor and a nature floor. And everywhere they have cute little meeting rooms or conference rooms - places where you can just lock yourself away and have a chat in an atmosphere that casually reminds you that you work at the coolest place on the planet. Must be nice...

Nature floor

I sat in one of these love capsules and imagined myself conf calling with Sergey while resting my feet on a cow hide pillow... I might have even heard birds chirping. So good was the day dream... or was that a recording?

For a minute... I was a Googler, I was in love... then someone said "Fireman's pole time" and I woke myself up and prepared for an even better, renowned Zurich Google office experience that until then I had only dreamed about (ok, yes, sometimes I dream REAL BIG). ;)


Google has not one... but TWO fireman's poles. I told a coworker about this today and he said... "What! A pole? What kind of pole? What do they do with those poles?" Obviously my German needs improvement... and it turns out, so does my pole sliding! Many of us jumped right on and slid down to the next floor, having a chuckle at the note on the door leading to the pole that says "No laptops on the pole" (poor sucker that learned that the hard way!), but some of us scooted down, and others just could not overcome the fear and took the names will be mentioned... Juanita! (But she did go down the other pole and she ROCKED IT!) ;)

As I mentioned, there are like a dozen micro-kitchens in cool designs and with cool entertainment features throughout the office (fussball, air hockey, and about 4 million bean bag chairs)... and food and drink are all free...! That means three meals a day and all the Ben and Jerry's you can eat, baby.

Some of the coolest pods around the office are the refurbished, reused Swiss gondolas or chair lifts. If I ever get an interview at Google... pipe dream... I think my first question will have to be,
'Um, so what kind of pod are you sitting in now?'... 'Oh yeah...the Swiss chalet, eh?... That's a nice one...'
'Uh, can you see the deer on the wall? ....Oh... no? How about the Matterhorn... can you see that?.... '
'Oh... ok, cool... Sorry I just had to ask. So about that job cleaning the gym...' ;)
(want more?... to be continued tomorrow!...)
This is an essential and the latest edition is due out in July. Pre-Order your copy today! Living and Working in Switzerland, 12th Edition: A Survival Handbook

Monday, April 27, 2009

Switzerland Expat Bloggers Network

Part 2 of the meetup from Sunday will be posted soon... until then, as promised, please check out the new Swiss Expat Bloggers Network!

All Swiss Expat Bloggers are welcome to join - and I actually invite you to! This is a community for us to share information and plan events.

Visit Swiss Expat Bloggers

The network is private, so membership is by invite only to start. This keeps our events private and secure to members only... but we can always change this later if we want to open the flood gates. :) If you were at the event on Sunday, your invitation is coming soon. Otherwise, please email me (jessica(at) and I will send you an invite!

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me or Amanda. Thanks!
This is an essential and the latest edition is due out in July. Pre-Order your copy today! Living and Working in Switzerland, 12th Edition: A Survival Handbook

First Ever Zurich Bloggers Meetup - PART 1

Amanda and Isaiah - the brains behind the meet-up
Yesterday was our first ever Swiss Bloggers Meetup in Zurich and it was actually a two part event.

Some of the bloggers that RSVPed early on met up at the GOOGLE OFFICES in Zürich - YES! IT WAS AWESOME! (full write up tomorrow - just waiting for the pic from Kerrin!!!)- for a super duper tour, and then we carried on to the meet up with the rest of the bloggers and Blog lovers at Cafe Balthazaar on Bahnhofstrasse. I have to say... IT WAS TOTALLY AWESOME! I am still on a buzz. Everyone was so great to meet, and if felt like we all already knew each other from sharing our lives and loves in Switzerland on our respective blogs.

Vivian, Karen, Jeese, Gwenyth, Virginia,
Romy and Edie - Bloggers and Blog lovers at the Cafe post Google tour...

We had a excellent turnout - mostly brilliant, inspiring women - but a lot of super blog supporting husbands were also in attendance (thanks Jace!). Here the attendees listen attentively as we did a round robin of who's who and who writes what. It was so surreal to put real flesh and bones to blog writing superheros.

After following Tina on her adventures in Cinque Terra and around Geneva (thanks again for making the trek for the meet-up!), it was great to meet her and her husband Rob. We are so going over to the dark side - and by that I mean the French side of CH- and visiting. Just you wait and see! ;)

And my first blogger first date, Juanita, was in attendance and handing out goodies in the form of pins promoting her awesome shop on Etsy. So talented that girl - even if she can't slide down a pole... more on that tomorrow. Jace also loved meeting Kylie, another Aussie, who has a really fun perspective on living and working as a Swiss Aupair. We will definately need to work together more for the greater good of informing peeps on where to find alternatives for sausage rolls and lamingtons in Switzerland. It is our civic duty! ;)

I am so amazed by Jesse. Not only did she run the Zürich marathon that morning before joining us, but her smile and personality are infectious. I feel there are many more hilarious encounters around the corner and I hope I am a part of some of them! ;) (Oh and Kristy, I thank you for telling your daughter to come to the blogger meet up. I owe you one! I hope you will comment on Swisstory one day, too! ;)

A lot of newbies and blog lovers also attended - like Vivian, Karen and Romy. What a gorgeous group of blog lovers, right? It was great to meet you, ladies. I am looking forward to catching up on your blog, too, Remy!

Edie, above, and Paul (not above) also came to get the inside scoop about living and working in Switzerland. Paul already works in Schaffhausen and has five star office digs on the falls - so jealous! I hope that you post your blog here, Edie, to share and good luck on the pending move. I hope we can help you adjust in the coming months - and I think it was pretty obvious from the meet up that a lot of us really love Zürich!

The guy in the shot above is Sebastian, the awesome waiter at Cafe Balthazaar that gave us the red carpet treatment. They also let us totally take over the place... great little cafe on Bahnhofstrasse - with great Apfelstrudel, of course...

I unfortunately did not get shots of everyone - but here are the blogs of all the attendees in case you want to read something new! Thanks again to Amanda and Isaiah for the great idea to meet up. I think everyone had a great time and we cannot wait for the next event and the network... more details to come this week!

Bloggers at the meet-up with blogs:
This is an essential and the latest edition is due out in July. Pre-Order your copy today! Living and Working in Switzerland, 12th Edition: A Survival Handbook

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sechseläuten Umzug (Parade) Zürich 2009

Sechseläuten Zürich Sign
As promised, a few extra shots of the Sechseläuten Umzug (parade) from Monday. As I mentioned before, the parade is all about the guilds... well actually the whole event is. Allow me to paraphrase from wikipedia. Back in the medieval days, the guilds were really tough about their working hours. In winter they worked until it was dark and then stopped, but when it came to Spring, when daylight is getting longer, they changed the working hours such that everyone punched out at 6pm. So everyone rejoiced for Spring because it meant they got a bit of daylight when they came home and the bells rang at 6 o'click to let you know it's time to go home. On Sechseläuten fest day, the bells ring for the first time, celebrating the change to the Spring hours (Sechseläuten literally means six o'clock bells you know) and they had a big party and parade to the square to celebrate the end of winter and blow up a snowman effigy- hence the tradition. (Was that spot on? If not read it yourself here...)

The guilds still celebrate wearing their tradtional garb. There is even a guide to follow along so you know what each guild represents - butcher, baker, candle stick maker - literally. And they all have flowers to give out to people and boy do their receive. The difference between the beginning of the parade, this:
and the end of the parade... this:

... is huge. One guy behind me at the parade said it well, 'Yeah, when it comes to flowers, this is bigger than Valentine's Day!'

It is like these guys are celebrity for a day. It certainly is interesting though to see all the flowers and costumes.

And by the way, the guild members these days are not exactly of the profession that the guild originally was. That is no longer followed, I understand. But they keep the traditional costumes nonetheless.

This above was a baker's guild and they handed out rolls and pretzels!

Next to the costumes and flowers, the big attraction was the horses. My were there some fine horses on show at the parade.
The only downside was that after awhile it no longer smelled of flowers, but of horse... if you know what I mean. You had to watch out for it EVERYWHERE!

Kids also paraded. It was cute. The kiddie parade is actually on Sunday though if you want to see the next generation up close.

The only unfortunate thing about the parade and the event, and I am not normally feminist, is that there were hardly any women. Unless you were carrying flowers for the men or had a herd of dogs, like this one below, you were not in the parade if you were a woman. Yes, it is tradition, I know. But come on... where are the women members? I was told by someone at work, too, that the women can walk the same parade route and participate but they have to do it an hour before... yeah.

Regardless, this was an awesome event. Make sure you go next year if you missed it, or check out the video! Enjoy!

This is an essential and the latest edition is due out in July. Pre-Order your copy today! Living and Working in Switzerland, 12th Edition: A Survival Handbook

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