I like to say almost everything that happens in the States happens about 10 years later in Switzerland. That held true for many of the electronics devices and telephones. Unfortunately, something that is not as neat as electronics is slowly happening in Switzerland. A lot of people are becoming larger and overweight.
It wasn’t always like this. The new “normal“ is overweight in America. It’s everywhere, I saw it at my high school reunion. Almost everyone there was what I have now come to call “American slim”. Sometimes people ask me “Why are Americans so fat?”. My first reaction to that question is a bit of self-defense. “Not all Americans are fat!” My second reaction is a little longer.
Why are Americans so Fat?
First, remember not all Americans are fat. But for those that are, well, there are lots of reasons.
You can start with the size of the country itself. It’s huge! Everything is spread out, so far, in fact that you need your car to go almost anywhere. Except maybe your mailbox. Once you get used to getting in your car and going, that’s what you do out of habit.
One Thanksgiving I was in the States visiting my sister. My mother and aunts came too. After the holidays I went with my aunts and mother to their home. It was a two day drive. After driving the first day we found a hotel and stopped for the night. Right next to the hotel was a pancake place. I suggested we go there so we could get back to the hotel easily and get some rest.
As you can see from the diagram it was really close. Silly me, I assumed that we would just walk over. Wrong. My aunts wanted to drive to the pancake place. I couldn’t believe it and told them so. They wouldn’t even have realized how utterly absurd it was to drive had I not said anything. By the way, they agreed it was a little crazy but we drove anyway. Habit wins.
Which brings me to the next point. Fast food. Fast food has next to no nutrition in it, costs next to nothing and beacons at almost every corner. You can’t get around it, so you give in.
Ben and I got married in the States. Some Swiss friends and family were also able to attend. One group of Swiss got lost trying to find my parent’s home and called to get some help. As it turned out they were fairly close. So we told them which exit to take and after the second traffic light to turn left at McDonalds. A while later they called again. They said they followed our direction but still couldn’t find us. A little detective work solved the problem that they had taken the wrong exit. But amazingly there was a McDonalds after two traffic lights to turn left on. See what I mean? So many fast food places, practically on every corner. And that was quite a few years ago.
Then there are refills on the drinks which are more than likely to have sugar in them. Along with the drinks the bread on the table is also free. Combine that with a quick, attentive server and you are in for a sugar overload in no time flat.
The Larger the Better
Things not only seem to be larger in the States, they are. The food package size is made for large families. I was never a big peanut butter and jelly sandwich kind of person. I only use peanut butter to make Tiger Butter. So this is something that I never really noticed. The size of the peanut butter jars is about 4 times larger in the States (and costs way less there!). An American friend who came with her family here said she ran a hole in her food budget in Switzerland. Just trying to feed them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches was next to impossible.
Another example is milk. Milk is sold by the gallon in the States. One gallon is more than 3.5 liters. In Switzerland it is sold by the liter, half liter or quarter liter. Pretty much small, smaller and petite.
Of course, if you have all these huge jars and containers they all have to be kept somewhere. A normal American refrigerator is a double door type. The only time I have ever seen a fridge that size in Switzerland was for a family with 9 children. Otherwise it’s one door and usually shorter.
So, you see even if you are able to sidestep the fast food places what happens. You go to the grocery store you will easily end up with huge portions. It really isn’t so easy.
The last straw on this camel’s back are TV commercials. It seems like everyone is vying for your business and will do everything in their power to get it. I can’t remember ever seeing a commercial on TV for a Swiss restaurant. There are, however lots of commercials for McDonalds and Burger King!
In America you regularly see restaurant commercials. Chain restaurants will advertise weekly specials, show you food until your mouth waters and your resistance is down to 0.
Switzerland isn’t Far Behind
Switzerland is slowly catching up with America in the heavy weight class. Of the things that I talk about in this post, really only McDonalds, Burger King and a few other fast food chains have gotten a foothold in Switzerland. Food portion sizes and transportation are still far away from the American style.
One of Ben’s aunts thought that she was overweight. While she and her husband were in America he took to taking pictures of overweight women. He called them her consolation pictures.
The way things are going pretty soon you won’t have to go to America to take consolation pictures. Soon you can get them in any town in Switzerland. I hope I’m wrong.