Free or Not (part 1)?

Some things in the States seem free but of course, you know the money flows from other places. In Switzerland you are expected to pay for things that are free in America. I haven’t run across anything that is free in Switzerland but you have to pay for it in the States. There might be lots of things, I just haven’t found any yet.

Free Water in a Restaurant

When you go to a restaurant in the States there is usually a glass of ice water on the table. Of course, if you are in California during a dry spell you might have to ask for the water. It’s always free, or at least included in the price. Sometimes you can get a whole pitcher full for the table, too. There is no such equivalent in Switzerland. Sure, you could easily ask for tap water and you might even get it. It may or may not cost anything and chances are very good that there will be no ice in it either.

Free water is something that, for some strange reason, I never missed in Switzerland. Maybe I was just taken with all the different types of mineral water here. Which are always served cold but never with ice. I like to think I’m doing something for my health by drinking mineral water.

Mineral water certainly did something for our health when I first lived in Switzerland. The way you bought drinks was in 12 1 liter glass bottles in a crate. That added up to a lot of weight to carry, especially if you lived on the 5th floor without an elevator. After a while it changed to 1 ½ liter plastic bottles in the crate, which was considerably lighter.

At some point I read about all the havoc plastic bottles can create in your body and in the environment. I decided to buy mineral water in glass bottles if at all possible. I found two companies that sold it that way. What is especially nice with the company I chose, is you can have it delivered. Although I no longer live on the 5th floor and could use the workout, I say, count me in!

Free Refills

Each and every glass of soda, or coffee in a restaurant costs in Switzerland. There are no free refills. In the States you buy one of three size drinks: small, medium or large and you can get as many refills as you want for that price. I guess the prize question is why would anyone buy anything other than a small? Of course, you have to figure in that a glass filled 70% with ice, will only get you one gulp with a small size, but still.

Also the waitress in the restaurant would like to refill your coffee cup. She has a pot of coffee that’s been kept warm for hours just waiting for you. As you may know, I’m not a coffee person. I have, however been told that Swiss coffee differs greatly from American. Quite often I have heard American coffee likened to dirty brown water, which doesn’t sound tasty at all. Switzerland is a country of coffee-connoisseurs. Expect to pay a steep price for each and every one of those tasty cups of java.

Free Plastic Bags

As I mentioned in my grocery shopping post, all bags cost something in Switzerland. The small, very unstable plastic bags cost 5 rappens. Until the end of 2016 they used to be free in all grocery stores. Wow, something in Switzerland that was free!

In 2012 the parliament started discussing if the use of plastic bags could be stopped completely for environmental reasons. Is took awhile, but one store tested selling them. The test showed that the use of the plastic bags were “drastically” reduced as soon as a cost was implemented. Which leads me to something I’ve noticed in Switzerland. If you want to change the way the Swiss act your best chance for success is through their wallet. The Swiss think twice about spending unnecessary money.

Since the spring of this year the two largest grocery stores have started charging for plastic bags. What’s nice to know is that the money these stores make from selling the bags goes into a special fond for recycling and environmentally friendly projects. I think that’s a step in the right direction, even if it is just a baby step.

As for me, if I happen to forget to bring a bag when I go grocery shopping, I will not buy a plastic one. Like I said, I think it’s a good idea for the fond for environmentally friendly projects. But the bags are small and tend to rip easily so why even buy them in the first place? If I only have a few items I balance them in my arms until I get to the car.

Yes, I drive to the grocery store. Well, at least it’s an electric car!

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