So, after a year and a half in Switzerland, I have ventured back to my native land for a short visit. It is proving to be a bit of a culture shock. For starters, everyone speaks English! You understand what fellow shoppers are saying to each other, and the local news makes sense... this is a very puzzling state of affairs. Compounding this, I have apparently forgotten how to speak English. I had to go into an Orange shop to ask a question about my UK mobile phone (finally exiting from it's box after nearly a year). I had the greatest difficulty in working out how to phrase my query! Most mysterious.
I am also in great danger because all of the cars drive on the left side of the road. Not being a driver, I did not think that this would pose a problem. But I keep on looking in the wrong direction, and then attempting to plunge out into the path of incoming traffic... thankfully so far I have not been out on my own.
Things seem very cheap too. Partly this is because paracetamol and so forth are cheaper than in Switzerland... but also because of the exchange rate.
Another issue, particularly relevant as I type, is that all the keyboards are wrong. Z is where Y should be and the @ sign has moved... this makes logging into practically anything a difficult task requiring concentration of more than usual intensity!
The best part, however, has got to be the food. Brown sugar... real sausages... cheddar cheese... all delights which I have been missing for the past year and a half. I've been promised a Chinese takeaway next week. Now, do you think I can smuggle some cheese past customs?
Thursday, 30 December 2010
Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Well here we are, middle of December, and I realise I haven't posted anything for a month and a half... oops.
Well I do have an excuse - several excuses in fact. National Novel Writing Month took up a lot of words... I didn't have any spare to blog with. And in any spare time I had when I wasn't writing, I was busy as a bee creating jewellery for the Christmas markets in December.
So here we are, in December, and the trade at the markets has been... well not exactly roaring but I have sold a few things. More importantly, I have gained a wealth of knowledge about how to conduct oneself when selling things at a Christmas market.
1) If the market is outside, wear warm shoes (fur-lined boots, for example), and two pairs of socks. Yes, that's two. One pair will not suffice, even if they are thick and woolly. Also, tights or leggings under trousers are a must, because your legs will be exposed to the cold.
2) If you are in a kiosque, make sure that there is some light inside the stall as well as lights shining on your wares outside. Otherwise people are too intimidated to approach the yawning blackness of your hideaway... and there is also a possibility that people may conclude that no-one is there and try and make off with things (not that this has happened, but you never know...).
3) When yobs from your native country hang around swearing and behaving in a loutish manner, put on your best 'teacher voice' and tell them off. They will be so shocked to realise that not everyone sitting behind a stall is a 'foreigner' who doesn't understand English that they will bend to the authority in your voice and shut up and go meekly on their way!
4) Try and agree with your fellow stall holders on the best way to attract customers beforehand. This will save you many tedious conversations along the following lines:
"When you hang around outside the kiosque, it puts people off. I think you should come inside."
"No, it helps me to make eye contact and draws people in."
"Honestly, I think you're frightening people away..."
(Other person comes in. Ten minutes later...)
"Well I came inside and no-one's bought anything. I think I'm going to go back outside and ask all the children who go past if they want to make a bracelet."
"You can't just start talking to random children!"
"You may be right. It would look strange for me to be approaching children."
(Sigh of relief.)
"... But that's because I'm a man. You go outside and talk to the children - and take some craft with you, to catch their attention!"
So of course you give in, go outside and try and draw people in... and it works and you are stuck outside for the next 45 minutes until your mother rescues you because your fingers are turning blue...
5) Resign yourself to the fact that wherever your stall is located, it will be the worst possible location. If, for example, you are near one end of the market, parents will say to their children "We're not buying anything here, there is lots more to see." or "I'm not buying you that, I've spent enough on you already." Adult potential customers are presumably thinking along the same lines. On the other hand, if your stall is in the middle, teenagers will admire your wares and then say "I don't have enough money left.", all the while munching on the junk food they have squandered their savings on.
So there you go. I'm off to another Christmas market tomorrow, and armed with all this knowledge it should go well. Except it's indoors so I probably won't need to be so warmly dressed, and I won't have to worry about snow ruining my choicest pieces!
Oh, I almost forgot. Keep a box of tissues on hand. Woollen gloves make noses very sore and tender even if you only rub them once!