Archive for the 'travel' Category

What is it about this place

March 14, 2006

Ok, this is my second visit to Switzerland and I have to say it is quite difficult doing business here. It has a bit to do with a few things:
1.) I am american and everyone knows it.
Although this is certainly a factor, I don't think it is the most important. Switzerland is quite the "hodgepodge" of people. While I wouldn't consider it the same melting pot that we see in the US there is certainly a variety. For instance, the Web team here for IMD has 3 Italians, 1 Canadian, 1 French, 1 French – Swiss and 1 German -Swiss (yes german-swiss and french-swiss are two different types of people). So the fact that I am from another country is no big deal because everyone else is.
2.) The language
This certainly is a factor _outside_ of the workplace and while within the Web team you will hear at least 3 different languages at the same time communication at the business level (decision making, meetings) are all conducted in English. Almost everyone _knows_ english in all of the shops and restaurants they are certainly partial to French. And although I do feel this may attribute to some of the difficulties it is not the most important reason I find it difficult to be here.
3.) Communications in general
I feel so disconnected here. Besides the fact that I miss my family terribly, I am not _free_ to communicate as I would like. For instance, if you don't know the code to call the US is 001 + the number. Since I have not memorized that yet, making a call to the US takes longer then I am used to. Since I have to use a calling card, talking to my family is also difficult. Not to mention the time difference with the people I have grown accustumed to working with on a daily basis. And the kicker – it is costing me about 2.4 swiss francs per minute to be online. With the dollar and franc being so close ($120 US –> 123 Swiss Francs) it is very apparent that this is not what I am used to. I am used to being able to pick up the phone at any point and call anyone at anytime (cell phones are really expensive for US over here so that is not an option). I am used to opening a web browser and getting on the Internet at anytime I want. I think because I am so _connected_ in my life in the states, it becomes difficult to be _disconnected_.
Surely if I was here _disconnected_ with my friends and families it would be different. For now, I need to get through this week and hopefully find some high mountain to ride my snowboard down this weekend.


Customer service in Switzerland

March 13, 2006

I am in a restaurant in the Ouchy district of Lusanne Switzerland and I have to say we as american patrons to american restaurants/bars are spoiled (well I guess you could call it that). This is my second trip back to Switzerland and I am not sure if it is the Italian Swiss or just the culture, but I am in a restaurant with probably 25-30 patrons (maybe more) and there is one waiter. In the US there would be at least 2 maybe 3. So I am not sure if it is the volume of work that this waiter is handling or just how it is here at Italian restaurants but his service is horrible. I look at this service in two ways:

1.) Culture – the US culture is much more fast paced than this life style (at least compared to here in Lusanne). I love good dinner conversation like the rest and it may just be me, but I am really here to eat. My wife is an excellent cook so we can talk over her good food anytime. I like to be waited on and these guys like to talk. If I were to separate the different portions of the meal into percentages it would look like this:

– 10% review menu wait for drink
– 5% wait for food after order (seriously, my pizza was done in 5 minutes – and its really good)
– 40% wait for waiter to come back and ask for another beer
– 30% wait for waiter to come back to ask you if your finished
– 15% wait for check
100% frustrated with service

In the US you are asked every 5 minutes or so if you’d like something or if everything is Ok and I guess I have grown accustomed to that level of service. So in comes the culture. The Swiss can talk! They love to talk, so maybe when the waiter does not come back for 20 minutes after they have run out of wine, its ok for them. Not me. I have now been waiting 5 minutes (seems like longer) for another beer.

Option 2:

2.) Gratuity – OK, so get this, the 7.5% gratuity is included in the meal. Yup, so not only do I have to ‘suffer’ through this service, but at the end of my meal, this waiter is going to get 7.5% of my bill in a tip that he would be lucky to get in the US. Maybe the other side of the coin is that he has no incentive. He can continue to give horrible service and be guaranteed a certain amount tips. I am not sure if waiters are compensated the same as US waiters but if its anything like the US, this guy can not be making a ton of money.

Reminds me of the part in Reservoir Dogs where mister pink (Steve Buschemi) does not want to tip. Anyways, I know I’ll be back, and maybe next time I will order:

235 AS Roma
Parmesan, poivrons, oeuf, mortadella, salami, champigons, piments

Just as soon as I learn what “poivrons”, “ouef”, “chamigons” and “piments” are.

So I spoke with some of the -non swiss- folks here that agreed that the service was lacking. They also confirmed that the reason is that the waiters/waitresses are paid better per hour then you would be in US and the “Tip” (can’t really call it that) which is included in the bill is just extra.

poivrons – peppers
ouef – beef
chamigons – mushrooms
piments – peppers (maybe hot vs. not not)

Back from Minnesota

March 11, 2006

I just returned from my trip from Minnesota. I want to officially thank the Research Web team at Mayo Clinic for a great week. We finally go their production servers up and running on Thursday night. You can see their sites here:


(They also have an intranet and they are all running CommonSpot) New servers, new version of CommonSpot – Sweet!

Anyways I had a few things that I want to post about and it is 12 at night so I am not going to have time tonight but I just wanted to write them down so I don't forget

1.) Trailer Park Boys – 2 posts here essentially – the show is really funny (thank forbes) and google video rocks!

2.) I had a sickening idea on my flight back after looking at my water bottle that I purchased _after_ I passed through all of the security. Sickening.

3.) Google's purhase of the Writely software. Very interesting for the content management space – more on this and hopefully some comments from the team at PaperThin

Well I am going to sleep now, I will have 2 excited boys in less than 7 hours wanting more of my attention than I can possibly give.