A Trip To…Bruges, Belgium

Visiting old, beautiful cities is one of my favourite pastimes – as you may have gathered from my other blog posts. After seeing numerous pictures of it online, Bruges has always been high on my list of places to visit, due to its sheer prettiness, and it did not disappoint me. My boyfriend and I took a trip there this past October, and we stayed for five nights.

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Where We Stayed

We stayed at the Hotel Salvators, which was located 10 minutes walk from Bruges’ Market Square, which is the hub of Bruges. The hotel is built in the local Flemish style, with a traditional gabled roof, and prides itself on “not being a Novotel”.

The hotel had a lot going for it, it was in a great location, offered a delicious self-serve breakfast, was surprisingly affordable and was full of charm and quirkiness. The only downside to the hotel was that oddly, the bedsheets smelled overwhelmingly of curry powder. I have no idea why they smelled like that, and it wasn’t only one set of bed sheets either. Each time the sheets were changed, the new ones still smelled of curry powder. Perhaps it was the fault of their laundry detergent? Either way, it was a bit off-putting, and it actually smelled so strong that it was a bit hard to fall asleep…!

Despite the strange smell, I would still recommend the hotel overall due to its positives…just maybe bring some Febreeze with you if you do decide to stay there!

What We Did

What didn’t we do would be the better question. We really packed a lot into our trip – here’s what we got up to:

City Bus Tour

We often start our trips by doing some sort of tour, as it’s a good way to learn how to navigate a new city. The City Bus Tour appealed to me because it featured a small bus instead of the usual double decker (in my case, the fewer crowds and tourists, the more I enjoy the experience) and also because the tour was only 50 minutes long, which is the ideal amount of time to get a feel for a place and find things we want to see or visit. All throughout the tour, my boyfriend kept finding places he was interested in photographing, so for that reason alone, it was well worth doing.

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Legends of Bruges Free Walking Night Tour

In addition to doing the City Bus Tour, we also opted to do a free night walking tour. We love walking tours (it’s actually how we met!) because it’s a terrific way to see parts of a city that are tucked away from the well-trodden path. Our tour guide was very charismatic and told us fascinating stories about Bruges’ history, including chilling ghost legends, which added a fun atmosphere to the experience, and prevented the tour from becoming dry or heavy. The tour finished by offering a free beer in a local youth hostel, which I though was a nice touch, and very generous of the company. This was easily one of the best free walking tours I’ve ever done (and I’ve done quite a few), so if you’re looking for a fun way to spend an evening in Bruges without spending too much, then I would recommend doing this particular free walking tour. If you enjoy the tour, you can show your appreciation to the tour guide by making a small donation at the end.

Visiting The Windmills

If you’ve walked round the main touristy part of Bruges and want to get away from the crowds, I suggest you go and check out Bruges’ windmills. The windmills lie in the old city boundary, in a green park that surrounds the city, next to the canals. The windmills are open to the public from April to September (so we just missed being able to go inside)  and its worth noting that you can still actually occasionally buy flour from some of them. Walking around the Windmills offered a refreshing change of pace from the very crowded Bruges streets.

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Bruges Beer Museum

This museum was one of the most popular attractions in the city, but it was my least favourite outing. Perhaps this goes without saying, but you have to really be interested in the process of how beer is made to truly get something out of the experience. I enjoy drinking beer, and I like trying different varieties of beer, but truthfully I do not really care how it is made. I realise that this is down to personal preference, and this isn’t a reflection on the museum itself. If you like learning about how things work, you will really enjoy it; the museum is informative and well-laid out, with multiple language guides, making it easy to follow the exhibits. If you don’t enjoy learning about technical things, then you could always just visit the museum’s bar instead, and sample some of Belgium’s tastiest brews.

Bruges Volkskundesmusem 

This was my favourite of Bruges museums! The small cozy museum really gave me an insight into how people in Bruges used to live, and it brought history to life. The museum was divided into several rooms, with each room depicting a different theme or place.

For instance, one room was made up to look like an old school classroom, whilst another room was made to look like a working pharmacy. It really caught my imagination, and my boyfriend enjoyed it as well, as some of the objects placed in the rooms were familiar to him from his own past (I promise he’s not that old!). Another thing I liked about the Volkskundemuseum was the fact that it wasn’t crowded at all – we pretty much had the place to ourselves. In my opinion, I think the museum was one of Bruges’ hidden gems. I’m so glad we discovered it!

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A Sign Outside Bruges Volk Museum

Bruges Friet Museum 

On the last morning we still had time to kill so we decided to look around the Bruges Friet Museum. I must admit, it wasn’t a museum that we were particularly interested in, when we first got to Bruges, but we were pleasantly surprised by how fun the museum was! The museum had a range of exhibits, from the history of the humble potato, to how Pommes Frites were invented, to various humorous adverts all featuring fries. It sounds dull, but the museum was actually very interesting, due to its sheer passion and love for all things potato, and that passion swept us along with it. I would definitely add it to a list of niche, eccentric museums that are worth visiting.

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An Art Installation at Bruges Friet Museum

What we ate

I’ve realised that I need to add a “what we ate section” to these sorts of blog posts, since eating out is such a big part of our trips! This time we sampled quite a few local dishes, since it was the kind of food that was right up our street!

On the first night out we ate one of the best stews I’ve ever tasted, a local Flemish stew made with beef and beer. It was so rich, hearty and comforting, I wish I knew how to make it so that I could have it again. I also ate a similar tasting, and equally delicious rabbit stew for another meal, and a month later, I’m still craving both! Both stews came with a large portion of Bruges’ most famous food, pommel frites or French fries. In fact, we did not have one meal that didn’t come with French fries in Bruges, so if you’re on a diet, you may need to do some extra walking whilst you’re there!

We also ate an array of international dishes, from a superb duck l’orange to incredibly fresh burgers. I ate very, very well and only had one mediocre meal during the entire trip. Tip, all the best restaurants are the ones that are hidden away on the side streets – the worst restaurants are the ones directly located on the market square.

In Conclusion 

Bruges is a lovely city and is ideal for an affordable getaway in Europe. Whilst it is small in size, it still has a lot to offer and if you want to visit Belgium, but you aren’t sure where to begin, then I would say that Bruges is a great place to start.

5 ways living in Switzerland has changed me

I believe that to some extent, we are all shaped by the place we live in. Since living in Switzerland I’ve developed new interests, and different parts of my personality have become emphasised. Here’s how living in Switzerland has changed me:

I’ve become more interested in cooking

Switzerland is so expensive, that we hardly ever eat out. So, we eat almost all of our meals at home, and since eating the same thing all the time is boring, I have been trying out new recipes on a weekly basis. I used to find cooking to be a chore, but now I have my own kitchen that I don’t have to share with roommates and more time than I used to, I find it to be fun and relaxing. I’m really glad that I’ve developed this skill, since it means that I can hopefully save money and eat well for life! I’m still learning, but I’m so much more confident in the kitchen than I used to be since living here.

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Carrot, pumpkin and chili soup

I’ve become better at saving money

There’s definitely more of a culture of saving money here than in the UK; there are adverts everywhere for digital piggy banks for children, and my bank sends me a quarterly magazine, which always has a feature in it about how saving is key to a successful future. These messages have finally started to sink in over the last year, and now saving regularly is becoming a habit.

I appreciate how lucky I am to actually be in a position where I can save on a regular basis, due to the higher wages here, so I’m trying to make the most of it. The two years before when I was living in London, I barely saved anything, which meant I had to borrow money from my boyfriend to survive the first few months of living here. I’m still paying him back even now, so by moving, I’ve really learnt just how important saving in advance for things can be. Hopefully I can continue to develop good fiscal habits whilst living here!

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Swiss money is pretty!

I have more time to be creative

I’ve always loved creating, since I was a child, but my productivity has certainly increased since being here. Again, this is partly due to my current working pattern. I simply have more time to create here, and my flat is my perfect working environment. It’s spacious, comfortable, quiet, and calm. Also, since I don’t know many people here, I’ve found I’ve developed my inner life more; With time on my hands I’ve developed my imagination by finding new avenues to explore, such as meditation or ASMR, and these new avenues have in turn lead me to have more ideas than ever before. I plan to write this blog for years come, and I have a long list of things I want to write about. In the past, I always only had one or two ideas for future blog posts, now I have loads!

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Time to create

I actually enjoy learning a new language

Alongside maths, German used to be my least favourite subject at school. Whilst it seems churlish, I do blame the teacher, she managed to make a living, breathing language seem irrelevant and dead. It also didn’t help that we spoke English during the entire lesson.  Now, thanks to Migros klub Schule and my speaking partner, I actually enjoy learning German. I love seeing a sign and understanding what it means, or being able to ask for something I need in a pharmacy, it makes me feel empowered. Whilst I’m still not comfortable speaking German for extended periods of time, and I still think I speak like a three year old, there is something so satisfying about being able to build on my knowledge and get better little by little. It’s so much easier to learn a language when you are surrounded by it every day.

I prefer a quieter pace of life

Whenever I return to London, I’m always struck by how loud and busy it is! The tube is crowded, people are in a rush, there’s no space to walk, and my find myself getting tired and stressed more easily. I used to think that I was made for living in a big city, now I’m not so sure. I love the space to move about here. Even at peak times, Zürich doesn’t feel too crowded. There’s room to breathe here, and I like that.

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It’s oh so quiet…

How have you changed as an expat? Do you think where we live does have an effect on us?

Four travel tips I always try to follow

Sadly I’m not travelling at the moment, but travel is never far from my mind, so I thought I would share four travel tips that I believe always make my trips more enjoyable. Of course, everyone has different travel styles, and these tips may not work for you, but I find they certainly make my life easier when I’m on the road:

Always travel light

I’m always bemused by people who carry ginormous cases. It may be because I have naturally minimalist tendencies, but I don’t really understand people who act as though they are moving house every time they go somewhere. There are no real benefits to travelling with heavy cases, they are difficult to lug around, take up a lot of space on public transport and often result in excess baggage fees. Not to mention the fact that big suitcases always end up in the hold on aeroplanes, which means having to wait for your suitcase to be returned at the other end. Another downside is that your suitcase is more likely to get lost if it’s stored in the hold. I always bring only carry on luggage no matter where I’m going as it’s just so much easier to get around with, and I can keep my eye on it more easily.

Even if you’re travelling to multiple climates, I believe that there are still ways to minamalize suitcase space without having to do without. For example, if you’re going somewhere cold, thin layering pieces such as thermal underwear that you can wear beneath your clothes will keep you warm, and won’t take up too much room in your case. It’s worth noting that if you’re doing an activity that requires specialist equipment like skiing, you can usually rent it at the destination, and save having to carry it with you yourself.

I realise that if you do an activity such as skiing often, owning the equipment yourself may work out cheaper in the long run, in which case you may need a little bit more space, but then I would simply bring less other clothes and make do with what I had.

You might think I’m a bit strange, but I often wear the same clothes year round, so in summer I might wear a dress on its own, then in autumn I might add tights and a thin cardigan, and in winter I will add a scarf and proper boots to make sure I’m warm enough. Some people might not like the idea of wearing the same clothes year round, but I do find it does work especially well for travel; you don’t need to bring as much, and you can wear clothes in multiple different ways – everything in my case is useful and earns its keep!

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Everything has to fit in my little suitcase!

Give yourself time to rest

I’m not someone who tries to cram as much as possible into my trips. I usually aim to see one or two sights per day, and that’s it. Why do I do this? Well, I find I appreciate the sights more if I give myself time to enjoy them slowly, and it also means that I don’t get burnt out or exhausted. For me, one of the best parts if travel is not having to follow a strict schedule or rush around, I can do what I want (within reason) when I want. I also love having time to stop in cafes, enjoy leisurely lunches and dinners and just soak in the atmosphere of wherever I happen to be.

I also often spend some time relaxing in the accommodation I’m staying at, just taking time to read a book or watch a movie. Some people would argue that I could do that at home, and yes, I could (and do) but for me holidays are both a time to relax and explore. I tend to enjoy trips far more when I give myself time to rest, and don’t feel obligated to see everything at once. If I miss out on some sights, it’s not the end of the world; I don’t think travel should be a race to see as much as possible, but rather it should be a time to experience new things, whilst still taking care of yourself.

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A well-earned hot chocolate break

Try to plan a free day at the beginning and end of your trip

Sometimes, it’s not possible to avoid work, and it can be difficult to get time off, but if you can take a day off on either side of your trip, then it can be a great way of eliminating travel stress. A day on either side on a trip can give you time to do laundry, pack or unpack, get over jet lag, deal with any pending emails or life admin, and just generally give you time to get ready for your trip or adjust to being back.

I once took a sleeper train from Penzance to London, and went straight to work the morning after, and needless to say, I felt terrible! Sleeper trains are a bit of a misnomer as I find them impossible to sleep on! In hindsight, I should have come back the day before to give me time to recover from travel before going back to work. With limited time off, some people want to maximise their time and come back at the last possible moment, but I think by doing this, it can make life a lot harder. For me, going to work immediately after travelling is akin to having a bad hangover.

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Travel can be tiring

It’s ok to have alone time

I travel often with my boyfriend, and he is my favourite travel partner, because he understands the importance of alone time (luckily my other friends do as well!) Fights and disagreements are a lot more likely to happen if you don’t have at least some alone time during a trip – being around someone 24/7 can be difficult, even if you love them a great deal and usually get on very well!

I think it’s key to be able to ask for alone time when you need it, or if you’re interested in seeing or doing something that your travel partner isn’t. For example, during my trip to Yorkshire in the summer, I wanted to check out a local outlet centre, but my boyfriend wasn’t interested in going, so I went alone, and I’m glad I did, as I ended up purchasing a very useful raincoat and new hiking boots! Having time alone gives you a chance to replenish your soul, do things that you are interested in, as well as spend time relaxing.

There have been several occasions, where I’ve been grumpy on holiday, but then have felt a lot better after having alone time. Of course, it would be unfair to spend an entire trip alone if you’re travelling with someone, but a few hours here and there can do wonders for everyone’s sanity. This also applies to travelling in groups, a group shouldn’t always have to do everything together when they travel, people should be able to sit things out if they’re not interested in something!

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A solitary, but contented statue

In conclusion, I believe that travel stress can mostly be avoided if you go at your own pace and listen to what your body and spirit needs. Enjoy your next trip!

How to dress for the Swiss Climate

I’ve lived in Switzerland for over a year now, and during that time I’ve experienced a variety of different weather from summer storms to winter snow; with the temperature ranging from blistering heat to well-below freezing, so I thought I would share my tips for how to dress for the Swiss climate, throughout the seasons. Hopefully it will give you a useful idea for what you will need if you’re planning a visit, or even if you want to relocate! I should note that I live near Zürich in the North-East of Switzerland, so I can’t generalise for the whole of Switzerland, and also people from really hot countries might find it far colder than I do, but here’s a rough idea of what to expect:

spring

I personally find Swiss springs to be quite warm, so I would bring a lot of the same stuff I would for summer, and early autumn. That said, it did snow here last March, so if you come in early spring check the forecast beforehand your trip, and if it is going to snow, then follow the advice for Winter instead! From April onwards though, temperatures often reach 20 ° centigrade.

You will need:

  • A raincoat (I pretty much recommend bringing a raincoat, no matter the season, as you don’t want to be caught out)
  • Light cardigans and jumpers (you may not even need them after April!)
  • thin t-shirts to layer
  • Waterproof shoes
  • light pyjamas so you don’t overheat at night
  • jeans and trousers
  • Tights for chilly mornings if you’re planning on wearing a dress or skirt
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Beautiful spring flowers

summer

A lot of people assume that Switzerland doesn’t get hot summers (the climate websites I’ve seen say that Switzerland has a moderate climate), but for me at least, it is lot hotter than the UK, where I grew up, and everyone who has visited me has commented on how hot it is. This summer it was so hot, I felt a bit faint a few times, so do bear that in mind if you’re not a fan of the heat.

You will need:

  • Your swim-suit – once it gets to June, the locals all jump into the lake to cool off!
  • Your sun-glasses (you will be blind without them)
  • Cool breathable clothes – my first summer here, I felt so uncomfortable in my polyester tees and jeans. This summer I actually bought some cooler clothes as I couldn’t bear the heat any longer. If you can, bring linens, and flowy, light outfits  such as dresses and skirts – you will thank me.
  • Strong sun protection – I’m dismayed to say that having got burnt one particularly hot day in Switzerland’s South, I now have a few permanent faint lines across my neck. Avoid the wrinkled old lady look and make sure you have proper sun protection on everyday, even when it’s cloudy.
  • Also bring a very light rain jacket as summer storms are frequent here (usually at night) and you don’t want to get caught out!
  • Inscet-repellant – mosquitoes are everywhere. I believe the risk of malaria is low, but it’s still good to put some on as bites are annoying.
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When it’s hot, head to the lake

autumn

Autumns are disappointingly short here, I personally think it stays quite warm until October, but the mornings and evenings can be chilly, and it can also rain quite often, so if you’re someone who feels the cold easily, bring more layers.

You will need:

  • A light waterproof jacket or coat
  • Hiking boots – autumn is hiking season!
  • a light cardigan or jumper (nothing too heavy, the temperature is often still in the 20s during autumn) for wearing beneath the jacket.
  • Normal jeans or trousers
  • Comfy socks (again, nothing too heavy, otherwise you will be sweating)
  • Waterproof shoes – it does rain quite a bit in Autumn here
  • Thin tops or t-shirts that you can layer with
  • A light scarf if you’re someone who feels the cold
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You might need a few more clothes than this to survive a Swiss autumn!

winter

Swiss winters can be a bit extreme, last winter it got as low as -18, and there was a lot of snow for a week or so. On average though, temperatures don’t usually dip below -5, so it’s not unbearable (at least not for me) the majority of the time:

You will need:

  • Proper winter boots, and by that, I mean boots that are waterproof and can grip onto icy surfaces. Uggs won’t cut it  in the Snow; your feet will probably get wet. Having said that, if it’s a dry winter’s day, then I always wear trainers and my feet stay warm enough.
  • A decent coat – one that is waterproof and well-insulated. Bonus points if it’s long and has a hood!
  • A warm hat and scarf
  • waterproof gloves – I personally don’t mind my gloves getting wet, but if you hate cold, clammy hands then ski gloves are a good option.
  • The Swiss like to dress their kids in waterproof clothing, I don’t think this is necessary for adults, but I think it could be a good idea to bring some along if you have little ones.
  • If you feel the cold a lot, then thermal underwear can be useful, but be warned it can get very hot indoors, so only bring them if you will be outside a lot. I never wear thermal underwear, but then it takes a lot for me to feel really cold.
  • Proper pyjamas (just because there’s nothing cosier!)
  • Proper socks – now you can bring out the wool socks to face the icy temperatures
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Do as I say and not as I do, don’t wear trainers in the snow

In conclusion, Switzerland’s weather might be more extreme than you think. This is just a guideline though, do check the weather report before your visit, as I don’t want to be responsible for anyone bringing the wrong clothing, as the weather can change quite quickly here!

A Trip to…Cardiff, Wales

It’s become a tradition for me during the last two years for me to travel somewhere new on my birthday, and this year I went to Cardiff in Wales for a long weekend. My birthday was actually in February, which shows how far behind I am on this blog, but I thought I would share the details of my trip, since travel posts are my favourite kind of post to write!

Where We Stayed

We stayed at Premier Inn Cardiff City Centre. I often like to stay in Premier Inns when I get the chance, as I love their comfortable beds (I swear they have the perfect mattress for my back, though I know writing that makes me sound like an old woman) hearty breakfasts and central locations. Premier Inn Cardiff City Centre was just a few minutes walk from the town centre, but despite this, it still managed to be quiet enough for me to get a good night’s sleep, which is something that is important to me when I travel. Whilst they are not usually the cheapest option, I always find Premier Inns to be a pretty safe bet when it comes to choosing accommodation, and Premier Inn Cardiff City Centre was no exception.

What We Did

Cardiff is an ideal sized city for just pottering around, so on our first afternoon we walked through the town centre to take in the lie of the land. Cardiff is a lively, young city with a great energy to it, and almost everywhere I looked I saw restaurants, pubs and bars that immediately appealed to me.

I believe that Cardiff is a great city for foodies, I certainly enjoyed some delicious food there during my trip, though I must admit we didn’t try any traditional Welsh cuisine, mostly because I didn’t really see it on any menus. One of our most interesting meals was    at a restaurant called Viva Brazil, which served Brazilian barbecue, involving copious amounts of different types of meat, ranging from chicken hearts to Brazilian sausages. What made the restaurant especially entertaining, was that you could vote whether you wanted to try a particular kind of meat by laying a green placard on the table. If you didn’t like the look of a piece of meat, you could turn the placard red instead. I loved being able to sample such a variety of food in Cardiff – in addition to our Brazilian barbecue, we also ate Indian, French and British food.

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A church that is now a restaurant

Due to the sheer number of restaurants, clubs and bars, some people might find Cardiff to be a bit too loud, and somewhat intimidating, but overall I thought it was a fun city. I do think if I lived there though I might get tired of all the revellers, but for a long weekend, it was enjoyable to explore its nightlife.

On the second day we decided to head to Cardiff Bay, which is home to Wales’ Millennium Centre, as well as the Doctor Who Experience. Since my boyfriend had never seen Doctor Who at the time, we decided to give the Doctor Who Experience a miss, though by all accounts it sounds like an interesting attraction. We decided to walk along the quay, where we discovered some unusual sculptures and statues:

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as well as a cute art gallery/coffee shop which used to be a Norwegian Church:

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Due to the overcast weather, we mostly had the bay to ourselves, but I imagine that on sunny days the place must become crowded, since there are yet more eateries and bars along the Mermaid Quay.

Having walked to the bay from our hotel, we took a boat back from the bay, along Cardiff’s River Taff, which was a great way to see more of the city.

In the afternoon, I decided to make the most of Cardiff’s excellent shopping malls and bought myself a birthday dress!

On our third day in Cardiff (my birthday) we checked out Cardiff Castle. It’s an impressive castle, one that really captures the imagination, as some of the rooms are still left furnished as they were. The Castle also had an engaging World War 2 Exhibition, since it was used as a bunker during that time. I would really recommend it for families, I saw several excited children running around who were genuinely interested in exploring the grounds.

After we left the Castle, we decided to explore some of the park that surrounds it, which is called Bute Park. The park was so huge we only saw a small fraction of it, but if you like long walks then I suggest you pay it a visit!

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Cardiff is ideal for a short weekend break, especially if you like going out a lot, I think it would be a terrific place to visit in a group. I’d particularly recommend for university aged students as it is a relatively affordable destination with a bustling nightlife.

Tried and Tested – Duolingo

Soon after I met my boyfriend two and a half years ago, I decided that I should try and learn High German, as I knew that I would be visiting Switzerland a lot, and I wanted to be able to communicate on at least a rudimentary level with the local servers in pubs and restaurants.  Now that I live here, it’s even more important to keep going with learning the language.

There aren’t many options to learn Swiss German online, and most locals recommend learning High German first, as a way into the language, since Swiss German is notoriously difficult to learn, as it’s not a written language. Besides, since Germany, Switzerland and Austria all understand High German, it’s a more useful language than Swiss German, which is only understood in Switzerland, so High German seemed like the best option for me.

I’ve tried various methods of learning German, from watching German for beginners series to going to Migros Klub Schule (definitely the best method for me). I’ve also used the popular language site Duolingo for over two years, so I thought I would do a review of it:

Usability

It is very easy to get started on Duolingo, it takes about five minutes to sign up, and it is very intuitive and straight forward. You have a language tree, which consists of different topics, for instance animals, and then you click on the topic and have to do exercises around this theme. The exercises usually involve translating sentences or filling in gaps or speaking a sentence aloud (don’t worry if you’re a complete beginner, new words are highlighted, and you can click on these and find out what they mean, so you don’t have to figure it out alone.)

Once you have completed a topic, another one is unlocked, so you can continue working your way through the tree, becoming more competent as you go.

Overall, Duolingo has a high level of usability, however it does have one major flaw; it has a bug with tasks that require you to use a microphone. A lot of the time, Duolingo’s microphone is not able to recognise what you are saying, even if you are saying it properly! Lots of Duolingo’s users on its forums report having to shout multiple times for the microphone to recognise any word at all, and sometimes, depending on what server you’re using, microphone tasks don’t even appear, meaning that one of the most important aspects of learning a language, speaking, is often neglected on this site!  6/10

Effectiveness

As with anything, the more effort you put in to Duolingo, the more you will get out of it. That said, I do think Duolingo isn’t as effective as it could be. For one thing, since the microphone feature has a bug on it, it can put users off trying to speak the language, as they mistakenly believe that they are mispronouncing their new language, when in fact it’s more likely they are experiencing the same technical glitch as many other users.

Secondly, a lot of the sentences that Duolingo asks you to translate are strange and obscure, and would almost never be useful in a day to day setting. There is even a website, which collects examples of weird Duolingo sentences, with the most recent examples listed as “Why is there a carpet in the garage?” and “the dog is beautiful”. When it’s difficult enough to do basic things like ask for directions in a new language, the last thing you need are sentences that are irrelevant and useless.

However, on the positive side, Duolingo is great at reinforcing words you’ve already learned, and is also brilliant for teaching new words as well. That is why I would argue that Duolingo is somewhat effective – I’ve learned more with Duolingo than I ever did studying German at school!

6 / 10

Cost

Duolingo is absolutely free, which I think is commendable. It certainly makes it easier to get started if you don’t have to pay a registration fee! 10/10

Overall Rating: 22/30

Verdict

I will continue using Duolingo until I finish my German language tree (which will probably take me another two years at the rate I’m going) as I think it has helped improve my German comprehension, if not my speaking. I would recommend it to anyone looking to learn a new language, but I would advise that you supplement your knowledge with other methods as well, as I don’t believe you could reach fluency by using Duolingo alone.

 

Why I like returning to the UK for my holidays

I haven’t written a blog post for ages, as my life during these past few months has mostly revolved around work, but now I have more time to spend on my interests, so once again, I have a backlog of posts to catch up on!

I recently went back to the UK for a summer break, where I spent a few days in Yorkshire. It was my boyfriend’s choice of destination, as I have been to Yorkshire before (in fact, I even lived there just after university) and I tend to prefer going to places that I haven’t been to before, rather than places that I’ve seen. The world is huge, and there are so many places I want to visit, that it almost seems a shame to not go somewhere new each time I go on holiday.

However, staying in Yorkshire turned out to be just what I needed; after a hectic few months, I found it to be incredibly relaxing and restful. I loved going for picturesque walks there and enjoying the lovely, cosy pubs and the delicious local food! It was one of the most enjoyable trips I’ve had in a while!

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I’ve realised that part of the reason why I enjoyed it so much, was just being somewhere where I can speak the language, and understand the culture, made it a very easy travel experience for me, and sometimes, it’s ok to just want an easy travel experience.

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Whilst travelling to other countries is still more exciting to me, sometimes it’s refreshing just to have a rest whilst on holiday and to not have to think about communicating in an unfamiliar language or to have to deal with unfamiliar customs.

Of course, hearing different languages and experiencing the unfamiliar can be a very rewarding part of travel, and I’m still very much interested in travelling abroad (I’m off to Bruges in October, wahoo!) but living as an expat has certainly given me a new appreciation for travelling around the UK, as it makes a nice change from constantly having to struggle in a language that I’m not that confident in on a day to day basis.

After over a year of living in Switzerland, I still find myself stumbling when I’m asked a question or when someone speaks too quickly in Swiss German (which is especially difficult for me, as conventional wisdom dictates that I learn High German here first, which is actually a very different language) so it was certainly refreshing to be able to converse like an adult with the public for once, rather than like a lost toddler, whilst I was on holiday. I should note that I’m lucky that all my jobs require that I speak English here, so I certainly don’t have to struggle as much as expats who are required to speak the local language for work!

After such a good trip to Yorkshire, I think I will make the UK a regular travel destination for me, for whenever I’m looking for a slice of comfortable, easy travel. The UK does have a lot of interesting places that I haven’t seen afterall, so I can still explore, whilst enjoying being firmly in my comfort zone. Using trip advisor, I’ve been checking out new places to visit in the UK, and my latest searches have included Bristol, Tenby and Belfast, so watch out for those trips!

Do you like visiting your home country as an expat, or do you prefer travelling elsewhere? Or do you like a mixture of both, like me?