© 2013 Lance. All rights reserved.

2013: Learning to Yodel

Happy Holidays!

Sg en route to CHThis time last year, the McCord family was living in an apartment off Peachtree Street and preparing for our move to Zug, Switzerland. (We are writing this exactly one year after we received a signed copy of the lease to our place in Switzerland.) By January we were moving into our new home, situated on the lower slopes of the Zugerberg overlooking the Zugersee. Though it seemed to take forever before we truly felt settled here, Zug is starting to feel heimelig. When we’ve been away for a few days, the first sight of Zug from the train produces that warm, relaxing feeling of home.

HK's Rubber DuckySophia is settled in at school and learning German like a champ. Arica is regulating at her job, which includes a lot of travel to snappy places like Montevideo, Valencia, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Rome, Paris, Warsaw, London and Bali. And Lance is living the curmudgeon’s dream of working from home. Daisy and Olive had a rough period of adjustment, which included a tiny bit of trying to murder each other. And while we were all secretly a little disappointed when they failed, we are glad that they seem to be settling into the new normal.

Seilbahn!We have all learned lessons since we arrived. We learned that sometimes you need to leave home to really appreciate it. We learned that you can usually fit your car into spaces smaller than you’d think. And both Arica and Lance have learned (to our poor car’s detriment) that sometimes you can’t. One of us learned to ice skate and graduated from My Little Pony to Monster High and Clone Wars. All of us have learned about an entire category of clothing (“winter wear”) that we previously believed to be primarily for fashion purposes, but which we now understand to encompass essential misery-prevention tools. We learned that walking in deep snow is wicked hard. We learned to make chili with the ingredients you can find in Swiss stores. And we learned how to order a Happy Meal auf Deutsch. (Over here, they call it a “Happy Meal.”)

Sg in ParisWe learned that there are some awesome things about living in the US. The internet is better, for one thing. Not transmission speeds—those are definitely better in Switzerland. But try limiting yourself to domains that don’t end in ‘.com’ or ‘.net’ for a few days and you’ll see what we mean. Stores in the U.S. are open at insane hours like 7:30 pm or even on Sundays. And thirdly, the social contract in the U.S. is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules—you can stray a bit outside the norm without incurring glares and muttering.

And there are some great things about being in Switzerland: fast, cheap, efficient public transit, for one. And people follow all of those rules here, which can make life feel very… maybe “civilized” is the right word? Like you always know where any given pedestrian or car is going to be 10-15 seconds into the future. Being able to spend the weekend in Paris without taking out a second mortgage is good. And cheese and chocolate, if you’re into either of those things.


Thanks to the friends and family who have visited in 2013, and we can’t wait to see those of you who will stop by in 2014. We wish all of you the very best possible version of whatever winter solstice appropriation you celebrate and the best of luck in 2014!

Lance, Arica and Sophia McCord
Gimenenstrasse 10
6317 Oberwil b. Zug


  1. I’m interested to know what you think the difference is between European and American websites.

    • Lance

      1(a). I’m no expert—I’m a lawyer, dammit, not a web designer. But I have more browser compatibility issues, for example. It’s extremely unusual these days to need to switch to IE in order for a site to function correctly, but I believe I’ve done that more in the past year than in the preceding several years combined. I also find more sites that fail to comply with reasonable e-commerce best practices by, for example, by offering up pages where 100% of content is in a flash interface, or where textual elements (like menu items) are served only as images.

      1(b). The reason could simply be that markets are more fragmented in Switzerland, and probably in Europe generally. In the US, if whether I was shopping for books, electronics or hotel reservations, I was dealing in all cases with huge vendors like Amazon, Newegg and Hilton. For various reasons, those vendors aren’t much use to me in CH, and I’m usually dealing with companies that have a smaller web presence (and probably less money to spend on polish).

      1(c) One possible reason for market fragmentation is that the Swiss seem to like dealing with Swiss companies. I have heard the same (more or less) said about other countries in Europe, too. I know this Swiss guy who has recommended several websites to me. It’s funny because he’ll describe a site and its functionality to me and I’ll be thinking “oh, sure, he’s talking about Google Maps,” and then he will name some site run out of the University of Zürich.

      2. Also, exciting new (and not-so-new) services that launch with geographic restrictions tend to launch in the U.S. first. There are some high-profile exceptions, of course.

      3. Even the big companies don’t offer the same selection. Go to Amazon.com and search for a few random items. Then run the same searches on Amazon.de. My prediction is that the list of results will be shorter on Amazon.de than on Amazon.com. This isn’t a comment on the quality of search results—just the quantity. It’s entirely possible that Germans can do just as well or better with the shorter list of results.

      4. I started out to give a complete answer to your question, but my comment ends up sounding like a lot of complaining. I don’t mean to whine—I have been able to accomplish all of my online goals with only minor inconvenience, so I have no reason to complain. But I have always assumed that the whole world (outside of the DPRK) experienced the same internet. It has occurred to me over the past year that the Swiss experience the internet differently than I do.

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