Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Adieu, UBS. Adieu.

I no longer have a Swiss bank account.

The U.S. gave Swiss banks too much grief a couple years back for them to want to keep accounts for Americans who weren't living in the country. It was a fun novelty while it lasted.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Makin' Ads Abroad

Since returning to the States, I've had a lot of requests for advice on getting a job overseas. To answer most of those questions, I wrote an ebook. Click here to download.

Hopefully, it's more useful than self-indulgent. Enjoy.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Check this out

After two years in Switzerland where every bill is either paid online or in cash at La Poste, using checks as a form of currency seems really lame and Third-Worldish.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Atticus on the Outside

I just learned that I won a Certificate of Merit from the WPP Group's Atticus Awards. I'm not sure they know I'm no longer with the company. Hopefully, they won't disqualify me. Since this is the only award I was able to win for the Geneva office, I'd really like that certificate.

If you're interested, you can read the original piece here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Unpacking a box-load of books I'd kept in storage, I found the following note to myself.

Nope. Never bought the dog.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Not the reason I left, but...

I noticed that my old gig in Geneva is now listed on LinkedIn. I read the job description which included the following...

I would add that "The real test of any agency is it's ability to spellcheck. Especially if it believes is doing whatever it takes to hire a new copywriter."

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Buying a House

Apparently, when you're trying to close on a house, having a Swiss bank account and making several large-sum transfers to the U.S. in a short amount of time really freaks out the underwriters.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Epilogue, Part 4: Swixas

When people learn that I moved from Switzerland to Texas, they're quick to comment on how different things must be for me. Going from the most gorgeous mountains in the world to an expanse so flat people say you can see the back of your head if you stand on a tin can, the geographical difference is undeniable. But after a month in Texas, my wife started pointing out the cultural similarities. Here are a few we've compiled:

Even though Texas is one of the United States and Switzerland is in the middle of Europe, they both have very autonomous attitudes towards everyone else around them. They're affiliated with their neighbors only by convenience.

Both Texas and Switzerland have flags that are iconic enough to set them apart from their neighbors.

Both have a high degree of pride in being an original citizen or not.. You're either Texan/Swiss or you're not. And you get bonus points for being multi-generational.

Between Stetsons and lederhosen, they both have a very iconic dress code (even if the general population doesn't participate).

Step into a Texas or a Swiss gift shop, and you'll see a lot of cow tsotchkes. They both like cattle; Texans eat them and the Swiss milk them.

Arguably, yelling "yee-haw" is a form of yodeling.

Texas has a lot of Mexican refugees. Switzerland has a lot of Portuguese refugees.

Texas gave the world Dr. Pepper. Switzerland gave us the Euro equivalent, Rivella.

See, I'm not the only one who sees the similarities.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bakugan au combat!

This is why I love my Bakugan au Combat! blog. It's long-ceased to have a purpose, and really pretty dumb.

But every once in a while 50 people around the world suddenly decide to disagree.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What day is it?

I'm having the hardest time remembering if you put the month first or the day first in the US.

Is today 5/20/10 or 20/5/20?

I think it's the former.

Man, Europe really messed me up.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Epilogue, Part 3: Banner Cities

Graphically speaking, the cities I've called home have all had some pretty cool flags.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Epilogue, Part 2: Watches to Tacos

I've decided that taco restaurants are to Dallas what watch companies are to Geneva: Varied, ubiquitous and weakly branded despite being so awesome.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Epilogue, Part 1: Homecoming

Back in the USA.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Maybe the Last Post

Today, my family and I leave Switzerland.

I still have a few interesting things to write about. One or two of them I'd consider rather mind-blowing. I'll have to check my contract to see what the statute of limitations is on my confidentiality contract.

But maybe that's all just chewed down bone, and I've got more important things to focus on now.

If I don't get around to another post, thanks for reading. The Google Ads haven't been as lucrative as people make them seem. But this has still been lots of fun.


Friday, April 30, 2010

Things I Learned In Switzerland, Part 5

You can't really love being in a country and make fun of it's people at the same time.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Things I Learned In Switzerland, Part 4

Friends back home will always see living abroad as an adventure, even though 90% of the time you're still doing stuff like buying dishwashing soap, look for a parking place, and paying electric bills.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Things I Learned In Switzerland, Part 3

Generally speaking, when it comes to the Swiss, the French, the Italians, the Germans, and the Americans, all the stereotypes are painfully true.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Things I Learned In Switzerland, Part 2

The French aren't that rude if you speak French, and no matter how fluent you are, the Germans still want to speak English with you.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Things I Learned In Switzerland, Part 1

You can take your children to see the great cities of the world and introduce them to masterpieces of art and architecture and the highlight of the trip will always be the swimming pool at the hotel.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Things I Will Miss Most About Living In Switzerland

I could just as easily make a list of reasons I'm glad to be leaving Europe. But in the spirit of optimism and premature nostalgia, here are the top 10 things I've loved about the last two years:

1. Our friends and our kids' friends.

2. Still seeing snow on the mountains in August.

3. Eating chicken and fries at Chez Ma Cousine (my Potbelly's of Geneva).

4. Pain au chocolate

5. Seeing the Jett d'Eau on my way to work.

6. Being within driving distance of Paris and Milan.

7. The view above Vevey.

8. Four weeks of paid vacation.

9. Taking my kids skiing.

10. The lakeside pool at Nyon.

11. (bonus) Discovering smaller towns I'd never heard about before.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Well-designed money

What do you get when you combine a country known for its banking system and it’s clean design?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Design Miami/Basel

I doing some for a client who is a sponsor of Design Miami/Basel.

I’d never heard of this event, but after doing a little research, I really wish it were held earlier in the year so I could attend. Add one to my “Things to do in my lifetime” list, right behind SxSW and TED.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Swiss Experience

In the last two years, I have worked on a watch account, a couple save-the-world-UN-related accounts, and three different bank accounts.

Now, in my final month, I have been assigned to a chocolate account.

I’d say my work in Switzerland is finished.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Giving up on Recycling

The Swiss love to recycle. Paper. Plastic. Organic gunk for compost. You don’t just throw stuff away here. You sort it and put it in the correct container.

But when our family visits, we just give up.

Because under our sink, they see a container for regular trash and a container for compost. And next to the stove, they see a container for paper and a container for plastic and a container for glass.

And they quickly deduce that we are pigs and have five randomly placed garbage cans around the kitchen, and they throw stuff wherever it’s convenient. So we simplify and ask them to put everything in the trash under the sink, no matter what it is.

If you are an environmental activist looking for something to protest, come stand outside our apartment when we have loved ones in town.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


This Iceland volcano thing is pretty interesting - and I'm not just talking pronunciation. The skies around Geneva look perfectly clear, although it's said people with asthma will be able to tell a difference.

A co-worker of mine was supposed to be in England for her brother's 40th birthday, and still hasn't been able to travel.

Friends of ours are supposed to travel to the States for a brother's wedding next week, and they're wondering if they'll make it.

We had about three families attend our church meetings today who would have otherwise flown out a couple days ago.

And my in-laws have tickets to return to the States this Tuesday, and are thinking it might not be until Saturday. It wouldn't be a big deal, but they've got medication that runs out by the week's end. Makes me wonder how many other people are stranded and need access to their pills.

We're scheduled to move to Dallas on May 1st - thirteen days from today. Things should should be clear by then. Unless the bigger one erupts, too.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Swiss precision timing doesn't apply to leaving your job

If you ever want to quit a job in Switzerland, here's a tip: The sooner the better.

Many foreigners are asked to sign contracts stating they will give two months notice. Since it took us more than twice that to move from Chicago to Geneva, I figured it wouldn't be a big deal.

But when I finally gave my resignation, I was told that according to Swiss law, your resignation becomes official the month after it's given.

So even though I gave my resignation on March 1st, my two months notice wouldn't legally begin until April 1st.

Had I known, I would have called my CEO at home Friday 10:30 pm when I received my offer.

We're still leaving on May 1st. I've worked it out with my company so the that's not going to be a problem.

But the whole resign-by-the-end-of-the-month thing would have been nice to know.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Are Foreign Jobs Abroad Going to Foreign Workers?

Working on getting a passport for our newborn daughter. I’ve called the US Embassy in Bern and the US Consulate in Geneva a few times. Each time, the person who answers has a British accent.

Why are all these Brits working at the American Embassies? Are they Americans who are trying to sound European?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Yep. We had a baby in Switzerland.

Last week, my wife gave birth to a baby girl – our fourth child, but our first in Switzerland.

Based on our experience, giving birth in Switzerland was very similar to having a child in the US, but with a French soundtrack. (My wife was pretty amazing with her language skills. If I were in labor, I’d have a hard time being fluent in English, let alone a foreign language.)
Where things really differed from our US experience was in the recovery room. In the US, we’ve always had private rooms. Here, my wife shared a room with two other new mothers. Visiting hours seemed more like a cocktail party. My wife kept referring to it as Baby Camp.

The other two women at Baby Camp were European, which mean they liked their room crazy warm. They were wrapping their kids in blankets in Sahara-like conditions, and my wife was letting our hang out in a onesie. The nurses couldn’t believe that my wife would give a pacifier to our newborn. Culturally, everyone thought everyone else was a nut.

In the States, new moms are usually given two days max to recover. Here, the doctors wanted my perfectly healthy wife and child to stay for five. She started campaigning to be released and was let go on Day 3.

In Switzerland, they weren’t too concerned with whether or not we had a car seat for the baby. In the States, they wanted to see the kid strapped and buckled in before you rode off.

Being born in Switzerland doesn’t make my daughter a dual citizen. I think she has to reside in the country for nine years continuously to be eligible. So it’ll just be a novelty to have “Geneva, Switzerland” on her birth certificate.

Also, our doctor looked just like Jacob from Lost. When he left to “consult with colleagues,” it was pretty easy to image that conversation taking place inside a giant stone foot.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Easter in Switzerland (and I'm assuming most of Europe) is celebrated 4x longer.

In the States, it was never a holiday I took time off for. It was Easter Sunday.

But today's my first day in the office since Thursday. The office was closed on Friday for Good Friday and yesterday for Easter Monday.

I'm going to miss that about these Europeans.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Shopping at Lake Geneva

The Swiss have done a great job keeping Lake Geneva unpolluted. Except, apparently, when it comes to shopping carts.

Most supermarkets make you deposit a 2-franc piece to use things things. I guess at least two people decided that wasn't a big enough reward for returning them.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Watches: The LHC Watch, by Greg


1. How can this be better?

2. Who wants to make it?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Watches: Rolex

Here are two watches from the Rolex catalog my coworkers picked up at Baselworld, They are the least expensive and the most expensive.

This is the least expensive at 4,400 Swiss Francs (about $4100).

This is the most expensive. At 262,000 Swiss Francs it is a little more expensive than my house in Chicago.

Notice that the more expensive one displays the date and day of the week. I'm guessing this is why you pay a little more.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Watches: Hublot's Big Bang Maradona

Some of my coworkers recently attended Baselworld, and brought back a stack of brochures. Flipping through them, I came across the Hublot Big Bang Maradona, a limited edition (only 250 pieces made) celebrating Argentinean superstar, Diego Maradona.

It features Maradona's number and signature in Argentinean blue. And the counter goes up to 45 minutes so you can time each half of a regulation soccer match.

I'd love to know why Hublot did this, because it doesn't make a truckload of sense to me.

A watch from one of Switzerland's premiere brands, celebrating a retired soccer player from Argentina. Why not a Larry Bird watch? Okay, so soccer's more popular than the NBA.

My guess is someone at Hublot has a man-crush on Maradona. I wonder how many members of Hublot's board are South American. And how long they debated whether they should go for Maradona, Pele or Ronaldo. I'd like to see the number of these watches than actually end up in the hands of actual Argentineans.

The 45-minute hand seems a cool at first. But if you're watching a soccer match, is it really going to be so much easier to check your Hublot instead of the game clock in the corner of the screen or right next to the jumbotron?

I haven't been able to find the price on this piece, but considering most watches in the Big Bang collection are not limited editions and range between 6,500 and 12,500 Euros, I'm guessing the Maradona edition is some serious cash.

So Argentinean millionaire soccer fans with a penchant for Swiss quality, here's your watch. Hurry. There are only 250.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Change of scenery

Just for fun I did a Google image search on "Swiss landscape" and "Texas landscape." These were the first two results.

I can live with that. Makes me feel all Lonesome Dovey.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Baselworld is the most important trade show for watch manufactures in the world. Who knew?

A few of my coworkers recently attended (I was offered a ticket, but had prior obligations – rats). Even though the majority of the booths are accessible by invite only, I would have loved to browse.

What blows me away is that the average high-end watch manufacturer (think Patek Phillipe or Rolex) plans to make 50% of their annual sales at Baselworld. So it’s basically like the auto show only you can’t get into any of the booths, and the rednecks are replaced with oil shieks, Japanese trust funders and Russian mafiosi.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This does not apply to driving an Alfa Romeo

I'm reading In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore, which is about the various ways people around the world are slowing down to enjoy life. Honore's not a self-help guru; he's a journalist who approaches each slow advocate skeptically, so it's enlightening without being preachy.

One of the chapters deals with Cittaslow, a movement by cities to slow down their pace to make life more enjoyable.

But what I find hilarious and typical is the list of official Slow Cities.

USA = 1
Italy = 46

Oh, Italy. I'm going to miss you guys.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Watches: Swatch

Back in 1984 when Howard Jones and his rack of synthesizers were inspiring my classmates to bleach and feather their hair, and girls started taking their fashion cues from Molly Ringwald movies, the fashionistas of my elementary school were discovering Swatches, sometimes wearing two on the same wrist, or using them as pony tail bands.

In my Levi jacket, spangled with enough Van Halen pins to pass for a Spanish general, I would have none of it. For a quarter of a century, I've associated Swatch watches with kids in my sixth grade glass who were affluent enough to be trendy.

It's taken me 26 years, but I finally have a great appreciation for Swatch as a brand. (Certainly a much stronger brand than Van Halen turned out to be.)

Cool things about Swatch:
  • Launched in early 1983, they were smart enough to realize they needed a brand. They knew if they were just another Swiss watch, their deep-pocketed competition would demolish them.
  • Switzerland was known for producing the best watches in the world, but they were also the most expensive. In the early 1980's, if you wanted a good watch for under a couple hundred bucks, you bought a Japanese Seiko. Swatch changed all that. (In fact, Swatch was short for "second watch" - the one you'd wear when you didn't want to scratch up your $10,000 piece.)
  • Early on, Swatch started partnering with artists like Keith Haring to build their design cred.
  • They remained true to their meticulous Swiss heritage, first developing the flattest watch in the world, and then figuring out a way to reduce the pieces needed from 91 to 51 without losing any accuracy.
  • Today, the Swatch Group is the world's largest watch company and owns the following brands: Omega, Tissot, Mido, and the watch lines of Calvin Klein and Tiffany & Co.
There are so many watch companies in Switzerland, and so many have zero branding acumen. It's not surprising to me that the one who understood the power of branding could rise from start-up to market goliath in less than 30 years.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Passed this on my way to work. Sorry, but I think it's funny.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Obama style (from a Swiss perspective)

No matter what policies Obama's implementing (or failing to implement) back in the States, his brand is still strong overseas.

We have a Swiss copywriting intern in the office, and I asked him to write several lines for a client who's wants to announce how they tailor their products to their customers' needs. One of his suggested lines was this:

You wish, we made. (Obama style)

I'm amazed that someone who's only moderately proficient in English is recommending communication be "Obama style."

I'm not sure which is stronger, Obama's brand or the reach and influence of American politics. I can't imagine writing any line and giving the direction "Sarkozy style" or "Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa style."

Maybe these would work:

Yes! No! Whatever! Reorganize the government! (Berlusconi style)

You have no idea who I am! (Stephen Harper style)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

RIP Merlin

From 1997-98 I was a producer at the Graham Group, which made all the TV commercials for the Rocky Mountain Chevy Dealers. Merlin Olsen was their spokesman, and I just heard about his passing.

Most people know him as one of the best defensive linemen of all-time. Others know him as Jonnathan Garvey from Little House on the Praire or Father Murphy. So I shouldn't be too disappointed that those Rocky Mountain Chevy ads have been overlooked in his obits.

Merlin was a class act, very kind and respectful of everyone on the set, and as a Sigma Chi brother, we could perform all sorts of secret rituals and handshakes when the cameras weren't rolling.