Naturally, as an expat in Switzerland, I have given serious thought to the state of my apartment should someone with Swiss nationality stop by.
Like what if the authorities finally decide I’m worthy of a C-permit? Or my neighbour determines my gutter needs to be shined again? Or the Billag guy wants to see the clock radio that wakes me every morning with its static? What will I do then?
After the Grüezi and the handshake and the part where the visitor takes off their shoes, there will be that awkward moment when the door that I never should have opened reveals my complete and utter foreignness (despite my American flag hiding behind several winter coats in the closet).
To be polite, I will need to offer my unexpected Swiss guest something to drink.
“Oh, just some water with gas,” they’ll say.
This is when things get complicated.
This is when they’ll realize not only do I drink water from the tap, but I also haven’t cleaned my faucet aerator since I moved in almost six years ago.
Now I like to think of my place as “lived-in” but I know the truth. People in Switzerland do not live with mineral build-up on their faucets, even those who drink bottled water.
The visit will only go downhill from there. I’ll try to distract them from the Swiss version of squalor with a little small talk.
But then I’ll realize that small talk is something in Switzerland that only exists in my apartment-kind of like the dusty planter and the moss that has also dared to make my balcony its home.
To compensate for making small talk, I’ll try to make my German flawless. This will involve disguising every der, die, das, den, dem, and denen as a “duh.”
Pretty soon, my Swiss visitor will hear what I am doing to the German language.
They’ll try not to laugh by politely blowing their nose but then they’ll want to throw away their tissue and this will reveal another embarrassing problem: my trashcan is dirty.