Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Visa


The legal age to buy beer and wine here is 16 in most Cantons. The legal age to buy hard liquor is 18 in all Cantons. Needless to say the whole "let's secretly get drunk because we're underage" thing is pretty non existent for teenagers here. I remember the day I turned 18 I headed to the liquor store with my dad and bought a bottle of wine. The woman didn't ID me. Harumph.

A few months ago whilst John was away on business I was in the grocery store picking up a few things. John was due home the next day and I figured we should have some actual food in the house. I grabbed a pre-mixed Gordons Gin and Tonic also known here as "alco-pop" (I so wish I was making that up) which is located in a cooler with the red bull, soda and ice tea. My resident gin and tonic maker was still in Malaysia and I was feeling lazy. I got my other stuff and headed to the cashier. She asked me something. Or at least I think that's what she did. I wasn't sure. The confusion for the most part was because she spoke Swiss German and I have no idea what she said. I speak high German. You know...understandable German. I said excuse me and she pointed at the can of Gin and Tonic and said, "passport?" Oooooh ID. She wanted ID. I pulled out my Canadian passport. She checked, smiled and said, "Oh you're Canadian!" in broken English. I said yes. She thanked me and I went about my business. I regaled my mother with this delightful tale later on the phone. Oh those silly Swiss thinking I look underage! 

Fast forward to the beginning of this month.

I'm in the grocery store again. I needed butter, spinach, ricotta, bananas, lentils, chickpeas and a bottle of wine to go with dinner. I was in a bit of a mood. And when I say a bit of a mood I mean, John emailed me to make sure I hadn't commited felonious assault while out running errands. I browsed the wine section and grabbed a 15 franc bottle of unoaked red. Which is on the higher end of the price bracket. The label had caught my eye (yeah I'm that person) it was a Queen of Hearts. I read the history of the winery on the back of the bottle. I bought it based on the history and the label (yup totally that person.) I head to the cashier. It was the same lady from the gin and tonic incident. No biggie. I see her a lot. I buy booze here and she often runs through my purchase. As I'm digging through my wallet trying to make exact change (yes I am also that person) and she asks me something. Again in Swiss German. No idea  I hand her the money and stare at her blankly. She asks me again. No idea. I say excuse me in German. She points at the wine and then at my wallet and says, "passport?" 

Really lady?! Really? Do you have a lot of underage drinkers who come in and buy expensive wine, organic butter, chickpeas and a metric tonne of spinach? Really?! I haven't been 18 in 10 years!! Because I have my wallet in my hands I opt to show her my auslander carte aka my outlander card aka my visa to be in the country.

John is here as an employee of the UN we are here under diplomatic visas which were provided to us by his employer. John's name is on my card as well as the UN department he works for, my country of origin and my birthday. AND the word "Diplomatic" in big letters.

I handed that over. 

I'm fairly sure she didn't get to my birthday at the bottom of the card. I'm pretty certain she saw "diplomatic" and figured that was all needed to know.  She handed my card back immediately and apologized profusely. She was just doing her job I get it and I'm sure some day I will beg someone to ask me for ID but in that moment I was in a bad mood and wanted to not be in the grocery store. So if handing her my visa with the word "diplomatic" on it would speed up that process so be it.

I packed up my stuff and headed home. I called my mom. I was a little ticked. I am 28 are the Swiss making up for all the times I didn't get asked for ID in Canada? Then my mom ever the optimist said, "if people think you're 18...there is no possible way I could be almost 50. I like Switzerland."
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