Useful Swiss Consumer Programme – From Scams to Dried mushrooms, Toothbrushes and Tea.

If you are interested in consumer issues and want to know more about the products you buy here in French speaking Switzerland, it’s worth taking a look at the weekly television programme called ABE (A Bon Entendeur) presented by Manuelle Pernod and broadcast on Tuesday evenings on RTS1 at 20:10

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A regular look at the products we buy

This consumer progamme takes a regular look at many of the products we all buy in the main Swiss supermarkets and shops. It compares brands, analyses the content of many food products and draws conclusions for the consumer. Even if you only understand a basic amount of French, these programmes are well produced, can be easily understood and the conclusions are illustrated in graph form or with clear photos. 

Housing, Transport, Insurance etc

The programme also looks at other consumer issues such as housing, transport, insurance etc.  The website of the programme has useful links to consumer associations and  links to consumer rights groups.

The products featured over the last few weeks have been on a variety of items such as electric toothbrushes (their conclusion – buying the most expensive product in the shop isn’t necessarily the best!)  Scroll to around 4 minutes on the programme here to see the result on this particular test.

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Pesticides in Mushrooms and Herbal Teas

Another programme broadcast on February 18th featured the packets of dried mushrooms that can be found for sale in recognised retail outlets. It explained which packets of mushrooms contain pesticides and other chemicals, and which brand of mushrooms was rated the best all round. 

For lovers of herbal tea  another programme revealed the content of some well recognised tea brand names, the results can be seen on this clip here 

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Scam targeting local businesses

This week’s programme revealed a scam that involved small businesses being approached (one of them in Versoix) to take out and pay up front for advertising in a magazine that simply didn’t exist.

The programme has been on air for many years and there’s lots of archive material to be found on their site.  There is even an ABE app!



Balcony or Big Plot of Land? Gardening Tips and Advice for the Geneva/ Vaud area.

Whether you have a small balcony at 400 metres in Nyon, or a big plot of land at 1,000 metres high up in St Cergue, if you are in need of some excellent gardening advice for this part of the world, then look no further than the Swiss Gardening School. The school’s tag line is “Lessons in English for amateur gardeners by professionals” and classes are run throughout the year on a variety of subjects by gardeners Hester Macdonald and Tara Lissner. The school’s next course will be held in Nyon on the 1st April from 09:00-13:00 an will be “Design – On a Budget - Creating a beautiful outdoor space without spending a fortune”.

Chateau de Prangins 051 Below are a selection of photos taken by Living in Nyon at one of the school’s gardening course back in September 2013. Despite the editor of this site having decidedly non-green fingers, she learnt the best way to pot plants into containers, how to plant bulbs the correct way up, what to look for when buying compost, how to design and plan around colour schemes, and she also got some good recommendations on local nurseries, garden centres and online gardening sites.

Nearly six months later, the box of  bulbs that the editor planted is still going strong and in bloom!   As class sizes are small there are plenty of opportunities to ask the gardening experts one-on-one advice on anything and everything to do with gardening based on personal requirements.   Classes are fun and informative  – See here for full details of upcoming courses  held in both Nyon and Founex.

Chateau de Prangins 068 Photo above – sensible, practical advice given to students Chateau de Prangins 080 Photo above -which way up do I plant these? Chateau de Prangins 088 Chateau de Prangins 086 Photo above – recommended reading material. Plant Pots made out of coffee tins!  Photos below – Living in Nyon box of bulbs and flowers planted September 2013 (top left of photo) and the same box March 2014. Chateau de Prangins 096     Geneva English School 032

New fun website on Switzerland, Save WRS petition, Spring fair, Intercultural weekend and more

Photo above: Ceramic pots on sale at the Nyon Spring Market in 2008

The weather has finally warmed up and there’s lots going on here over the next few weeks in the Vaud area and a selection of events are listed below.

Firstly though, Living in Nyon is delighted to announce that from time to time it will be collaborating with the website “Newly Swissed” with a joint exchange of articles and information. The logo of “Newly Swissed”  is now on the sidebar of this site for you to click on after you have checked out the Living in Nyon news!  There is lots of fun and useful info on the site, from “Cool Facts, Design, Language, and Oddities” to “Politics, Tourism” and more. The site is run out of Zurich by a team of writers and you can find out more and how it came about by listening to a radio interview with the founder Dimitri Burkhard on World Radio Switzerland here.

Save WRS

Incidentally, if you enjoy listening to World Radio Switzerland for its coverage of news, for the music and information it provides on all manner of subjects such as: business, features and interviews etc, then do read the section on the WRS website  called “The Future of WRS, The Facts, Your Comments” . You can leave your own comments about the station there too.

As you will read, the station is threatened with closure, so you might like to know there is also an online petition for the public to sign to protest against this closure – note, this has been created by a listener, an individual who is independent of the radio station. See 

Local News / Events happening  this weekend

On Saturday 2nd June, it’s the Spring Fair which will take place in the streets around the town, the commercial shops will remain open until 18:00. There will be artisanal stands, live music, the opportunity to buy and sell second hand bikes (it is also Journée du Velo – Day of the Bike more info here), a bouncy castle for children in Place du Midi and other fun events for the family.

Then from 17:30 onwards in the Salle Communale, the  first event of the “Intercultural” weekend begins.

The Fête de l’Interculturelle is an annual celebration for all the different nationalities that live in the region. On Saturday there will be a potluck supper from 18:30 at the Salle Communale in Nyon.  Take along a dish or speciality from your region or country, and share it with others from around the world. This will be followed at 21:00 by a Brazilian evening with samba music and dance. On Sunday 3 June there will be music and traditional dance and food from around the world at the Place des Fêtes down at the Rive from 11:30 onwards.

Also, a reminder that on Saturday 2nd June there will be a big Caribbean party happening in Eysins near Nyon to celebrate 50 years of  Jamaican Independence.

“Reggae, dancehall and Jamaican vintage music as well as calypso and Latin American beats will be provided by US based DJ team “Wyclef Refugee All Stars”, flying in to Switzerland especially for this premiere event”. Tickets will be available at the door. See link here

 Sunday 3 June  – Archaeological event in the castle of Prangins – 10:00 -17:00

“Visit a Gallic village in the Roman times and watch a real battle between the Roman legionnaires and Gallic warriors. Lots of free activities for the family. Free entry”.  This info in English on this event was provided by “Know it All Passport” a site where you can find details of lots of other events happening in the Geneva, Vaud and Pay de Gex area. Click on the logo of “Know it All Passport”  on the sidebar of this site.

Caribana begins next week!

Still on the music theme, also a reminder that Caribana, the first of the summer music festivals in the area begins next week on the 6th June.  There are still tickets available for this 5 day event, performers include Kasabian, Gossip, Lou Reed, The Specials and more. See Caribana here

Finally, an apology to readers due the fact this site was temporarily unavailable for two days due to a technical and an admin hitch in the system!



“Living along Lac Léman” book is now for sale! – The perfect gift for everyone.

Tuesday evening in Nyon saw the official launch of  the book “Living along Lac Léman”. Thankyou so much to all those who came to the Villa Thomas at the COV for the vernissage/launch.

Photos above. Happy book fans! 

 The venue in the stunning lake side setting made it the perfect place to launch the book. It also gave readers of this site,  La Côte newspaper, and other members of the public a chance to mingle and enjoy a glass of local Swiss wine, along with tasting some British cheeese from the British Cheese Centre of Switzerland. 

Photo above: the Villa Thomas along the lake side. Note – there will be a jazz concert at the Villa Thomas on Friday 7th Oct see COV for here for full details

There were also representatives at the event from the various local festivals (Paléo, Caribana, Visions du Réel etc),  from Nyon town council and Nyon tourism giving those there the opportunity to find out more about the three festivals and local issues.

Photo above – Checking out the book at the vernissage

About the book –  The perfect company gift, birthday or Christmas present.

Packed with columns articles and photos the book is is a light hearted look at life along the shores of lake Geneva and contains a selection of columns which have been published for the last two years in English every Friday in La Côte newspaper.  This weekly column is a conversation is about the people, places and events in Vaud as seen through the eyes of a British expatriate.

Photo above: left C. Nelson-Pollard author of “Living along Lac Léman”, right Contessa Pinon – editor of La Côte newspaper

With observations on unusual Swiss customs and on the peculiarities to be found in both the French and English languages, it also comments on other subjects such as the jargon that estate agents use when advertising houses for sale, the difficulties of making a fondue, or trying to say a telephone number in French. 

 Image above – article from book called  “Figuring it out”

With other articles on local festivals, the Désalpe and more, and packed with photos that capture the colour and essence of the Léman region, the book makes a perfect gift for someone who has just moved to the area. It  will also delight those who have lived here for a while, whether expat of Swiss, in recognising  the slightly side quirky side of Swiss life whilst acknowledging the beauty of the Léman area.

Image below – Article from book called “A saisir!” (on estate agents’ jargon)

 At just 29 CHF, the book is available to order through this site, just click on “Living in Nyon” book on the top side bar to order.  Free delivery in the Nyon, Coppet, Rolle and Prangins area.  

 From  Tuesday 11th October, the book will also be for sale at Nyon tourist office  Opening hours  Monday-Friday 08:30 -12:30/ 13:30 -17:30

 Special book signing – The author will be signing copies of the book at Nyon tourist office on Friday November 4th from 16:00- 18:00.  An ideal opportunity to pick up a copy and find out about events and winter activities happening in the Nyon and St Cergue region.

 Photo above and below – Selling the books left to right. Anna Hiller Bedlington, Suzy Nelson-Pollard, Nicola Bedlington.

All photos of the vernissage –  Catherine Lewis photography see site here

“Not everything is run from Paris”- Living in Divonne Part 2

In October 2010, Living in Nyon reader Celia Marsh  wrote about what it is like to live in Divonne in France, (just a few miles from Nyon).  Here is another article, also about living in on Divonne, but this time it comes from long time resident John Burley. John is a “Conseiller Municipal” in the town and here he writes about the activities of the local council, from decisions on whether to build a new primary school, to the state of Divonne’s finances, to what to do with the area around the old railway station and how not everything in France is run from Paris….

Lettre d’un élu de Divonne-les Bains.

The other day, I saw Celia Marsh’s article about living in Divonne-les-Bains on this web site.  As a long-time resident of the station thermale and now Conseiller Municipal, it was a pleasure to read her words.  She got it completely right.  Divonne is a great place to live.  As long as Divonne preserves its wonderfully green environment, the result is there for all to see (and not least the 1000 frontaliers who quite rightly prefer to have the best of both worlds, a Swiss income and a French residence).

So it was not difficult to accept the invitation to join Etienne Blanc’s team for the municipal elections of 2008.  Fortunately, there are no national political considerations at play in communal deliberations.  The current Conseil Municipal in Divonne is pretty representative of the commune – we have “les vrai divonnais“, from families who have been here for several generations; some more recent arrivals in the area from elsewhere in France or from former French colonies; and les internationaux.

 75 Nationalities living in the Commune

There are over 75 nationalities living in the commune: eligibility for election to the Conseil Municipal is open to citizens of states members of the European Union, so in addition to the franco-francais, there are several Conseillers from other European countries.  I have British and French nationality.  Having decided to continue to live in Divonne after my retirement, I felt the slogan “no taxation without representation” was for me since I had to be able to vote if I was going to pay French taxes.  I am afraid the gendarme who interviewed me when I applied for French nationality did not appreciate the joke.

The lake, the primary school, the tennis courts.

Public service is in my genes.  Having spent almost all my professional life in the United Nations where we “think globally” most of the time, I was delighted to be offered the chance to “act locally”.  Communal discussions and decisions do directly affect the lives of residents.  In the last few months we have been discussing in the Conseil Municipal: whether or not to build a new primary school to accommodate the requirements of the growing number of young families moving to Divonne (yes); how to develop the area around the beautiful lake so popular to so many people from Vaud, Geneva and the Pays de Gex (some answers: a new horse riding club and a new 4 star hotel); whether to install new tennis courts at the Divonne tennis club (yes); what to offer as cultural events at the much frequented Esplanade du Lac (a highly diversified and international programme); how to support a very active community of over 100 local associations (a new Maison des Associations); what new shops and restaurants could best complement the incredibly popular Sunday market; and so on.

From Street Dance to Brazilian music – A variety of events on offer for Divonne residents.

Money is not the headache

The biggest headache?  Surprisingly, this is not money.  As a member of the Commission des Finances, I can vouch that Divonne’s finances are in good shape.  We have diversified our sources of revenue.  We are slowly but surely weaning ourselves away from financial dependency on the casino (the share of the casino is down from over 80% to less than 25%).  The tax base is solid, and tax-payers are better off in Divonne than elsewhere in the Pays de Gex.  The compensation franco-genevoise – French communes receive back a share of the income tax paid in Geneva by their resident frontaliers – grows each year.  The typical image of France is that everything is run from Paris.  In fact, local authorities in France have considerably more power over local finances than their British equivalents.

What to do with the old railway station area?

No, the biggest challenge facing Divonne is: what to do with the Quartier de la Gare?  This eyesore in the centre of Divonne has been left untouched for far too long.  There is broad agreement on many things – underground parking, a mixture of low-lying apartment buildings, shops, public services and open green spaces.  But the devil is in the detail: how much of each, how to get the right balance, how to safeguard the environment and what to do with the old railway station.  If all goes well, the plans should be finalized this year, whereupon the commune will launch an international competition for the best design.

 Being directly involved in communal affairs is fun and worthwhile.  The Mayor, Etienne Blanc, likes to tease the English from time to time: I hope he doesn’t mind the occasional répartie.   Sometimes the meetings become difficult and I get lost, primarily because the French love to talk at 500 words a minute, all at the same time and frequently on tangential issues.  But I am very impressed with the amount of time and effort people are prepared to put, bénévolement, into communal affairs

 My mother visited Divonne as a very young girl when on holiday in the Jura with her parents some 90 years ago.  According to her diary, she liked it.  Whilst there, she obviously picked up a hereditary disease called “divonnitis”.    I hope her son passes the same bug to his children.

John Burley, Conseiller Muncipal, Divonne-les-Bains

John Burley, British by birth and French by marriage, has lived in Divonne for 23 years. He was educated at a Quaker school in England and at Cambridge University.  Trained as an economist and committed to public service, John spent several years working in Uganda before joining UNDP in New York in the early 1970’s.  When he retired from the United Nations in 2004, he was a Director in UNCTAD.  He was invited to join Etienne Blanc’s list “Divonne Ensemble” for the municipal elections in March 2008.  An independent member, John is active in several areas of communal life, including finance, economy, tourism and the development of the area around the Lake. He has two daughters and two granddaughters.