When I arrived in Switzerland, I paid for my train tickets once every four times, stole candy and drinks in the supermarket, and arrived minimum 5 minutes late to all my appointments. I was quite a bad person. Three and a half years later, I have a train pass, I pay for the food I consume in the supermarket, and I’m maximum 2 minutes late to my appointments. I’m objectively a better person.
What happened? Switzerland. And love. From the start of our relationship, Nick’s natural honesty and high values have inspired me to become a better person. Unfortunately, I can’t say much about inspiring him towards the same direction. If anything, I’ve been quite a bad influence to him with my French manners.
On our 3rd date, Nick took me to the supermarket. It was that time when it was still fun and romantic to get groceries together. I was thirsty so I took a bottle of iced coffee: a delicious drink that cost 4 CHF. Much more money than I could afford at that time- I was still looking for a job, lived with my dad, and didn’t even have a bank account. Nevertheless, I’m French and my parents encouraged me and my siblings to eat Kinder chocolate bars and candies in supermarkets to have a minute of silence while our mouths were full. At best, they would then hide the empty package in their pocket. At worst, they would ditch the half-eaten biscuit package in some random shelf. So I took the drink and started drinking, casually.
Nick stared at me in disbelief and whispered: “Don’t you want to wait until we’ve paid for it before drinking?” How sweetly naive of him. He didn’t realise that I’d never intended to pay for that drink.
“It’s okay,” I said, imperturbable. We went on with our shopping and I finished my iced coffee.
At the cashier, Nick asked: “What about your drink? I can get it for you if you like.”
“No, I’ll take care of it,” I said. (Note how cleverly I shaped my sentence as to avoid lying.)
Nick paid for his groceries and turned to the conveyor, expecting to see my empty drink on it. I still shiver and sweat remembering the look of horror and utter disappointment on his face when he saw me shoving the empty bottle in my purse instead of puttting it down on the conveyor.
Nick’s parents had apparently told him that the police would get him if he stole candy. Efficient rearing technique- Nick still believed I could get arrested for stealing a bottle of iced coffee.
“Pffff! Zis is ridiculoos!” I couldn’t help answering to his concerns, barely suppressing a laugh. “Supermarkets have a special loss budget in their accounting for food shoplifting. They don’t even care.” I had seen a documentary about it on French TV.
“But it’s not right to steal a drink from the supermarket!”
“Look, that drink is outrageously expensive. 4 CHF is pure theft. I regularly buy my groceries in this supermarket, therefore, it’s okay if I get a free drink every once in a while.”
My French logic failed to convince Nick; he was disgusted.
Luckily for the sake of our relationship, I quickly found a job after the incident and earned enough money to stop stealing. Every time I’ve been tempted to get a Twix bar for free, Nick’s look of disgust flashed back in my memory. I also grew more and more annoyed at all the fines I had to pay for all the train and tram rides I had tried to get for free- I bought a pass. I guess I never had any tangible excuse for being late, except a sheepish: “In France, it’s normal to arrive at least 5 minutes late to appointments!”. I quickly had to learn to be almost on time in order to keep my job.
Amusingly, Nick’s high values and natural honesty have been undermined by my French influence. The other day, he wanted to buy hand-sanitizer at the supermarket because he was worried he’d get the plague from sorting out our recycling. As we walked out, I asked him to give me the hand-sanitizer to use it on my own hands.
“Oh, I didn’t buy it,” he said, casually.
“Huh? How did your hands get clean then?”
“Oh I just opened the thing, took a drop to wash my hands, and put it back. It’s a freaking ripoff; I’m not paying 8 CHF for that.”
How could the man that had inspired me to become a better person steal a drop of hand-sanitizer in a supermarket?
I soon remembered the iced-coffee incident, and started laughing. Then I pestered him about it for at least ten days without respite.
While I had become a better person, Nick was slowly becoming French.
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