This post is from AIWC member Ros. For almost 25 years Ros has lived outside of her native UK. Her husband John is originally from the USA and works in developing health care. They had their four boys while in Uganda in the 1990s. After almost 20 years in Africa coming back to Europe was a huge culture stock. Ros started her career with the BBC world service but with the arrival of her children switched to studying childhood and education and now specializes in expat family support as a parent coach. She has a masters degree in Mass communications and is currently doing an MSc in Applied Psychology.
I love junk and giving a new lease of life to unwanted objects, clothes, paintings, furniture, toys and books. There is something special about these objects: they tell a story, they are often the only one of a kind, unlike new things in regular shops, and as such they have value of a different kind – and best of all, they are cheap and the money goes to charity!
One way I survive as an expat is to pretend that where I am living now is where I will always be living – I try to personalise my home and wardrobe with little things from my new home town. Geneva is one of the best places EVER for perusing the many, vast collections of cast offs.
Why is there so much stuff? Perhaps because of the high number of people passing through on expat assignment, perhaps because people who live here love to get new things and have the means to do so or they just like to keep up with the latest furniture fashions, or maybe the Genevois are great recyclers, for a small city Geneva has a disproportionate number of enormous warehouses filled with potential finds.
Here is a great link from another Geneva blogger to the times and hours of these palaces http://genevalunch.com/2009/07/28/thrift-stores-or-second-hand-shops-in-geneva-and-vaud/
Also, when you come to leave, Emmaus will collect your unwanted stuff for free.
If you want more, check out the Troc de L’isle website for shops in Aigle, Lausanne, Thonon, Annemasse – these are not charity shops, however. http://www.troc.com/accueil-international.html
Certain odd things crop up in every store, for example coat hooks made from mountain goats hooves and the sort of wrought iron candelabra you would expect to find in Dracula’s castle are abundant in the junk shops of the Bassin Lemanique. There is always an assortment of old farming tools, wooden shovels and hay forks, old sleighs and copper pots. You get to learn a lot about your hosts’ history by snooping among their cast offs! You could call it modern Archeology.
I like collecting plates and serving dishes. There are piles and piles to choose from and I find it fun to mix and match. If you get bored with what you have found, just take it back and someone else can buy it and the charity will benefit yet again!
In my next post, I’ll tell you about where to find amazing second hand clothes in Geneva. Stay tuned!
We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/.