Expat adventures

  30.12.2021 Expat Adventure

‘Buy quality and cry once – buy cheap and cry forever.’ It’s unclear who first coined this phrase back in the 1920s, but it shows that even before sustainability became big news, people didn’t want to waste money on something that would fall apart five minutes later. But, I wonder, can there be such a thing as too much quality?

Climate shock
One of the big shocks we faced when relocating from California to the Saanenland was the climate. We moved in December so of course knew it would be chilly. But there’s a huge difference between knowing and experiencing. In one fell swoop we swapped t-shirts and shorts for jumpers and duffle coats.

It was worse in the footwear department. I arrived with four pairs of flip-flops. There was a black pair, a tan pair, a pink pair decorated with flamingos and a fancy pair with sparkly beads for wearing in the evenings. I realise this sounds crazy but with the exception of a few weeks’ rain, California really had offered the year-round sunshine existence portrayed in Hollywood films. But flip-flops were of no use to me in snowy Gstaad so we headed along the Promenade to get better equipped at Schuhhaus Romang.

Made in Switzerland
I identified my favourite snow boots fairly quickly then spent twice the time talking myself into buying them. I knew I’d wear them a lot (read: every day for five months a year), but they still represented a sizeable investment – especially as I’d grown used to $20 flip-flops. But these snow boots were both functional (furry interiors and non-slip soles) and pretty (decorated with rows of delicately embroidered gold stars). When the helpful shop assistant told me they were manufactured by a company in the Bernese Oberland that had been in business since 1932, the decision was made.

And a good one, as it turned out. The boots kept me snug and warm that first winter and continued to do so over the intervening years. I loved wearing them and made a big effort to clean them regularly. I also stuffed them with tissue paper to maintain their shape during the summer months and swapped out the fluffy insoles every couple of years. But despite my best efforts I knew that sooner or later they would need to be replaced.

Or so I thought.

Fatal flaw
Each winter I’d inspect their condition, but they just kept on going. And going. And going. Eleven years passed and still my boots looked almost as good as new. This is the hallmark of excellent quality of course, but with one fatal flaw: I had decided I was bored of them. Especially because I had my eye on a new pair in Schuhhaus Romang. But try as I might, I couldn’t find a reason to throw out my old ones when there was nothing wrong with them.

I found a solution of sorts by relegating them to the role of ‘backup’ snow boots. Nope, this didn’t sound all that convincing to me either, not now I had a shiny new pair to enjoy. So I decided to wear the old ones on cold and rainy days in the spring and autumn instead. What happened? I ended up wearing them more than ever. And loved every second.

The end is nigh
Almost twenty years have passed since I bought that first pair of boots in Gstaad and their final days are now alas in sight. I learned this when (irony of all ironies) I asked a cobbler if he could extend their useful life. His answer was a definite no. They will not last beyond next spring.

I feel weirdly nostalgic about this. It made me want to coin a new phrase: ‘Buy quality and cry twice – buy cheap and cry forever.


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