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elisabeth forest june blog
Photo credit: Gabrielle Ward

By Liz Forest, EMF Management

I recently read in a local expat group on Facebook a post by someone looking for a recommendation for an “honest carpenter”.

It turns out the person writing the post was actually looking for someone to install a custom wardrobe in their home. What ensued was a short explanation of the job (i.e., some shelves, a hanging bar, and a sliding door to hide it all) and the fact that the person had already received offers from two carpenters “for the same amount”. The person was clearly in search of a third offer significantly below this threshold. I read this to imply that both carpenters might be perpetrating highway robbery as the job was too simple for anyone to be paid such an exorbitant amount (NB: embellishment is my own).

These kind of posts are rife on FB. To be completely honest (in the spirit of the sought-after carpenter), they evoke in me a tiny bit of sadness followed in quick succession by incredulousness and a fair amount of frustration. Why?

Well first, as I run renovation projects for a living, I would normally be able to reply to such a FB post with the names of at least two or three truly honest carpenters with whom I have collaborated in the past and who do magnificent work.

Next, before replying, I have to ask myself if the writer means:

  • Honest = can be trusted when left alone in your home with your stuff
  • Honest = does not lie
  • Honest = does not cheat
  • Honest = performs the task as requested
  • Honest = does not try to take more of my money than I believe they are entitled to take for the job I want and need them to do

Nine times out of ten, the answer is the latter. There is no question that most things (food, drink, entertainment, real estate) are more expensive in this corner of the planet than most others. Normally the carpenter-seeking homeowner arrives at this judgement because they come from somewhere else in the world where such a service or product can be had for much less.

But my point is this—should the implication ever be that said tradesperson is not “honest”?

We don’t seem to apply the same logic to other professions. When was the last time you read on FB “Looking for an honest doctor”?   / lawyer / banker / babysitter /  cup of coffee???

The last one is particularly interesting as I have recently returned from Milan the capital of Italian chic, refinement, delish risotto and amazing shoe selection. During that trip, I paid on average € 1.50 for an espresso whether I was sitting at a tiny backstreet coffee shop or in an open air café overlooking the Duomo. It dawned on me that back home (= in and around the city of Calvin), I am lucky these days to find an espresso anywhere for under Chf 3.80.

So I repeat, can anyone tell me where I can find an honest espresso?

Author's bio

Liz Forest 200

Liz Forest is the founder and owner of EMF Management, a Swiss-registered renovation project management company servicing the international community in the greater Lake Geneva / Vaud region.

Liz spent the first ten years of her professional career as a free-market micro-economist and project manager. A move to Geneva in 1997 with her young family inspired a change from the corporate world ... and a home purchase over a decade ago taught Liz exactly what property ownership and renovating in Switzerland entails.

In 2013, Liz founded EMF to provide renovation project management services to busy expat homeowners who want to transform their space without the overwhelm. EMF handles the heavy lifting so clients do not have to learn a new trade, take time off work, or sacrifice family holidays or their sanity just to make their house a home.