Bernadette’s Take #51

About Cool-Aid and Cariboo Stew

Verena Berger, 150 Mile House near Williams Lake B.C.

VerenaBerger5Verena (behind the table) forces people to buy her book at the Christmas fair. I can assure you – she does it gently and with lots of charm. (All photos Verena Berger)

There is a real nest of Swiss and Germans up there in Williams Lake and area. They even have a monthly newspaper in German. It is called “Die kleine Zeitung mit Herz” (The small newspaper with a heart). It is published by Christa Liebe (nomen est omen!).

And there is also a Swiss born author up there. Yes, you guessed right. It is our very own Verena Berger (57).

She published a book “Cool-Aid and Cariboo Stew”, and you can see from the title that it is about the crazy things that happen to unsuspecting Swiss immigrants in Canada.

VerenaBerger1Verena reading from her book. She is approximately on page 789 and people still listen to her – that is how good the book is!

Especially when they come to Canada without speaking one word of English. Like Verena. Shortly after her arrival in Vancouver in 1979, Verena who originally is from the Swiss city of St. Gallen, was looking for a job. Her Swiss husband Willy wrote a cue card for her: “Hi, my name is Verena Berger, I am looking for work.”

With that cue card, Verena went from store to store on Broadway. Some people shook their heads. “It was pretty humiliating”, Verena says today.

VerenaBerger7The Swiss waving their flag during the rodeo in Williams Lake.

Finally, she went to McDonald’s to have coffee. And asked there for a job, too. The manager who was younger than she was at the time – which was 22 –, but he was nice and patient and showed her an application form.

Somehow they managed to fill it in together. The manager wrote HIRED at the bottom of the form. Verena did not know that word either but when the manager made her understand that she should come in at 9 the next morning, she guessed she had a job.

The job was to go from table to table to ask people whether they liked the food.
Verena waited until the guests had food in their mouth so that they could not talk. Then she dashed to the table, asked “You like?” (very good English!) – and then disappeared.

Well, you cannot say that Swiss people are not creative.

VerenaBergerSt.GallenVerena in her Swiss hometown St. Gallen, eating roasted chestnuts (marroni). I am sure she will write about it in her next book. Cannot wait.

Verena moved to Canada because she followed her then-boyfriend Willy. “I never had the desire to leave Switzerland”, she says. But when she saw Vancouver, she was smitten.

They found and bought a piece of land (actually 10 acres) near Williams Lake – in 150 Mile House on Paradise Road of all places – and intended to stay one year.
They are still in the Cariboo. That’s how it goes in life.

VerenaBerger11Her husband Willy who used to be a butcher and sausage maker, became a realtor.
And Verena became a writer.


High time for an UPC (Urgent Phone Call) to Verena Berger in 150 Mile House:

Verena, why are you sad?

Because it is spring and winter is over, but I love winter! I just love the snow.
We ski a lot and I can put on my snow shoes and just walk from my house. It is a dry cold here.
I am not a fan of the sun. When you are cold, you can always put on another layer.

VerenaBerger6Verena, is this enough snow for you or do we have to send a snow cannon in?

Well, then let’s talk about hot stuff. When did you start writing stories?

About 10 years ago, when my two kids had left home. I mean, seriously writing.
My parents are not readers. It was my aunt Lory who introduced me to books. I just devoured them. By reading, you learn writing.

When did you feel the first time that you are a writer?

The newspaper Vancouver Sun published one of my stories. They wanted family stories, so I sent them one of mine. It was about how a mum feels when the kids
have left.

VerenaBerger4See how attentive Verena’s audience is? But Verena, you have to choose a warmer room next time – some people still wear their coats!

Was that a good start?

Oh yes. I started to write small stories and joined a writers´ group. I write creative non-fiction. My stories were published in “Canadian Living”, in the magazine “Spotlight” and in the magazine “Canadian Stories”. And in “Die Kleine Zeitung mit Herz”.

How did you get your book published?

I bundled my stories in a book and self-published it. It came out in February 2012. Last year, I sold very, very well. But when you self-publish, you have to do the distribution and marketing yourself. For instance, I went to the Christmas markets around here and sold it.

Is it true that you also have recorded the book?

Yes, I read the story in a recording studio, with Swiss and Canadian music in between. I am the first author in the Cariboo to do this! It is really cool!

VerenaBerger2Verena recording her book. Justin Bieber had to wait for the studio until she was finished. He went on tour instead.

What kind of stories do you write?

About immigration and integration. I will give you an example: When I had my first child, my girlfriends offered to have a baby shower at my place. I thought that they were going to show me how to bathe a baby! What did I know!

What happened?

Well, I was worried because we lived in a mobile home without running water. No shower in our house! I just had a small tub ready, and I put water on the wood stove to warm it up.

Well, you were in for a surprise!

You bet! My girlfriends came one after another and brought gifts! I was shocked. And I waited for the baby shower. But we never got to it! We had just coffee and cake. I was floored.

Click here for Verena’s website
You will also read some of her stories there (in English).

VerenaBerger12Verena (left) still eating her beloved marroni in St. Gallen …

You can buy Verena’s book online on her website

You can buy her book also in Vancouver: Black Bond Books in Surrey and 32 Books & Gallery in North Vancouver.
Kamloops: Northland Books.
And in local book stores, gift shops and tourist centres in and around the Cariboo.

You can also download Verena’s book here:
YouTube trailer:

P.S. If you have an interesting story to tell or if you know an interesting person, please write to us:!

One response to “Bernadette’s Take #51

  1. aweson blog, very funny comments, just like the book, i of course love the book, i am in it! i am verena’s husband, cheers everyone, enjoy the read.

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