The 13 Stages of Understanding Foreign Plugs

Step 1. Bring out your antique sewing machine to hem the curtains you just bought for your new Swiss apartment, all of which are roughly 3 feet too long for the windows.

Step 2. Realize that the sewing machine plug, having been manufactured in the U.S. along with the rest of the machine, won’t fit the Swiss electrical socket in the wall. Briefly consider hemming the curtains with Scotch tape.

Step 3. Remember that you have a spare U.S.-to-Swiss plug adapter lying around somewhere. Locate it and affix it to the plug end of your sewing machine cord.

Step 4. Plug into wall. Hold breath, and then switch machine on.

Step 5. Watch as sewing machine light comes on, and motor whirs happily when pedal is pressed. Voilà!

Step 6. Proceed to sew. Notice that the bobbin winder spins much more efficiently than usual and that the sewing machine light seems more intense than usual.

Step 7. Chalk it up to your wild imagination.

Step 8. Think that maybe you smell burning, and might be able to see wisps of smoke coming from the sewing machine light.

Step 9. Chalk it up to your wild imagination.

Step 10. With a sharp popping sound, simultaneously fry your sewing machine and blow a fuse in the dining room.

Step 11. Sit in the semi-darkness and Google international power plug standards.

Step 12. Realize that U.S. plugs have a 120-volt electrical potential, while Swiss plugs have a 230-volt electrical potential, and that therefore, a transformer is needed to safely use the handy-dandy plug adapter.

Step 13. Sew the rest of your curtains by hand, and begin saving up for a new sewing machine.



  1. Pairodox Farm

    So, perhaps this is a dumb question … but why, when in Switzerland, I plugged in my phone charger using an adapter … did that not self-destruct? I’m confused. D

    • scrappytraveler

      Not a dumb question…I used this reasoning to rationalize using an adapter on the sewing machine! Apparently, those adapters are only OK for dual-voltage devices… and an iPhone, for example, is a dual-voltage device, so all you’re using the adapter for is to change the plug shape and not the actual voltage. You live, you learn. Guess I have to invest in a transformer now!

      • Pairodox Farm

        So some devices can run on both 120 and 230 and others can only run one or the other and it is these that need the transformer. So … one must read those nasty little labels that say voltage input = 120, voltage input = 230, or voltage input = 120/230 … and either of the first two need the transformer while the third does not. Right?

  2. scrappytraveler

    Yep, that’s right. Basically those adapters are only for cell phones and other small electronics. I was living in la-la land…I thought I could use them for my hair dryer and all kinds of other little things. And to add insult to injury, last night I hand-hemmed one of the curtains completely backwards, so the sewed part is facing the room. Augh! I need a new brain.

  3. Sarah Mollov

    I like step 7 best.

    At least you are a member of the (very small) club that knows the ancient craft of sewing by hand 🙂 As always, you muddle through, achieve your goal and learn something new all at the same time.

    • scrappytraveler

      Haha…or maybe the club that knows the ancient craft of repeatedly stabbing oneself in thumb!! But thanks for the nice comment, it means a lot 🙂

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