Everybody who has spent time in a different country knows that expat life is not quite like anything else in the world. The confusion of the first few days and weeks, the slow, but steady process of acclimation, the little peculiarities and quirks that might strike you about your new surroundings: almost any situation you encounter can make for a great story. If you are so inclined and want to blog about it, of course!
Our InterNations recommended blog section features talented expat bloggers from around the world. Their offerings to the blogosphere have been selected for their great entries and high quality, whether they may be funny, informative, interesting, deeply personal or a combination of all of the above.
Let’s hear from our featured bloggers in Switzerland:
We were prepared materially, in the sense that we knew what to bring and not to bring. We were prepared emotionally and mentally; we expected the frustration would hit us, being in a foreign land where English is not widely used verbally and in print and we knew we had to learn French even if our minds are not as absorbing as our kids. We were prepared physically; we expected the transfer to be tiring because we won’t have household help here. What we weren’t prepared for was the time we have learn simple stuff, like finding the right grocery store that fit our budget, how to use the pay washing machine, how to clean the ceramic stove top (in the Philippines, gas and electric plate ranges are widely used), and others.
My life in London was busy, I worked and socialized a lot. Here I am a ‘hausfrau’ and am surprisingly thoroughly enjoying it! I also travel a lot when my husband goes on business trips so I get my ‘city fix’ then. My life completely changed with every move we made, so I guess to some degree I experienced culture shock many times.
I feel that it is not so different from Scotland, obviously it is more expensive and getting to know Swiss people well can take time. I have never felt homesick and love living here.
The biggest difference for me is I don’t work. I’m a nurse and to work here I have to first pass the German B2 language exam before I can even apply for my nursing license. Mein Deutsch ist nicht gut. So here I’m a Hausfrau, and have had absolutely no trouble adjusting to my new role. I think I actually love not working a little too much, and will experience reverse culture shock when we move back to NYC and I’ll have to rejoin the working force.
At first I did have a bit of a culture shock as I realized there was a rule for almost everything – but you soon realize that it all helps things run so smoothly over here. Shopping only 6 days a weeks instead of 7 also took some getting used to – especially when my local Swiss shops here used to close at 4pm on a Saturday – though they are now open to 6pm so that is a big difference.
Switzerland is located in the very middle of Europe, and has a warmer climate compared to Sweden. I love the proximity to the Alps and Europe’s big cities. I definitely experienced a culture shock at the international school, but it was a positive experience broadening one’s horizons. The hardest to overcome was first to learn English and then French.
Get to know the local customs and etiquette quickly! Many of the standards of behaviour in Switzerland are rooted in not being an annoyance to those around you. A friend of ours was informed by a neighbour that he was showering too much (twice a day during a heat wave) and that the tenant rules state no showering after 10 pm due to shared walls. In our apartment complex between noon and 1:30 is considered quiet time and it requested you keep your noise to a minimum and this extends to the playgrounds on the property. I know it all sounds very anal retentive but when you think about it, if everyone is trying their best not to be a nuisance to others it's really quite nice.
Although settling in and establishing a social network at the same time may seem daunting in the beginning, try not to isolate yourself; it will only make it harder to adjust to your new life. Force yourself to go out. Try to meet people, whether expats or locals – it doesn’t matter. Take the first step; don’t expect others to come to you. Keep an open mind and don’t be disappointed if it takes a while to make friends.
Working in an English bookshop meant having to negotiate varying levels of English, which as the native speaker you were supposed to understand. Some problems were quickly solved – a book on ‘old timers’ is about vintage cars (known as old timers in Swiss German) not old men.
The biggest difference for me was the language. When I came here in 2009 I barely spoke any French, and so to suddenly find yourself surrounded by a language you don’t understand was a big shock to the system. However, I am convinced that this total immersion in French was the right thing to do as it meant I quickly picked up the language, and can fairly confidently claim to be bi-lingual now.
I don't think you can ever be fully prepared for starting over in a new country, no matter how much research you do. On the administrative side, we more or less had it covered, since my husband is Swiss so he knew most of the requirements and such. As for what I would change if I had to start over... I think I would work harder on my German from the very beginning, and I would definitely get more active in the expat community. I wish I had access to something like InterNations then!
You can prepare very little in order to face the move. Sure I started a beginner German class in America but they speak Swiss German here. And I did research about where to meet friends but building relationships takes time. Maybe I should have taken some cooking lessons before moving!
I was pretty well prepared for the move to Switzerland. I knew that it would take a little while to settle in, so I focused taking things one step at a time. It would have been nice to know more German before we arrived, but it wasn’t necessary by any means!
Brace yourself for a country of dramatic beauty, friendly people and yes, intoxicating chocolate.