Jennifer: This Off Script Life
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Zurich, etc.
I am trademark/copyright lawyer who left my desk job in Washington, D.C. to pursue a new career as a screenwriter when I moved to Zurich with my husband in October 2012. I love old movies, traveling, a good bottle of wine, and experimenting in the kitchen.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging on THIS OFF SCRIPT LIFE last year because I was interested in having a place where I could share stories about my life and travels as an expat in Switzerland.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I mostly write about Zurich, Switzerland, and my travels in Europe. Some of my favorite blog entries are:
Tell us about the ways your new life in Zurich differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Zurich differs from the United States in almost every way, from the language, to the lifestyle and culture, to the cost of living. For me, the most difficult adjustment was getting used to the high prices. When a bottle of nail polish costs 25 USD, it can be a bit shocking.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Zurich? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I don’t think I could have fully prepared myself in advance because it’s impossible to know what life will be like in a new country beforehand. That being said, if I were to start over, I would have approached my move here as a long-term one. I’m still holding on to so much in the U.S. (from furniture to doctors) that life here will always feel somewhat impermanent because of it.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
The Swiss are particular about recycling and rubbish must be thrown away in special trash bags called Zuri-sacks. I was so terrified of breaking the rules of recycling and incurring an enormous fine that, until I was able to locate the nearest recycling center, I didn’t throw any plastics or tins into the Zuri-sacks I had purchased (I didn’t realize that I’m safe so long as I use the Zuri-sack). My already small kitchen was covered in plastics and tins for weeks!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Zurich?
I think the best way to prepare for life in Zurich is to have an open mind and heart and accept that there’s going to be a lot of change (some better, some less so). It’s not going to be like life at home, but that is what makes it exciting.
After that, I’d say it’s important to be patient with the Swiss way of doing things — there are a lot of rules, but once you’re in step with them, everything tends to run smoothly and efficiently.
Finally, take advantage of Switzerland’s proximity to other countries and travel as much as you can. Paris and Milan are less than four hours away by train, and you can reach most other destinations in Europe in under two hours by plane. I travel about once a month, and it definitely is my favorite thing about living in Zurich.
How is the expat community in Zurich? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
About a third of the people in Zurich are expats. While the city still feels very Swiss, I’d say it has a great expat community. I didn’t have any trouble meeting other similarly situated people and making new friends.
How would you summarize your expat life in Zurich in a single, catchy sentence?
Life in Zurich is quiet and reserved, but for the expat it is always an adventure.