I’m not sure who ‘they’ are but they sure do have a lot to say when tough decisions are placed in our laps.
I have loved writing this blog and other articles over the last few years as we transitioned from being a French family to a Swiss family. I never, ever expected to have 4000+ followers and travel internationally to discuss my role as a blogger. It was fun, inspiring and exhausting all in one.
I started this blog to keep myself sane during our international move but it ended up being a gateway for me into more assignments and projects in Switzerland. All of this has been amazing and I wouldn’t change a thing.
A little over a year ago, I was proposed the opportunity to go to Pyeongchang for the Olympics and Paralympics. I went back and forth over the logistics and in the end, it just didn’t work out. I was gutted. I love the Olympics and it was Bucket List-level on things I wanted to do in my lifetime. But, the decision was made and it was the right thing to do.
Fast-forward one year later, and I am back involved in large international sporting events. I’ll say more about this at another time but for now, the time for shutting down this blog and putting this chapter behind me has come. I have received comments about why I’m not posting as much and the answer is honestly, I just haven’t had the time!!! I’ll still have things to say and I’ll keep my Instagram and Twitter going but I will be closing my Facebook page and this blog in the coming weeks.
What started as a project to keep me sane as we switched countries and cultures has given me career opportunities of a lifetime. I could not have foreseen this coming but I welcome the challenges and work ahead!!!
As always, stay safe and explore the world. Not to lose yourself but to find out who you really are.
“No place is ever as bad as they tell you it’s going to be.” – Chuck Thompson
I read a post recently that was making the rounds on Facebook about how awful life is in Switzerland for foreigners. This wasn’t, sadly, a shocking post for me to read as I have come across too many of these to count over the last 5 years relating to Switzerland and internationals living/working here. Depending on your life, you may or may not be aware that international/expat-focused websites, as well as reputable news agencies, love to publish annual lists entitled something akin to ‘Best and Worst Places for Expats To Live’. These lists often accompany anecdotal ‘evidence’ positioned as truthful information to support whatever their survey monkey results found. There are some disturbingly common themes in these types of articles and I’d like to confront them head on. I am a FIRM believer that your experiences living abroad are highly influenced by your own actions and when I come across something along these lines that continues to perpetuate the idea that one person’s take on a short-term assignment abroad will speak true for 100% of the people that move there, I get frustrated, sad and angry.
Switzerland is the fifth country I have lived in. It is not perfect but it has been my favourite place to call home. It trumps Canada, where I was born, England where, you know, fish and chips are available ALL THE TIME, France where the Eiffel Tower makes every picture look better and the USA where I learned about deep fried cheese curds. It is better than all of that (to me) but it wasn’t Switzerland that made that so, I also had a hand in making this the best place for me.
So, if everything is so great for me in Switzerland, why does it pale in comparison to somewhere like Singapore that often tops the Best lists, or at least rounds out the top 3? Well, it’s easy. Comparing a country like Switzerland where someone will relocate and live in a local community, immersed in a culture and language they don’t know, is unfair vis-a-vis countries like Singapore where people are relocated to a prefabricated community compound. You cannot, and should not, compare the two. Relocating to a compound gives you ready-made friends, already international in nature and most likely aware your arrival is imminent. These pre-fab friends come with insider knowledge that helps you to avoid the pitfalls of international relocation that befall many of us. I have seen Facebook status updates from friends that received welcome gifts from their new Irish neighbours in Malaysia and a welcome basket waiting at the home for friends relocating to Dubai. Whilst we didn’t experience any of that, we did get an offer to use pots and pans from our Swiss German neighbour in case we hadn’t unpacked them yet…same-same but different?!
Now, I’m not about to fall into the trap of saying one is harder than the other and that ALL people that relocate to Asia move to prefabs and that ALL people that relocate to Europe do it solo because it just isn’t true. Local-base relocations are not harder, they are just different and that difference is never accounted for in the Best and Worst lists. Local moves do require more effort to break into a community because you are unlikely to spend your time living on the outside of local life. At some point you must integrate and there in lies the problem with comparisons. When you move somewhere where you know you will never blend in, you give up the hopes of that and settle fully into international/expat life. Expat parties. Expat friends. Expat schools. Expat life. When you move somewhere and WANT to fit in, you are swiftly and painfully confronted with the realisation of how hard it is to make friends as an adult. I have discussed my own failings on this topic here.
So before you move abroad and before you trash another country online, take a moment to get to know yourself because you will make or break your stay in many many ways. Yes, the culture may not be ‘you’ in the end but there are always silver linings and ways to make things work. Knowing what you are willing do beforehand will help you out. I repeat: You MUST know yourself before you accept a local life assignment abroad. Are you a go-getter? Are you willing to put in hours of effort to make a social life? Are you willing to do EVERYTHING to make your new life work? Or, will you arrive and complain then send an angry article off to be published about how crappy life is abroad? Will you blame the locals for not falling at your feet to become friends with you? Will you expect them to wake up one day and think ‘omg is that a new American neighbour I see?! We must become best friends!’ (this won’t happen). If you aren’t a go-getter, perhaps think twice before accepting a local-based assignment. Try somewhere that will put you on a compound or near one so your lifestyle won’t change much, just the scenery.
International/expat life is not easy, even though it looks quite glamorous. It has changed me in every single way and I’m forever grateful. However, that change comes from the hard times that challenge you. Expat lists mean nothing about how you will respond to a place, trust me.
Alas, I leave you with some Forrest Gump mama-style wisdom. Life is like a box of chocolates, it is true. But are you going to be the kind of person that throws the whole box out just because the strawberry creams are hiding in there somewhere or are you going to give it another chance in the hopes that you come across a little slice of heaven? I know what I would do…
A while ago* I asked if local internationals/expats in Switzerland would be keen to answer a few questions on life in Confoederatio Helvetica (aka Switzerland). Switzerland is an impressively quiet country that people often wish to visit/relocate to but it find it difficult to obtain information on. Thus, I present to you, Q&A with people already living in Switzerland. I tried not to edit the responses so some answers may be formatted or phrased differently than others but this is an honest glimpse inside the lives of those that have already made the jump to Switzerland.
Where are/were you located in Switzerland and, if you wish to share, for how long: Morges(VD) – 3.5 years
Lausanne (VD) – 2 years
Zurich (ZH) – 9 months
Lausanne (VD) – 4 years
Morges(VD) – 2 years
Where are you from originally:
Have you lived in other foreign countries before moving to Switzerland: Yes – 5 votes
No – 2 vote
What Swiss languages do you use for daily life: Swiss German
Mix of French and Swiss German
Sometimes Italian when I travel to Lugano for work
English tends to be a working language most places, as well
What is your native language: English – 4 votes
French – 2 vote
German – 1 vote
Spanish -1 vote
Italian – 1 vote
Important things (s) people should know when they relocate to Switzerland: -Cost of living is very high
–Shops are closed on Sundays and there are a lot of laws surrounding quiet hours (e.g. no placing glass in recycling bins at noon, no mowing the lawn on a Sunday). Life will be much easier if you try to follow the rules and embrace whatever comes your way without comparing it (unfavourably) to back home. -Cost. Switzerland is very expensive. Housing, insurances and and food will consume the majority of your budget
-Salaries are higher here than elsewhere in Europe
-Weekends in Switzerland are for enjoyment, not work. There are rules around what you can/can’t do on a Sunday
-It is just as beautiful as you imagine
-Language, cost of living, culture regarding respect towards others, commercial business hours, necessary documentation, legal requirements e.g. driving, permits, communal living regulations
-Public schools are excellent
Favourite place in Switzerland:
-Have not been here long enough to see everything but for now I’ll say Lucerne/Luzern area
-Anywhere along Lake Geneva/Lac Léman
-Lausanne (awesome restaurants)
-Ticino/Lake Lugano Italian area
–Lausanne for the street food festival
Favourite Swiss food: Raclette (5 votes) Fondue (4 votes)
Rösti (2 votes)
Gruyères meringues with local cream (Swiss dairy in general)
Are/were you happy in Switzerland (these are direct copy and paste answers – extra exclamation points and all):
Oh yes!! Even with the cost and rules. Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!
Yes. I am homesick for English food sometimes but otherwise, Switzerland is now home.
YES. Geneva is a bit boring but the rest of Switzerland makes up for it.
Yes or No-you have gone to a Swiss mountain and sang The Hills Are Alive:
LOL not yet
Actually, yes I have. Even took a video
Not an Austrian nun so, no, I haven’t
Ummmm not yet but I kind of want to now
HAHA how’d you know?
Hadn’t occurred to me, but I now want to buy an edelweiss shirt and learn how to blow a swiss horn, while riding a cow…
Profession: Software engineer
Stay at home pet wrangler, occasional mother, professional eye roller and eccentric socially awkward recluse
Thank you to all of my contributors. If you’d like to see more photography from Dominik Gehl, check out his Instagram account here You won’t be disappointed!!!
*This, and many other writing projects, were sidelined due to my computer crash swiftly followed by a fairly intense recovery from a brain trauma but here I am, back on track and ready to read, research and write!
Photo credits: Jennifer Hart, Dominik Gehl, anonymous (with permission) and banner image from Fotolia
A couple Fridays a month I will be featuring another blogger or up-and-coming writer on my site. Stories range from expat life to travel/adventure. If you are interested in possibly being featured, please read the info hereand get in touch! You may notice differences in terminology, vocabulary and spellings here but I think keeping it authentic to the author’s voice and background makes for a richer reading.
Top 5 Expat Locations
By: Jason Mueller
Moving to a foreign location can be a frightening thought for many people thinking about making a big move that will change their life drastically but if you choose the right country this frustrating process can be very rewarding making all the hassles well worth the pain. For those looking for change, you will not find a better way to mix things up by re-locating to a strange country. There are so many great countries to ship all your goods to and call home. It is hard to narrow it down to just 5, and your perfect country is going to vary from the next persons, but here are 5 great countries for you to consider calling yourself a local expat to.
There is so much that Switzerland has to offer for expats searching tirelessly for a better life abroad. For starters the food is to die for and places like Lausanne have amazing street food festivals, wash all the great food down with a delightful glass of wine or some on the cleanest drinking water on the planet. Switzerland is very stable, in fact it has the sixth highest GDP per capita out of all the countries in the world. Great public transportation will get you around on time, if you don’t like to drive then this is a tremendous country to take advantage of and if you do enjoy to drive the roads are in good condition and fun to explore. Immaculate hospitals, brilliant doctors and great benefits make the health care top notch, in fact the Swiss are said to have among the highest quality of life on the planet. The central location will make a great home base to go out and enjoy the rest of Europe. This incredibly safe country makes the list for so many good reason.
This is also known as the land of pura vida which translates to pure life, on a typical day you will hear this saying at least 3 times a day, it can be used as hello, goodbye, thanks, have a good day, take it easy or just about anything else, but is really a way of life for the locals and expats living in the Rich Coast. The country has been toted the happiest country in the world due to high wellbeing, high life expectancy and not to mention the tranquil laid back vibe you can’t help but to enjoy when chilling on the beaches, walking in the lush rain forest vibrant with flora and fauna or enjoying the views in the pristine mountains. The locals are welcoming and you won’t have to travel far to meet up with a fellow expat. People re-locate here from all over the world opening B&B’s, hotels, restaurants, tours, vacation rental companies or anything to take advantage of the high numbers of visitors that come as tourists. Of course Costa Rica has a tropical climate keeping you nice and toasty on the beach but is also known for having some of the most moderate weather in the world up in the mountains.
People may not know it but Chile is a rapid developing country, South Americas most prosperous and stable country. The emerging economy has the highest state of peace with great economic freedom to keep your soul happy. Chile has a low percentage of corruption and crime making the country very safe and secure so you can save money by not having to worry about security in your office or business. Also the cost of delicious food and other living expenses such as rent is lower than North America giving you a better bang for your buck. Obtaining a visa, work permit or residency is pretty hassle free compared to many other countries. Come enjoy one of the bustling cities or some views of the breath taking Andes.
If you are planning a move from North America this may be your best option because of the close proximity, offering cheap and fast flights back home to visit relatives. The immigration process to get accepted in the country is fairly easy with minimal money needed to get your residency. Sure Mexico has gotten a bad rap from the war on drugs and the other reported crimes but the truth is that in most locations it is very safe and there is a lot of expats to mingle with. But you won’t have a problem making friends because locals are very happy to invite you for a meal of seemingly endless food and tequilas. The cost of living is pretty low for the frugal people out there looking to make their dollar stretch a little further. Mexican food is a desired taste bursting with flavour, if you aren’t a lover of “picante” food then don’t let that detour you as there is a huge selection of restaurants from all over the world.
The landscape alone is enough to make you want to move to this unique country that offers volcanic terrain on the North Island and snow-capped mountainous peaks on the South Island. Outdoor adventures will keep you active with anything from skiing to surfing, you will never get bored in this adrenaline filled country. Although the average income is a little low the high quality of life will keep you healthy and after all some people forget just how important health is in life. Approximately one fifth of the population are expats, with that being said, it’s clear that the proof is in the pudding. The state sponsored health care is some of the best around with modern health facilities. All the amenities that you are used to will keep you very comfortable, soon you may be calling yourself a Kiwi (what locals are called)
Jason Mueller is an entrepreneur living in Costa Rica with family from Canada. Since graduating from high school and getting his pilot’s licence, he has lived to travel the world looking for adventure. You can find him onFacebookand Instagram.
Photo credits: Jason Mueller, Jennifer Hart, Fotolia – Vege
Do you currently, or have you lived at some point, as an international in Switzerland? If yes, I would LOVE to hear from you. I am running a short survey to write an anecdotal piece for my blog based on the experiences of people that have upped and moved to Switzerland. If this interests you, please leave a comment with your email OR email me here at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you an expat? Traveller? Curious about expat life? Want to read about travelling the world from the comfort of your living room? Then you would absolutely love the anthology Once Upon An Expat that I have a published section in! Written from the heart from real women living around the world, the book will make you laugh, cry and make you want to search online for your next travel adventure!
So, how can you possibly get your hands on a copy? Well, you’re in luck. Both Kindle and paperback version are available here on Amazon.
OR! *drum roll please* you could participate in this contest to win a copy signed by yours truly. Contest is open to participants around the world.
How to enter:
Leave a comment below on this post or email me via the form below and a random draw will take place Sunday 26th of June. Check your mailbox Monday morning and you could be the lucky winner!