I’m going to be straight with you and admit the transition from South Africa to Switzerland has not been easy for me. I find myself struggling daily – catch me at the wrong moment, and I could just burst into tears. And, do you know why? No? Well, me neither.
That’s the messed-up thing. I can’t really put my finger on an exact reason as to why I’m finding it so hard to feel settled here. I don’t want to hear anymore of the Universe’s lame advice. I already know what she’s going to say – It takes time! Don’t rush it. You’ll get used to it. Be open minded. Give it a chance! Blah, blah, blah. (If she shells out any more of these shitty cliches, I just might throat punch her.) I know what I’m supposed to do, and I’m trying – it’s just hard.
It’s the #littlethings.
I miss talking to people at the grocery store. I know this sounds totally absurd, but I miss interacting with people beyond hello. By the time I left Johannesburg, I was besties with every single checkout clerk at Woolies. Here, in Switzerland, I can’t speak Swiss German and I’m pretty sure small talk isn’t really a thing here – except the manager at my favorite café, he loves to chat… though maybe he’s just into me. Kidding…
I miss smiling at people. Again, a lot of people will find this to be weird, but it’s true. A friendly smile is welcoming and kind. When I smile at people in Switzerland, they think I’m just being a total weirdo. It’s the mid-western American in me and I’m not ashamed of it. I’ll flash my pearly whites even if the littlest of things makes me the least bit happy.
I miss variety. I want the option to go to more than two chain stores that run the entire economy – and buy only their brands (and yes, we have a few others too, but those that live in Switzerland will know what I mean). I hate that I have to go to two different places because one store sells good soy sauce and the other one doesn’t… and I have to drive to a completely different shopping center because it’s not possible for them to coexist in the same location. I feel like you are only allowed two choices – this Swiss option or that Swiss option.
I miss laughing out loud in public. I am an animated person and love to talk and laugh over dinner or drinks with friends. But I’ve become so self-conscious (of my kids and my dogs too) about being too noisy. I’m not saying it’s okay to be obnoxious, but not every interaction has to be a stifled exchange. I’m a laid-back person and I’m tired of feeling so uptight all the time. I long to walk into a restaurant to see big tables of people laughing enjoying each other’s company.
I miss flexibility. I feel like all I do is run errands, go to doctor appointments and grocery shop. I cannot imagine being a family where both parents had full-time jobs. The stores close early throughout the week and they aren’t even open on Sunday. Instead of getting prescriptions for six months, I have to keep going back to the doctor every six weeks (and pay for another doctor visit). I’m all about resting on Sundays, but I honestly don’t know what people do if they have to work all week, take care of a family, do the yard work, clean the house, walk the dog and find time to sleep (and you are not allowed to do most of that stuff on Sunday).
I know it’s not going to be easy, but I’m getting a bit tired of this feeling. It’s been seven months. I’m just #overit.
All this being said, there are some great perks to being here (see… I’m trying to be a glass half full kind of girl).
The public transport system is amazing. You can literally hop on a train to anywhere at any time of day, and it’s reasonably priced. You can even enjoy a cold beverage from the comfort of your second-class seat.
It’s super safe. My kids are really enjoying their independence after living behind walls and barbed wire for the past seven years. They take the trains to Zurich or Luzern with ease and I don’t have to stress.
It’s clean. I mean it’s so clean, that when I see trash on the floors of the train station or littering the streets, I even gasp in astonishment. People actually pick up their dog’s poop. I have always been a pooper scooper, but I have lived in some pretty shit riddled places and Switzerland isn’t one of them.
Shit actually happens when it’s supposed to. If a handyman is coming to your house at 10AM, he’ll be there at 10AM, and if he won’t be there on time… get this – they call to let you know! It’s amazing. There’s no guessing whether or not the person will actually show up today, tomorrow or next week.
When the sun shines (which is not as often as I’d like) it is glorious. The mountain views are incredible, and the lakes vistas look like watercolor paintings. And, on the days that it is really crappy outside, you only have to drive a little way to get above the clouds and soak up that much needed Vitamin D.
So, here’s #mytheory… it’s not entirely bad here, but I don’t love it… yet. Everyone says I will one day, but I’m not there. It’s a lot of cultural difference, and that’s part of #expatlife. It’s not like I’m surprised by any of this. #Swisslife just has a lot of little things that sometimes drive me bonkers (because it’s not what I’m used to or what I prefer). And, when those little things start to add up and turn into a big thing… well, you get one of my legendary meltdown moments. So, I’m taking it day by day. Some days are good, and some days are not so good… but I’m trying to not let it get me down. I’m giving myself some well-deserved slack, putting on my big girl pants and trying not to stress out over the small stuff. But, sometimes it’s hard and that’s definitely okay to admit.