Monday, January 27, 2014

Expat Experiences: The Everyday Experience in Switzerland

Today is the last Monday of the month and last instalment of the Expat Experiences link-up series hosted by Molly of The Move to America. In the past weeks I've reminisced my first days and emotions in Antwerp, the moment I felt at home in Maastricht and shared my thoughts on Tenerife, the place I come from. The prompt for this fourth week is 'The Everyday Experience' and I think it is about time to return to the present moment and reflect upon my everyday life in Switzerland.

The Move to America

It's been almost half a year since I moved to Basel with Boyfriend for good - or at least for a couple of years - and only now I'm finally making myself at home and starting to feel more at ease with the 'for good' part of the deal. After several years living in different countries and moving back to Tenerife in between I've become way too accustomed to novelty, to the thrill of discovering something new every day and the thought of permanently settling down somewhere made me really anxious.

When I've moved somewhere new the first months were always exciting. I had a whole city to uncover, many streets waiting to be walked for the first time, many little shops wanting to be discovered and cafés expecting me to take a seat and taste their unique tea blends. I have yet to find out my favourite spot to sit and read by the river and I have yet to try my new favourite yogurt flavour from the local supermarket. Apparently this is called the honeymoon period of culture shock and I guess it feels almost as good as honeymooning in the Maldives (I can only guess). 

The second phase of culture shock is frustration period and I think this is the stage I am currently experiencing in Switzerland. I already knew and liked the city I was moving to, I truly thought I would feel at ease here, so how come I am struggling to make myself at home here? How come I feel trapped in the everyday life? Well, once novelty wore off I was only left with reality and reality is not always a nice place to live. At least not as nice as dreams can be. I am frustrated because I cannot seem to find a job, because I don't understand what people say to me despite being fluent in German (annoying dialects) and because I find myself in some embarrasing situations almost on a daily basis. But above all, I am frustrated because I don't seem to enjoy the good life that Switzerland has to give.

The everyday life is actually a pleasant life and people really enjoy life here. Cultural happenings abound, Swiss cities are enjoyable places to live, most of the times working hours are family-oriented, the possibilities for outdoor activities are almost endless and the nature is breathtaking. I think I'm coming to terms with the fact that I am staying here for the long haul and I'm getting used to my everyday life. I do my grocery shopping, I go for long walks on sunny days, I daytrip to neighbouring cities, I stay in on rainy evenings, I have a favourite eaterie and a list of some other restaurants I still want to try. The third and four stages of culture shock are understanding and biculturalism; maybe I'm already on my way to understanding. Until then, these are some tips that get me through the hurdles of the everyday life.


Enjoy the little things - you're likely to see life through a totally new perspective, so prepare to be amazed (and shocked) and appreciate all those details that make life worth living no matter where. I only discovered the joys of long summer days when I moved abroad; coming from sunny Tenerife I probably took it for granted until then.

Allow yourself some time to get used to it - the everyday life in a foreign country can be puzzling, to say the least, so give yourself some time to adjust to it and don't be to hard on yourself. I am trying ...

Treat yourself every now and then - because adjusting to a new country can be hard, so celebrate the small victories and reward yourself. I love me some chocolate croissant and from time to time I grab one for no reason at all just to remind me that this new everyday can be sweet as well.



p.s. If you want to read more about culture shock, here's a post from fellow Tenerife expat and blogger Katharina of 100 Miles Highway, telling how she experienced and coped with culture shock in Switzerland.

14 comments:

  1. Great post! I identify with the 'for good' aspect, as I am not here in America for work or study, but for life. I think that aspect for me has not fully sunk in, I am sure it will at some point, so I am not sure how that will feel or how I will react. I am enjoying my 'everyday' as it was something I had waited for for so long and I aim to cherish all I can.

    Great advice as ever - enjoying the little things really resonated with me!

    Thanks for joining in!

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  2. Creo que has expresado muy bien todas las etapas por las que pasa alguien que se va a vivir a otro sitio. Tan sólo estuve dos meses fuera de casa( hace mucho ya ) y me has recordado todas las emociones por las que pasé. Sobre todo, muy buenos tus consejos para adaptarse y encontrar el puntito de felicidad en el nuevo sitio. Bss, Irene:)

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    1. Es curioso como todos pasamos por lo mismo de alguna u otra forma a pesar de las diferencias en las experiencias. Donde estuviste tu?

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  3. Don't you worry Irene! You will find a job! You are so gifted. You're good at doing so many things. The right thing will come before you. Keep moving forward. I love your tips. Those are things I would've suggested. Wishing you an awesome week.
    http://www.averysweetblog.com/

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    1. Ahh, you're always so kind, Kim! Thank you for your encouraging words, hopefully I'll be back on track soon :)

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  4. Hey, thanks so much for the call out! And by the way, I absolutely agree with your 3 tips... specially the first one actually! Moving abroad opens our eyes to other things and makes us appreciate details we never had even noticed before. It's important to make the most out of it! I realised I loved the outdoors more than big cities when I moved to Switzerland, learned I am a small community person and not someone who enjoys anonimity when I moved to London.

    I think that once a place changes you (or at least, makes you know yourself better!) - that's when it's when you've passed the frustration and are in the process of adapting to the new culture.

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    1. You're so welcome! I really enjoy everything you write :)

      It's so funny, I also think that since I moved to Switzerland I enjoy more outdoors and I'm starting to think that big cities might be slightly overrated. Maybe that's the magic of Switzerland!

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  5. I can't help nodding while reading your tips. Being away makes us appreciate things that I took for granted before. While browsing through a souvenir shop in Dubai, I saw this "Keep Calm. It never rains" stationery and I inwardly giggled because it is so true. It rains only two to three times in a year. Coming from a country where I can't leave without an umbrella in my bag all the time, it made me miss the rain and look forward to greenery. Sorry if I have been away from the blogging world lately. Wishing you a wonderful week!

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    1. No need to be sorry, I'm terrible at commenting and keeping up with replies too!

      I don't particularly like rain but I think I would feel out of place in a country where it never rained. That sentence is really funny, I have seen so many versions of it and all of them make sense. I like the one that says, keep calm and start baking :)

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  6. Fantastic post! I guess everybody has that frustration period at some point and then it definitely helps to treat yourself a bit. Some days can be really hard even when you enjoy the overall thing. Hope the period will be over for you soon!

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  7. This is a great post. I wonder if part of the reason I have been able to settle and enjoy so quickly is because I know that it isn't forever. It might be for several years, and that number may keep going up! But, at some point we will move back to Scotland. Your tips are really good, I especially like the first one, so important. #ExpatLinkUp

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    1. Thanks, Sara!

      I can only speak for myself but I think that until now, knowing that it wasn't 'forever' made it a lot easier to settle. Now, even though it may not be forever and it is still possible that we will spend some time abroad again, I have this feeling that this is the place for the long haul and the place where we'll be returning to after future adventures abroad. I find this idea of 'forever' daunting but hopefully I'll get used to it :)

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  8. This is lovely. Thanks so much for sharing! I guess you definitely need to get over the frustration to get to that happy place.

    On a separate note... It also reminds me that I need some last minute tips and suggestions for our upcoming trip to Zurich. eeeep!

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    1. Oh, exciting! When are you flying to Switzerland? I would recommend Luzern for sure, it is a lovely city. And maybe a daytrip to somewhere near the Alps. I like Interlaken and Zermatt was also very pretty!

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