February 12, 2015
We’ve been in Switzerland for almost three weeks now.
The first week was a bit of a blur thanks to the jetlag. But as if on cue, we woke up to a fresh blanket of snow outside on our first morning. We were staying with my brother and we stayed local and kept our excursions small.
The second week we spent a lot of time with my dad. We filled in forms and visited council offices and departments of immigration and copied, scanned and emailed documents around the place. This may sound arduous, but it’s not meant to. Compared to other immigration procedures I’ve been through, this one has been very straightforward. Granted, it helps that I’m a citizen.
This is our third week. We are on our own, ensconced in a cozy flat in Steinhausen. We’ve introduced ourselves to our neighbours and apologised in advance for the children’s bouncy enthusiasm to the people living below us. We’re enjoying our last week of holidays before I return to work and the kids start school, so we went skating and sledding on the Rigi. It’s misty at the moment, so once up on the mountain we were above the mist (called ‘Nebelmeer’ Ocean of mist).
This is Fasnacht season and tomorrow we plan to attend the local parade. Fasnacht is an old tradition where marching bands and people dress up to parade through the streets. Every area does it differently. Last night, the sounds of the local ‘Guggenmusik‘ band having a warm up session drifted through the window. We walk or take the bus and train wherever we need to go. It is cold, I mean proper cold, not Wellington-windchill factor cold. The interior spaces are all heated to high temperatures so we forget that once we step outside we’ll need hats and gloves.
My casual German is returning more and more everyday and I’ve bought a fiction novel in German so I can develop it even more. Everything feels right. The kids are happy and my brave husband ventured to the shops by himself today. We are all making adjustments and collaborating on solutions to new problems. I couldn’t ask for more. Sure, we wish we had one or two kid-friendly English channels, but we got the Lego movie DVD today and so tonight it’s a treat for the kids.
Things that are different: Instructions are printed in at least three languages (German, French and Italian). Sometimes they include English. There is a shop that only sells cheese down the road. Highly heated indoor environments. Electrical plugs are up by the light switches.
Likes so far: The snow. Small regular trips to the very close shops. The cold. Good food. The way people greet each other on the street and on buses. The regulated but logical way that things are organised. The snow. The clear sidewalks regardless of snow. The different types of snowflakes (small sleety and big fluffy, even absolute individual flakes). Daily new things. The elderly Italian men who have lunch together, where Al Pacino would not look out of place. The views.
Dislikes so far: Needing to remember that shops are closed on Sundays. Coffee, we have yet to have a really good one.
December 10, 2014
Well, time we shared some big news publicly. We’ve decided to move! Not just house, not just towns, but across the world! We’re moving to Switzerland in the new year*.
Last year when we spent a long holiday there, I remember a clear moment when Stephen and I were standing by the national holiday bonfire in Rapperswil, looking out over the Zurich lake and we pretty much agreed, that yes, we could both be happy living here.
This decision is also a big part of why we got married earlier this year. When Stephen agreed to give up his job, social circle, proximity to his family and even his ability to communicate easily, I thought that I really needed to provide him with as much immigrational (its a word, ok!) security as I could.
Even though I was born in South Africa, I grew up in Switzerland. It’s ‘home’ to me. Well, as much as any one place can be home. I tend to commit my heart to wherever I am living and so wherever I am becomes home. But Switzerland is where I had many important formative experiences.
Importantly it’s also where my brother, his wife and children live. I’ve lived half a world away from him for 20 years and I just want to be able to share the everyday with him and his family. My dad is also much closer to Switzerland than Aotearoa. Being in Switzerland will enable us to see him and his wife and daughters, my step-family, much more easily. And I’ve got some lovely friends there too 🙂
Sometimes I think I’m nuts. We’ve got so much going for us here! We have a great community here in Titahi Bay and we love the school the kids attend. I’m making great strides at my work, I especially love and respect the people I work with and we have a small business that is humming along nicely.
But this is very clearly not a calculated career-move. This is about extending opportunities for our wider family to spend time together.** I’ve started pulling back from my various obligations and am in discussions with my employer. Working in my current job from overseas is a one possible option and we’re very lucky that this is even a topic of discussion.
The part we are dreading the most will be that we are going to rehome our pets. While we will keep and rent out our house, it’s simply not possible to bring our pets with us. We’ll miss our friends and our extended family but are also very much looking forward to this next adventure.
So watch this space for updates!
*Exact date to be confirmed.
** this refers to my side of the family obviously. I feel very lucky that Stephen is up for this.