19. October 2004 I moved to Switzerland – soon 8 years ago.
So, going back all these years, today would`ve been the first day for me to wake up in my new country. I can`t remember how I felt about it at the time, but I imagine mostly tired after weeks of preparing for the big MOVE.
My husband had already been here for two weeks and had more or less gotten into the Swiss way of life I assume. Being Swiss he didn`t need to thread new ground like me.
The first two months we lived with my in-laws – a blessing and a trial. Prior to moving we had lived one month with my parents so when we finally got our own place I`m sure you can imagine our joy.
Thinking back though I must admit it was a good thing to stay with my husbands parents at first. My mother in-law took me everywhere and showed me the best places and prices to get what ever i needed to get. She is the type who needs to get the best parking space possible, so at times we would circle the parking lot a few times before getting the space right in front of the entrance. She talked and talked in Swiss-German, a language I was not very comfortable with, but I nodded and smiled and waited for her to finally park the car.
My in-laws told me that they could not speak any English. Therefore I was pushed to learn their language. At first I tried the High-German, which was fairly understandable seeing as I had had a couple of years of German in school way back when. The Swiss are very polite and will speak High-German to you, but among themselves they will of course turn to their own gibberish form of German. And then I was lost. Lost in translation…
For a while I continued to smile and laugh whenever the people around the table would smile and laugh simply because it was important to me to be a part of what ever was going on. This was an illusion (I mean, I didn´t understand what they were talking about), but getting them to see that I was putting my self out there and interacting, made them include me.
It`s not easy building up a new social network in a new culture. First of all you don`t have the time; all those years you spent bonding with your best childhood friend are not at hand now. You want to find someone who understands you and ticks the way you do, but in the shortest period of time possible. Not easy.
I could talk about this for another seven years, but I wont dwell on it anymore in this text.
All I can say it that it took me about one year to feel that I had some kind of a normal social life again. I`m thankful for the real friends I have made here and I certainly don`t take them for granted.
There have been times (like two times a year maybe) when I get so homesick that I quietly decide it`s time to move back. Usually this occurs when I`m too much in rutine and find things here a bit boring. I tend to think that life up north would be so much more than what I have here, which isn`t true of course. I guess we all sometimes wish to be in another place than where we are.
My expat life is good although it`s a different life than what I imagined I would have way back when. I would encourage everyone to move out for a period of time. Seeing you homecountry though new glasses is very valuable. It also makes you see yourself through a different lens.
Now back to my in-laws not being able to speak English, this turned out to be not so true but it certainly worked wonders for my Swiss-German.