Expat Voices: Kerrin Rousset on living in Zurich
New York expat Kerrin loves Swiss food markets and safety, but misses the casual chit-chat of back home.
Name: Kerrin Rousset
City of residence: Zurich
Date of birth: 10 August 1979
Civil status: Married
Occupation: Freelance food and travel writer, blogger with a sweet tooth (http://MyKugelhopf.ch)
Reason for moving to Switzerland: Husband’s job
Lived in Switzerland for: One year as of 1 July 2009
What was your first impression of Switzerland?
It’s absolutely gorgeous – and so clean! Looking around Zurich with the lake, the river, the old town, the countryside, the Alps in the distance; there’s no wonder the city tops the charts every year for quality of living.
Also, everyone has a sausage in one hand and a big round bread roll in the other. That or a huge ice cream cone. I remember thinking, “This will work.”
What do you think of the food?
As a food writer, it’s a very exciting country to live in. Every region is influenced by a different country’s cuisine, and every town has its own specialty and local products. There is always a new discovery to make. As for accessibility to chocolate, it’s pure heaven. And cheese too, of course.
What do you think of the shopping in Switzerland?
Shopping is great in Zurich – for every style and season you’re bound to find what you’re looking for. You have all the big brand names from around the world, plus excellent local designers and artisans too.
As for food shopping, the quality of food products is extremely high. Going to the big supermarkets, I avoid brand name products knowing Coop and Migros already offer top quality at better prices. The fruit and vegetable markets are fantastic – so much fun to walk through and gaze at all of the different products, with their colours and aromas, and chat with the vendors at each stand, each one passionate about his or her wares. I love the markets here!
What do you appreciate about living in Switzerland?
Orderliness, cleanliness and punctuality. Even though it may be the best place to buy a watch, you don’t need one. Church bells ring every 15 minutes and the trams are on time without fail. Public transportation in general is impeccable.
Accessibility. It’s in the very heart of Europe. I hop on a train in any which direction and I could be in a different country within an hour. My travel list is very long!
Fountains, fountains everywhere! You never go thirsty, nor in need of bottled water.
Security. I always lock my door at home, but probably don’t need to. There is a sense of security here I was not familiar with in New York. People leave their valuables on the grass when they jump in the lake for a swim. Their belongings are there after their swim! I’ve even seen people leave the keys to their car on the seat and walk away to go shopping. The car is there when they get back! This still shocks me.
What do you find most frustrating about living in Switzerland?
That I speak German with a French accent! Well, I don’t really speak German, but when I attempt to… And forget about Swiss German! I live in a region where the written and spoken languages are not the same. How can you not find that frustrating?!
I’m originally from New York – the city that never sleeps. So coming to Zurich, it was frustrating to think that if I needed sugar or eggs, I couldn’t just run out to the store and get some at any time of day or night, seven days a week.
Garbage! I think the recycling system here is fantastic – different bins for every material, even different coloured glass. So in the end, you shouldn’t have too much waste. But CHF 2 for the garbage bag we must use?!
What puzzles you about Switzerland and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I miss small talk. Just casual chit-chat – with the cashier, the waiter, the lady at the bread counter, the stranger over there…
I miss going out for a quick and easy bite to eat – meaning cheap too. Restaurants are awfully expensive here. I love to cook, so it doesn’t affect us as much, but couldn’t imagine if I didn’t.
How does the quality of life in Switzerland compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
I think the quality of life in Switzerland is superior to any other country I have lived in (USA and France). People work hard, but at the end of the day, they don’t work anymore. I doubt most Swiss are attached to their iPhones and Blackberries as much as elsewhere. Walking around in NYC, it’s rare to see someone not walking and talking on their cell phone. Here, it’s one thing at a time.
And just look around at the landscape! I see Swiss bankers in suits and ties hopping on a pedal boat on the lake for their lunch hour. Or taking a quick swim before going back to work. That sure beats eating lunch at your desk in a matter of five minutes.
If you could change anything about Switzerland, what would it be?
I would make it closer to New York so I could see my family more often.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Try to take advantage of as much as possible around you – nature, sports, transportation. There is always an event or festival going on somewhere. Read Swiss blogs (like MyKugelhopf.ch ) to hear from experienced expats about their adventures and travels. Be patient. It will take some time to get used to the different way of life here, but it’s worth it.
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