Expat Voices: Krissy Jackson on living in Zug
Krissy appreciates the strong family values in Switzerland and living in a clean, safe place where she can give her son his space and not worry. Complaining expats are the downside to paradise, she says!
Name: Krissy Jackson
Nationality: New Zealand
City of residence: Zug, Switzerland
Date of birth: 19.05.66
Civil status: Happily divorced :)
Occupation: Executive Coach
Reason for moving to Switzerland: I was living in London and came here when my ex-husband transferred with his work.
Lived in Switzerland for: 14 years in August
What was your first impression of Switzerland?
Driving from the airport I said to my husband, "I can’t live here, I thought American people were patriotic, but this is ridiculous." Everywhere I looked there were Swiss Flags. He laughed, “Don’t worry, yesterday was Swiss National day; the flags will be gone by tomorrow.” :)
What do you think of the food?
I am not really one for eating out or for processed foods, so maybe you will not agree with me, but I think the supermarkets here are wonderful. I am gluten and lactose intolerant, and can go to the supermarket and come out with a trolley full of organic groceries, including excellent gluten free breads and lactose free dairy products. There are also very good farmers markets in Zug where you can buy fantastic fresh produce.
What do you think of the shopping in Switzerland?
I am not really a shopper; I would rather spend my time outdoors. When I do shop, I tend to do it while on business trips to the States, which is great because now instead of buying pieces I buy whole outfits!
Shops are also shut here over lunch and on Sundays, so coming from London to here was a bit of a shock at first, but with a young child I soon came to appreciate that there were family times and times when you worried about things like shopping. I live in a beautiful village on the side of a hill overlooking a lake with mountains in the distance. On Sundays which would have been yet another shopping day in London, my street is full of kids riding bikes, rollerblading etc. and whole families walking together, and passing the time of day with their neighbours. Family values are still strong here and I really like that.
What do you appreciate about living in Switzerland?
I love that everything is so clean. I love it that I can live in the middle of the countryside, but still be only 30 minutes from not one but two cities, Zurich and Lucern. When I used to live in Hampstead it used to take that long to get into the centre of London, and that was on a good day and only if I used the underground.
I love it that in the summer I can swim in the lake between seeing clients, and in the winter I can go skiing every weekend; I have three ski fields within 45 minutes of my village.
I love it that my son, who is now a teenager, can be so independent and I don’t need to worry about him, and I love getting in the car in the weekend, and being able to drive to other countries for what my son and I call adventure weekends.
What do you find most frustrating about living in Switzerland?
Honestly? It is those expats who complain about Switzerland, especially women who sit around in groups in public places, like the gym and complain loudly about how unfriendly the Swiss are. It is hardly surprising they are unfriendly – they might not like to speak it, but they all understand English perfectly.
Switzerland might be different from the place you came from, but I promise if you make an effort, like me you will realise you have landed in paradise. Many of you will only get three years to experience this so please for your own sake, make the most of it.
What puzzles you about Switzerland and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
After 14 years there is not too much about Switzerland that puzzles me anymore.
I still miss just being able to go anywhere and just relax and speak in English, but over the years my German has gotten much better and it worries me less than it used to.
How does the quality of life in Switzerland compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
The cost of living here is very high. If I was living in New Zealand, I could be living in a five bedroom house with a view and a swimming pool for what I pay for my two bedroom apartment, but I wouldn’t swap my life here for material things.
It is certainly cleaner and safer than living in London. When my son was 12 he came up to me in the local village swimming baths (the pool is the lake) and said, “My friends want to know why I am bringing my mother with me to go swimming, it’s really embarrassing having you here.” Now I give him his space. :)
There is a lifeguard on duty as long as the area is open, like all the local children he swims like a fish, and he behaves himself well, so there is little to worry about.
If you could change anything about Switzerland, what would it be?
It would have the ocean on one side, don’t ask me which adjoining country I would get rid of to achieve this; that would be a hard one. :)
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Do something to get involved in the local community. I started volunteering as the assistant to the children’s gymnastics teacher in the afterschool program nine years ago; years after my son left the programme, I am still helping. This made a huge difference in our being able to integrate into village life. All the kids called me Krissy, so once they were doing it, their parents had to drop the formal ‘Sie’ and once you become the informal ‘du’ the ice has been broken forever.
I really admire the teacher. She had a lot of patience with her assistant in the early years: my German was extremely basic and she would ask me to get something, and I would come back with the wrong equipment. And the children probably thought I was a bit slow – if they talked in sad voices I’d say “ohhhh”, and if they spoke in happy excited voices I’d go “ahhhh”; I had no clue what they were saying in their childish dialects. But over time they were probably the ones who taught me the most German. :)
And of course everyone in the village knows me.
Would you like to add anything that we haven’t addressed in the questionnaire?
The Swiss do take a long time to let you into their hearts. It is simply cultural, nothing personal. However if you are still around in seven years you become family and nothing you do after that will change it. It is a wonderful feeling.
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