The Dubious Hausfrau: 10 life lessons from Switzerland
Canadian expat Tatiana Warkentin reflects on 10 things she's learned after living in Switzerland for one year.
Just 365 days ago we stood shell shocked and jetlagged on a train platform wondering what the hell we had gotten ourselves into. Admittedly we still have these moments. Heck, I had one the other day when the TV went on the fritz and John was still in Qatar and I had to get tech support from him via Skype. But over the last year we've grown a lot, experienced a whole heap of things we would not have otherwise and overall just enjoyed the rollercoaster of good, bad and 'ohmegee' that this is. The things we've learned could fill volumes. Although I've managed to capture the highlights in four posts thus far. So at 365 days, here's what we've learned:
Lessons from Switzerland
- Canada doesn't feel like home anymore. It's a place where we know people, it's where our family is, it's where our cat/cuddle monster Inspector Dylan Tiger is, and it's where we have history – but it's not home any more. It's a nice place to visit but it's not where our life is anymore. Sure, some of our stuff is there but stuff doesn't equal home. Home equals where we are together.
- Sometimes you have to do things that scare the hell out of you. And I'm not talking about moving here, I'm talking about kayaking. You can read about it in more detail here. But sometimes doing the thing that keeps you awake at night because you're scared turns out to be awesome and causes a trickle effect of wanting to do that and other things that scare you again.
- One of you will lose your identity. Usually it's the trailing spouse. I've been reduced to John's wife. Seriously. His name is even on my diplomatic permit. There was a grieving process associated with this. It's also something I've come to realise John will never understand. He'll want to but he won't. But at the same time it's a rare gift to be allowed to recreate your identity. Some days I'm wonder woman... other days... I'm just a trailing wife trying to write a book.
- Swiss confederation has been around for 700 years. But the Swiss National Day (think Canada Day or Independence day but Swiss) has only been around for the last century. The more you know.
- Operating in two languages eventually becomes second nature.
- We've assimilated... we hate tourists. My word do we hate tourists. They get in the way, they're annoying. They stop dead in front of you to take pictures. They walk slowly... even slower than the Swiss, which I didn't think was possible. Recently I embarrassed a group of teenage girls in H&M. I was doing a little shopping when I overheard them talking in English about my shoes. I was wearing these. They're amazing. But anyway, they were talking about them. They looked weird. They wouldn't be caught dead in those. Blah blah teenage angst blah. I turned and said, "I speak English." I'm fairly sure one of them wet themselves. "But you're in Switzerland!" was their genius reply. "Yeah...but I'm Canadian." I'm fairly sure they died a little as they slunk off to the underwear department.
- Things click with your family and friends about why you don't want to come back to Canada more often when you tell them it cost you 90 francs to go to Venice and it costs USD 3,000 to go to Canada.
- Regardless of what country we're in John still does stuff that annoys me and I still do stuff that annoys him. And it's generally the same stuff that annoyed us when we were living in Canada.
- We still hate Ikea. But it's a necessary evil.
- Still 52 weeks later, we're still in love with each other, living in this country and the notion that adventure is out there.
Tatiana Warkentin is the writer/blogger in residence over at The Dubious Hausfrau. She moved to Switzerland from Manitoba, Canada with her husband in July 2011 so he could take a job with a special department of the UN and she could make writing a career rather than a hobby. Her goal as the Dubious Hausfrau is to make trailing spouses think, "Oh good, I'm not the only one!" When she isn't writing she is an explorer and adventurer finding time to hike, kayak and learning how to make truffles at a Swiss Chocolate factory.
Photo credit: Werni (Switzerland).
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