Marking International Women’s day, Andrea Martins encourages expat women to make the most of their time in Switzerland. Here are her six top tips.
When you first arrive in Switzerland, it is fun to explore the splendour of big cities like Bern, Geneva, Zurich, Interlaken and Basel, relax or go white water rafting in the lake areas, and hike or ski in the Alps.
However if you are not employed, once the initial excitement of your relocation fades, you might start to question your role here and how you can keep both your body and brain stimulated long term. This is especially true if you were working elsewhere before arriving here.
Here are six top tips for expat women to make the most out of their time in Switzerland.
1. Stay positive and keep motivated
Whatever the reason that you moved abroad, the most important piece of advice is to stay positive and keep motivated. Do whatever it takes to keep a smile on your face when you are feeling lost, homesick or frustrated. Exercise or join a sports club, socialise with new people, travel and explore, start a new hobby, write a blog, attend motivational seminars. Find a way to keep your brain active.
Inspiration is also priceless. Soak up some interviews with women like yourself, on Expatica and ExpatWomen.com, doing amazing things in their new lives abroad. Read the monthly magazines of local expatriate groups, grab some books about women abroad, read local expat blogs, and join local Facebook, LinkedIn and Meetup groups to meet new friends in your local area.
2. Think creatively about work
If you do not have a job but think that you would like to work in some way, think creatively about what you can do. Too many expats seem to limit their ideas or work abroad by what they knew before. If you cannot work here in your field of choice, consider working virtually, volunteer (there are so many worthy organisations here that need volunteers), study, learn a new area of work, or if your visa permits, start a business here doing something fun. You never know how the pieces of the puzzle will come together later.
Toma Haines of The Antiques Diva™ agrees. Toma is an American who has lived abroad in France, the Netherlands and now resides in Germany. Rather than looking at the loss of her traditional career as a sacrifice to her husband’s career, she looked at her time abroad as the perfect opportunity to pursue her ideas and passions – even if it took her a while to decipher what these really were.
Before starting The Antiques Diva™, Toma thought about teaching gourmet cooking lessons, becoming a certified picture framer and teaching English as a second language. But, when she realised that her cooking efforts never came out the same way more than once, she hated measuring things (a disaster for a professional picture framer) and that she would pick up the grammatical habits of foreigners rather than correct them, Toma created her antique shopping tour business that now runs in four countries.
3. Build your identity
Everybody needs to be ‘somebody’. If your move abroad has stripped you of a lot of the identity that you enjoyed at home (from your workplace, school community, family ties and so on), it is vital that you rebuild your identity abroad as soon as possible so that you again feel like a valued ‘somebody’.
If you do not own business cards, get some made. They can be just for your name and contact details, or they can also include details of your profession or desired profession.
Expats need networks and they need them fast. Expat executives need to network to facilitate business and gain local credibility. Non-working expats, need to network so they know who to call for X, Y or Z – especially if they (or their children) are rushed to the emergency room and need a translator and/or moral support at 2 a.m. Make it a priority to get involved with some of the wonderful social, professional and/or women’s organisations here. Switzerland has a very supportive expatriate community and new expats here will feel very welcomed.
American Women’s Club of Basel, www.awcbasel.org
Professional Women’s Club of Basel, www.pwg-basel.ch
American Women’s Club of Bern, www.awcbern.org
Zug International Women’s Club, www.ziwc.ch
American Women’s Club of Zurich, www.awczurich.org
Professional Women’s Group of Zurich, www.professionalwomensgroup.com
Zurich International Women’s Association, www.ziwa.com
For our full listing of groups and clubs, visit Expatica’s A-Z listings.
5. Find mentors
In addition to friends, seek mentors. These are people that can offer priceless knowledge gained from years of living here in Switzerland. Mentors can be the heads of local business associations, presidents of local expat clubs, Community Liaison Officers in your organisation, independent entrepreneurs who might provide the necessary impetus for you to start a business here and/or expat life coaches, who are typically longer-term, very well-connected expats who know all about the local culture, expectations and challenges.
6. Go forth and enjoy
Whether you came to Switzerland for work, business, love, the adventure or just the chance to start a new life, this dynamic region offers a wealth of opportunities for you to recreate your life and identity here. So make the most of your time here: be open to new ideas; think creatively about what you can do; try new things; believe in your abilities; and above all else, go forth and have the time of your life!