An expat bids a heartfelt farewell to Switzerland as she prepares her next move abroad, and reminisces on how the Swiss lifestyle has changed her – for better or worse.
I am writing this on my last day with you, my old home, before I fly off to the UK, my new home. I will definitely miss you and would like to thank you for all that I have experienced and learned from you. There have been quite a few ups and downs, but I believe you have made me a better person.
I first met you when I was 13. Zurich was the first international city I stepped foot in. Yes, it was only the airport, but I got enough of a glimpse of you to see how beautiful you are. I had no idea at that time that in another 13 years, I would be living only a mere 30 minute train ride from that spot.
Living in a foreign country, especially one that speaks another language, really stretches a person. I had never lived more than 20 miles away from the place I was born. I didn’t realise that the culture is so different. I thought, “It isn’t like I am moving to Asia or anything. It’s only Europe. How different can it be?” There are some similarities, but there was still a culture shock when I arrived. It was quite stressful at first, and there were a few tears. Once I settled in though, I had some wonderful experiences. I have learned a lot about myself and believe I have grown as a person.
Becoming multilingual in Switzerland
You have taught me another language. I now believe that the only way to truly learn a language is through immersion. I studied six years of French in school, but am limited to asking for directions and ordering food. I only took a few months of German lessons, but can get by in most situations since I have been forced to do so. A lot of people here can speak English, but not everyone. Even the ones that do speak English, are sometimes also limited to certain situations, so speaking the local language has been important.
Getting fit and appreciating the great Swiss outdoors
You have instilled in me a love of hiking. I have always liked the mountains, but never really had much of a desire to explore them. Coming from a place and culture that isn’t necessarily pedestrian friendly, walking and hiking was never something that I really enjoyed or thought about much. The American culture is all about convenience and speed, which is why we drive everywhere even if it is just down the street. I have learned to be a lot more patient and enjoy things around me more.
Enjoying Swiss cuisine
You have made me a cheese and chocolate snob. This is the reason that even though I exercise a lot more than I did in the states, I have still put on a few pounds. For that, I am not thankful even though I know it is not your fault. Thankfully, I am moving to a place that also has good cheese. Don’t get angry with me when I say that. I know you will refuse to believe that anywhere else can have cheese as good as yours, but I have had some very tasty British cheeses. Their chocolate though is no comparison. I don’t think I will ever be able to eat chocolate from anywhere else. Except maybe Belgium.
Making friends in Switzerland
You have introduced me to some very interesting people. Some I have not liked so much, but some have become life-long friends. The expatriate community is a mixture of all sorts of people. There are really cool globe trotters who enjoy travelling, some pretentious and arrogant folks who believe that since they have lived abroad they are better than everyone else, and also a lot of really chilled down-to-Earth people who just enjoy living life and go with the flow.
I have loved travelling all around and learning a lot about you. It has been interesting, but it is time to move on.