I will have been in Switzerland for six months tomorrow. This time last year I had no idea that this is where I would end up. It is an adventure. And like most adventures, it has its up and downs. Most days I love it, but there are times when I also hate it (sometimes simultaneously). I’m lonely, I’m bored, I miss MY life and the things I did that made me ME. Because whatever those seemingly seamless expats tell you, at first, it’s HARD. But, you know what? I think that’s ok.
There are things you can’t beat about Switzerland; the people I know, the weekends in the mountains, the cheese (oh, the cheese), new scenery and a new language. And I’m lucky to have moved into a life that embraced me – a ready-made set of friends and family, a beautiful apartment, all the excitement of a new life just about to begin.
But at the same time it’s tough. It’s so similar, but so different. The little routines and familiarities that I had in place in London have all disappeared over night. The shopkeepers or waiters who were my everyday interactions, the after-work drinks, the weekends with friends and picnics and cocktails, the family get-togethers just because… Of course it will get, and already has gotten, easier. But if there is anyone else finding their feet in a strange land – you’re not alone.
This list isn’t expert or exhaustive, but it is what I have found made my transition a little bit smoother.
1. Ask around – chances are someone you know knows someone. Force them to meet up with you. Put yourself out there. It’s hard for me to make a move, but it has to be done. Find cool stuff to do and invite people to it. It’s kind of like asking someone on a date, but with less weird games and rules.
2. Take a language class. Already I can understand more of what is going on around me. I used to just smile and nod and pretend to understand, until the inevitable awkward moment when someone asked me directly. But now I can get the gist of some conversations. I can order in a restaurant, I can communicate in the supermarket. Baby steps, but steps nonetheless.
3. Find an activity you did at home. When everything is strange and new, this is your anchor. It’s hard to be cast adrift from everything that is familiar. New apartment, new friends, new language, new customs, new activities – but find one thing that has a familiar routine.
4. Discover what you love about your new home and do it. It’s amazing to have the opportunity to live abroad. And everywhere has something special about it – new experiences,new activities – find one you love and do it.
5. Be a tourist. Traveling is fun. Travel your new country. Instead of being an expat resident, be a tourist for a day. Grab a map, see the sights, take pictures, eat ice cream, relax. Don’t bother trying to fit in, just enjoy exploring.