Although we have been living in Switzerland for more than 4 years now, I still get moments where I mentally stop and realize: ‘wow, I’m living in another country’. It’s such a strange, hard-to-describe feeling. I am sure that a lot of expats do share similar feelings about life abroad. Like Rebekah from her blog Afternoon Tea in Switzerland. As if somebody lifted you and transplanted to a completely different life. To the life I never planned. And now I – who wanted to go abroad only for a vacation, or at most for a summer student temporary job – live it.
And even though I think I’ve got used to a lot of things in Switzerland, I sometimes like to go back to things that surprised me in the beginning. And thanks to various discussions on Facebook I know, that the same things are still surprising for other newcomers to Switzerland. And what are they?
1. How different High German and Swiss German are
At school, we were taught that Switzerland has 4 official languages. They have never mentioned the fact that there is another language spoken. And that this language has a lot of dialects, and it differs a lot from High German. And if you want to integrate well and understand your colleagues at work, you have nothing else to do than try to learn the dialect.
2. Drinking water is everywhere
Even where you would not expect it. Or would you anywhere in the world drink water from a fountain in the town?
3. How uncrowded it is
Although Zurich and Geneva are the busiest cities in Switzerland, they are far from achieving the “qualities” of Prague, London and other large cities in Europe in this aspect.
Well, I admit, it can be slightly overcrowded during local festivals (such as Fasnacht, etc.) but it´s really nothing to worry about.
4. The size of the refrigerator/freezer
The size of the refrigerator/freezer and the fact that they’re not magnetic. Because the built-in fridges are more than common here. Sorry, if you were used to leaving messages for your better half on the fridge. And the size or more precisely the “lack of size” of freezers in these built-in refrigerators will bring you to tears because it is insufficient for the needs of a family of five.
5. The efficiency of public transport
Again, we were taught at school that Switzerland, together with Japan, is at the top of public transport efficiency. That the trains are running literally like a Swiss watch. Even though it often means that the connection train simply does not wait to the (exceptionally few minutes) delayed train. Because otherwise, it would mean that the connection train would be also delayed and THAT IS OUT OF THE QUESTION!
6. You find yourself shaking hands with two-year-olds
It is a part of Swiss culture that young children (entering either KITA, Spielgruppe or Kindergarten) are encouraged to greet properly. Because handshaking (including the eye contact) between (pre)schoolchildren and their teachers is customary in Switzerland.
I must say I really like that because it is a basic of the etiquette that
7. How safe it is
You can take as an example that children walk alone to the kindergarten and in Switzerland, things aren´t stolen, only moved. There is no exception that, when the shop closes during the lunch break, the owners leave the goods displayed in front of the shop unattended.
8. Switzerland is a country of clubs
And by clubs, I mean traditional clubs. Despite the fact that the current members are unfortunately aging and there are few young people who would like to join in the clubs. But almost every village has its Trachtegruppe, Jodlergruppe, Männerchor, Turnverein, Landfrauenverein … It is simply something that belongs inherently to Switzerland.
9. Women in professions that are the domain of men
When I first saw the woman driving the truck, I was really surprised. It´s really not common where I come from. When I saw other ones in a few days time, I didn’t even raise an eyebrow. As well as the fact that women are laying floors or painting rooms.
From the tourist booklets depicting Switzerland, you mostly know the views of snowy alpine peaks, or picturesque houses with their typical sloping roofs, windows with wooden shutters and boxes with geraniums in each of them. But rarely you will see the palm trees and the relaxed atmosphere that resembles the page out of the catalog for a summer holiday by the sea. It is Ticino, an Italian speaking canton of Switzerland. I’m looking forward to coming back soon again!
Finally, with a bit of exaggeration, I am always surprised that, despite how expensive everything is, that there’s always spare money in the bank at the end of the month 😀 What about you? What