I’ve been living in Switzerland for three months now and I’ve realised there’s a lot of things I miss about living in the UK. Some of them are to be expected, but others took me rather by surprise:
1. The people I know and care about
This encompasses so many people – my family, my friends, the people I used to work with – everybody that was in my life and was familiar to me – I miss a lot. Skype helps, but there’s nothing like being face to face.
2. Being able to speak the language
I consider myself to be someone who is good at communicating. When I speak English, I feel fairly confident that I will be able to get my point across without causing too much confusion, and that I will be able to express myself well, but when I speak even the most basic German [I’m referring to High German, Swiss German is another kettle of fish altogether] I sometimes feel like I’m coming across as a moron.
I realise that no one can be fluent within such a short amount of time [especially when both my jobs require English, not German] but I hate that it seems so difficult for me to make progress – I’m stuck at the same basic “shop level” German and I don’t have any way of communicating with subtleties and nuances – I can ask for bread, but I can’t tell someone that the tumbler drier isn’t working without resorting to my Mother tongue, and this bothers me. I want to integrate properly and not feel like a foreigner all the time, or feel like I’m speaking like a 3 year old, when I’m 28. If I could have any super power, it would be to be able to speak the local dialect instantly without any difficulties.
3. The sense of belonging
Almost every Swiss person I’ve met has been very welcoming, polite and friendly, but I still feel like I’m lacking some of the confidence I had before. In London, I felt like I knew where I belonged, knew how I fit in. Whilst I’m growing in confidence the longer I live here, I still don’t feel as at home as I did in the UK, which I guess is only natural.
4. Wensleydale Cheese
Switzerland is famous for its cheeses, and there are some I really enjoy – Tête de Moine [which translates as Monk’s Head] being my favourite…and yet none of them compare to the crumbly, tangy texture and taste of Wensleydale, a cheese I grew up with. I might have to seek some out on my next visit home – I’ve been thinking about this cheese for over a month now, which is far longer than I’ve ever thought about a cheese…
5. The British sense of Humour
Now, I actually experience the British sense of humour almost every day, because I’m constantly watching British comedy [I’m not very good at watching German TV, though I do try, as apart from doing a language course, I’ve found it’s the fastest way to learn basic German] but there’s nothing like hearing it in person from friends and family!
London has the best pubs in the world. That is my opinion, and I’m sticking to it. Zurich has by all accounts a great nightlife [which I haven’t properly experienced yet, apart from the odd visit to Kennedys , somewhat of an institution here] but there is nowhere as cosy as a good old-fashioned London pub with great food, beer and in my ultimate pub fantasy, a roaring fire place.
7. The Diversity
London has so much variety – it’s a mesh of architecture, different cuisines, different backgrounds, different cultures. This diversity is what makes it feel so alive and electric. Of course, Zurich is diverse too, to a certain extent – most big cities are, but there’s no where on Earth like London. To me, London is a unique experience – it’s a solo child grown up to be a non-conformist.
8. The free libraries
You have to pay at least 50 CHF to join a library here, and you have to renew this every year! Ok, so 50 CHF is not that much in the scheme of things, but to me the whole point of libraries should be that they are free for everyone [unless they are highly specialist]. It’s actually put me off my joining my local library a bit, because it’s hard to pay for something that used to be free for me, unless I have to – like for health insurance [grrr – although I must add that health care is excellent here from what I’ve seen]. Also my local library is open at really awkward times, but closed when it would be most useful to people, so I probably wouldn’t be able to get my money’s worth if I did join anyway…
9. How much cheaper going out for a meal is in London
Switzerland is a very expensive country [see above] to live in, and I’ve noticed this is particularly true when it comes to eating out. In London, you can genuinely get an enjoyable meal for around a tenner if you look hard enough [and are a fan of places like Nandos] but in Switzerland, a normal meal at a low to mid priced restaurant costs about £30 [40 CHF] minimum. I used to eat out often, but now I do it rarely, which I suppose is at least good for my wallet and presumably my health too. Still miss it though.
10. Having a regular social life
In London, if I wanted to go out or plan something, all I would have to do is make contact with one of my friends, and usually I could have something sorted out pretty quickly. Here, I hardly know anyone outside of work apart from my boyfriend, and it can be frustrating, having that feeling of wanting to socialise and not really being able to [at least spontaneously]. I’ve tried to counter this by joining an International Group, but I’ve only been twice due to lacking energy on my part and the fact that the meetups often take place after work, and old lady that I am, I actually don’t enjoy going out when I’ve got to get up for work at 5am the next day. I know that making friends takes time [it took time at first in London too] but it’s a bit lonely in the meantime.