Friday, 23 March 2012

Guest blogger series: Introducing… Rachel Southern

Switzerland, up close and personal with this week’s guest blogger, Rachel Southern @farfromhomemama on life in Zurich.

Organised perfection

Of all the countries that I have passed-through, visited or lived in, Switzerland is the one that is most definitely ready for its close-up, Mr. DeMille-style. So picture-perfect, so clean, so safe, so harmoniously run, it’s the on-earth contender for Avatar’s Pandora

One of the richest countries in the world with its largest city - Zurich, a regular top 10 contender in  Mercer’s Worldwide Quality of Living Survey, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s a place conjured up by the best of Hollywood’s scriptwriters. But it’s not. It’s a place where my husband, son and I live.

On paper, Switzerland and Zurich specifically, have everything a family could want. Parks, museums, amazing healthcare, excellent schools, a safe haven for children to play outdoors and walk to school by themselves (from as young as 5 or 6 would you believe). Mountains on hand for winter sports, a lake so clean you can drink from it, for summer sports. Public transport that runs frequently and on time and a train station that you actually want to spend time in. And if you’re lucky enough to be in the city for the
Züri Fäscht festival (every 3 years with the next one in July 2013), you’ll be amazed at the amount of people who take to the streets to party until the early hours of the morning and then how quickly the city returns to its spotless self. By mid-afternoon the following day, the clean litter-free, bottle-free streets will have you thinking the whole thing was a dream.

Have I convinced you to move out here yet?

We arrived as two, from Wales, with the intention of completing a three-year work assignment (the company I work for has its European headquarters in Zürich) and then returning home. We are now a family of three and have over 5 years under our belt. 

Life wasn’t always easy though. It took my husband a year to find work – limited language skills and experience beyond working in sales proved to be difficult obstacles to overcome. Tenacious searching and applying finally paid off but in the meantime, time well spent in the gym and in the kitchen improved his health and both our diets. 

For all trailing spouses who arrive in the country and want to work, a simple Google search will unearth countless opportunities but it’s a competitive market and language skills are often required. Switzerland has four national languages – German, French, Italian and Rumantsch – and although many Swiss speak English, proficiency in at least one these is often required.
As a young couple without children, we flourished in Switzerland. Dinner, at sunset, overlooking the lake – there’s very few places more perfect. With a newborn in 2010 added to the mix, things have changed. We’ve started to miss home comforts. Okay, I’ll be honest; we’re missing those wonderful beings called grandparents. An expat couple of only a few friends and no family around is a couple that doesn’t get out that much. A couple that doesn’t get to spend that much time together without their cheeky little monkey. We’ve talked about heading back home to Wales and know that it will happen at some point in the future. However, if we have to be somewhere other than home, then Switzerland is the best place to be.

About the author
Rachel is originally from North Wales but is currently trying to eat Switzerland out of chocolate. With her one year old having been born in the seven-day stay luxury of a Zurich hospital/hotel, she regularly blogs about the highs and lows of navigating her way around one of the world’s most expensive cities with somewhat limited language skills, pram in tow. Find out more by subscribing to her blog or by following Rachel on twitter @farfromhomemama

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