The perfect place exists only in the imagination. No matter where you choose to live and how much you like it there, there are going to be the parts that you love and the parts that you don't. When you choose to live in a country (or culture) that's not your own, you also throw in those cultural differences that seem so strange and take some getting used to.
I have been in Switzerland for over 18 months now, and in Luzern for nearly a year. I've learned a lot. I know to expect chaos from the upcoming Fasnacht, how to navigate the trains, and I know where to go for karaoke. I know that I need to weigh my fruit before checkout, that the bakery around the corner is the best place to go for coffee and bread, and that if I run really really fast I can make it from my door to the train in 3 minutes.
So here I sit, 18 months in, 6 months to go, looking back at my Swiss experience thusfar.
And I give you my personal list of the good, the bad, and the just plain weird.
The people you meet can make or break an experience. The people I have the privilege of spending time with here are welcoming, fun, and up for anything.
Want to jump off a mountain? Sure!
Want to go to the wine boats? Why not?
Want to go surfing this weekend? Of course!
Max Chocolatier in Luzern has ruined me for any other chocolate.
It can be difficult to travel to other countries from the US. It's a big place and it's expensive to leave.
Switzerland? Not so.
The Swiss lifestyle
Time in the outdoors is encouraged, and even old men ride their bikes around town. Life is far from sedentary. Cars aren’t a necessity, and you can find some sort of festival pretty much all the time. I like when the wine boats come to Luzern.
The 24 hour kabob shop a block from my house
Midnight craving? No problem.
The 24 hour kabob shop a block from my house
It's a problem.
They are the American specialty I miss the most (well, that and Chipotle). I'm sorry, Switzerland, but you just don't do burgers very well. Even at the places that other expats recommend. Give me Five Guys or Fuddruckers any day, thanks.
Swiss German is not the same
You think you know how to count in German. You studied. You practiced.
And then you speak to a Swiss cashier.
You know nothing.
Rules that you don't know are rules until you've broken them
There are so many little things that you're supposed to do that are far from obvious (if you're not from here). Then you end up with a letter in your mailbox that you have to translate in order to find out why you are being fined a ridiculous amount of money.
This has happened to me more times than I would like to admit (is it just me??).
Switzerland and Virginia are not close
Oh to be one of those people who can fly home for the weekend...
The just plain weird
The anarchic sidewalks
Everything in Switzerland is organized and efficient. Trains are (almost always) on time, and there’s a rule for everything. Even the escalators have little feet decals showing you which side is for walking and which is for standing. Except sidewalks. It seems like common sense that if everyone walks on the right, we can all go about our business with minimal collisions. It works on the roads. But despite the country's intense organization, people here walk wherever they please. Left, right, center, zigzag. More than once I have nearly (or not so nearly) run into someone else because I’m walking on the right and they’re walking toward me on the left and we end up playing chicken because neither one wants to move out of the way.
I just don’t get it.
The bugless environment
It’s like the Swiss all got together in a town meeting and decided to banish all the insects. Sure, you’ll see a few bees every now and then, and the ladybugs all decided to take refuge in my office when it got cold. I’ve seen two small (and I mean so small that I had to look twice just to figure out what it was) spiders in my apartment once, but I just got my kitten and let him go for it. I'm sure there are bugs around somewhere, but you never see them. Coming from an apartment in DC where I was scared out of a few years of my life thanks to a disgusting, monstrous, lightning-fast, centipede-like thing right near my head, the lack of bugs is just fine with me, thanks.
There may not be a lot of bugs around, but there is certainly no shortage of giant, slimy slugs when it rains.
I love it here. But Switzerland can be a strange place to live. It is like living in a bubble.
A beautiful, chocolate-filled, rule-crazy bubble :-D
Kelly is an American teacher living in Switzerland and enjoying everything the country has to offer.