I spent my birthday in Italy with my family, we had some really good food, a lot of good wine and definitely a lot of laughs. The only downfall was on the Sunday, my actual birthday when we all got sick from a virus that I must have caught at work. In between running to the toilet I thought I’d wander outside to catch some Vitamin D and try to feel a little less dead than I already did, in doing that I stood on a bee which went kamikaze into the sole of my foot and made me forget about the ominous gurgling in my stomach.
Switzerland was never a country that I thought about, had a desire to live in or even visit really. It just didn’t tickle my fancy. In 2013 I was nearing the end of my third year working as a Graphic Designer for a footwear company. I loved the job, I had a lot of responsibility and pretty much free run with the projects I was working on. However, the salary was abysmal, my boss was a knob and I worked such long hours that I had stopped seeing people outside of work. I started drinking a lot as a stress relief from my job and perpetual loneliness and decided I would just quit it all and move to France. I realise now that this probably isn’t the motivational story you were looking for to encourage to move somewhere else, and I don’t normally like to talk about negative things on here but I would like to give a realistic account of my expatriate experience, not the idyllic, instagram filtered version that bloggers like to spew out and release ebooks of. I will give you some semi helpful information about living in Switzerland though so don’t trot off just yet!
So anyway.. I handed my notice in, packed up my life and moved in with my Aunt for my last 3 weeks in the UK. During these 3 weeks I stumbled back into contact with a friend from school, we actually had a small romance when we were 15 and I was too scared to pursue the relationship because I’d just moved from an all girls school and didn’t really know what boys were – but thats a story for another time!
So we started seeing each other and Tim had already accepted a job offer in Switzerland and was leaving a week before I was. We long distanced for a bit and after the second weekend I’d driven the 9 hours from L’absie to Wünnewil I decided to pack it all in and move again! The first year we spend in Switzerland we just had fun, we didn’t try to learn any German or French or make a plan for the following year, we just travelled around Europe, worked hard and then booked a massive 3 month trip for the winter. Before we left for Russia we signed a contract on an apartment in the most beautiful (in my humble opinion) place I’ve ever been in Switzerland: Schwarzsee in Canton Fribourg.
When we got back from travelling I had a positive and unrealistic idea of how easy it would be to get a job. Tim had signed a contract for another year at the Golf Course, he’s a qualified Greenkeeper which is a rarity in Switzerland. They didn’t want me back.. it might be because I crashed a lot of the golf buggys.
So began my summer of discontent! I spoke basic French and was living in a town which was one hour away from the nearest big town. Jobs were not abundant and I quickly felt very depressed and useless. I took a French course at the Migros Klubschule and started writing craft and home decor DIYs on my blog to build up my confidence. I sent unsolicited resumes (beautifully designed and presented might I add!) to every single Graphic Design and Advertising Agency in the Cantons of Fribourg and Bern. Out of about 150 resumes I had one reply and we arranged to meet in Fribourg. This man was the most arrogant and rude Swiss-Frenchman I had ever had t the displeasure in meeting. He described himself as the creator of the street art scene in Switzerland and made me feel so small that I lost about 5 litres of water through sweating in our rather short 30 minute meeting. Needless to say, I was not offered a job from the Godfather of Graffiti! Luckily enough I was later offered a ‘one day a week’ (20%) position at the ski shop opposite my house, I was designing their advertising and massive posters which was actually good fun, despite having to work in German, a language which I had never once uttered a word of. Tims job was only seasonal at the time as the golf course was closed during the winter so we started to worry about what we would do, as he had been supporting me, we were pretty broke and sought to look for a winter position. Through sheer luck we were both offered jobs in a ski shop in Gstaad. To those of you who are not familar with the wonder that is Gstaad let me offer you a brief description. It is an incredibly beautiful and incredibly expensive ski resort where, every winter, a flock of rich, reasonably famous, slightly crazy people arrive. I was working in a five star resort in the centre of Gstaad and it was possibly the weirdest 3 months of my life. I was yelled at for no reason, tipped for no reason, I had to pick out ski outfits for a Saudi Prince and I also had a very nice conversation with Mark Ronson. Unfortunately for the shop, but luckily for us that season had absolutely no snow whatsoever, business was slow and we were released from our job early.
Tim accepted a job offer in Bad Ragaz, on the other side of Switzerland, I was pretty excited – new place, new opportunities. It just meant that I would have to learn German instead of continuing with French. No big deal… I thought. Tim started his job in March and my life went back to the way it was in Schwarzsee apart from I was living in an apartment or “granny flat” if you like, which was attached to the house of our landlord. Who was absolutely bat shit crazy. He would play the violin at insane hours of the day, which, despite practicing constantly, really wasn’t good! He would force us into accepting his kind gestures of borrowing a table, using his ‘sitzplatz’, coming around for dinner etc which doesn’t sound so bad but when you’re British and faced with a man that speaks no English is an absolutely toe curling experience.
I got pretty down again, there were no job prospects for me and my German skills were not of a standard where I could work with them. I started looking for an escape and would lose myself in films and books about Paris, I started to think that I had made a massive mistake leaving France after only 3 weeks living there but I couldn’t be without Tim and I really needed to get a job and make this work, not just for me and my own sanity for him and for everything that he’s given me, done for me, tears that he’s dried when I’ve felt completely useless and laughter he’s caused when I really needed it. I cracked on with learning German, I had to be strict with myself and make sure I followed a learning timetable and then actually went out and tried to use what I had taught myself.
For some reason, which I wish had occured to me when we were living in Schwarzsee, I decided to do a TEFL course. Knowing that TEFL isn’t recognised in Switzerland but as my budget couldn’t stretch to CELTA I thought I’d just give it a razz and see what happened. Nothing happened. Until a couple of months later when I spotted a job at a daycare with vague requirements and lo and behold I got the job! I’m still working there now, 9 months later. It is by no means my dream job, it makes me cry on a regular basis but I’m earning money, we no longer have any stress and I even bought myself a new car! Its taken 3 years for me to get to a point that I never in my life ever thought I would be at, I never thought I would work with children and I never thought I’d be speaking German but sometimes you just have to go through the tunnel of shit to come out the other side for something good.
If you learn anything from my cautionary tale, please let it be that never move to a country expecting to get a job in your own native language and not that of your new homes, because that rarely happens. Always research the areas you move to, make sure that there are job prospects in your industry and if not, restudy otherwise you will spend a lot of time unemployed, miserable and addicted to xbox (maybe that last one was just me!)
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