Our life in Switzerland- My interview with Expat.com
In this fast paced life of always looking forward to the next big thing, it was so wonderful to take a look back at our journey for my Expat.com interview. Here is the interview of our adventure and what our daily life looks like.Kate comes from Washington State in the USA. She fell in love with Switzerland 10 years ago during a train ride. Following a two years stay in London, she finally moved to Zürich in 2014 with her husband and two daughters. In this interview, she shares her views about life in Switzerland.
Where are you from, Kate, and what are you doing nowadays?
I am originally from Mount Vernon, Washington in the USA. Our two daughters, aged 7 and 5, were born in Bellevue, Washington. While in the Seattle area, I worked at Amazon, Zulily, and Nordstrom in the Vendor Manager and Buyer area of Retail and Merchandising. When the girls were 3 and 1-year-old, we moved to London for two years and now we have lived in Zürich for more than two years.
Currently, I am a social media contributor for Mothering Matters, as well as features contributor. I started my blog, Mom In Zürich, almost two years ago as a place for families living or visiting Zürich to find fun places to eat and travel with their kids. Our family loves to travel and we love to eat. So most things on my blog are related to those things we love.Why did you choose to expatriate to Switzerland?
My husband and I took a train ride around Switzerland almost 10 years ago, before kids. We fell in love with this beautiful country and said to each other if we ever got the chance to live in Switzerland, we would. The decision was difficult as we had just moved to London and were loving living in such an exciting city. But we made a promise a decade earlier that we would move if given the opportunity.
We also thought we couldn’t say no to living in another new city. We have always dreamed about living in Europe, so we had to accept this opportunity. My husband’s job has moved from Seattle to London to Zürich, so we have followed his job each time.
As a US citizen, what were the procedures you had to follow to move there?
Oh goodness, I don’t even know. My husband and the company he works for did all the paperwork, thankfully. I know it was a lot of work for him, but I don’t know all the ins and outs. I had to go to the Seattle Police Station for fingerprinting for the FBI I believe and we had to get visas to live abroad. Our dog also had to go through a lot to get to London and then to Zürich.What has attracted you to Zürich?
The natural beauty of Switzerland attracted us when we visited 10 years ago. Taking the train through this country is an absolutely extraordinary adventure. All the tiny towns in the middle of gorgeous grassy hills and valleys. The snow in the mountains in the winter and the abundance of festivals. Swimming in the beautiful lakes in the summer is absolutely incredible. There is a freedom the children growing up here experience. It’s a truly wonderful place to live. Also, the cheese and chocolate are a great attraction as well!What has surprised you the most at your arrival?
There are no refills, no drive through’s (that I’ve seen anyway), there is a lot of smoking, things are expensive, and it is very quiet. It was quite a shock coming from London where the high streets had so many food choices and everything was open on Sundays.
Was it difficult to find accommodation there? What are the types of accommodation which are available there?
I think most people live in flats here. We live in a flat. We love the community feel that we have on our street. There are so many families. Our children all walk to school together. I almost can’t imagine living in a house as I would miss all the wonderful children and automatic playdates we have without scheduling anything. It’s a wonderland. Finding housing was pretty easy. I looked on homegate.ch and filtered on our needs and found the place almost immediately!What are the local labor market’s features? Is it easy for an expat to find a job there?
I am not sure about this. Although since unemployment is almost unheard of, I think the job market is quite good.
How do you find the Swiss lifestyle?
I love the Swiss lifestyle. One thing you will notice is no one is every running to get somewhere. There is a slower pace to it all. We sit down for our coffee in a café. We do not see people walking around carrying a disposable paper coffee cup. I like seeing people on their lunch break swimming in the lake, taking a long lunch, and enjoying their long amount of vacation each year. In the winter, Zürich is a quiet town with everyone heading to the mountains on the weekends to ski.
Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?
I am learning German and joining clubs in my town to feel more integrated. It will take a long time before I’m at a fluent level of German, but the rest of my family is fluent, so I have some catching up to do.Was it difficult for your daughters to adapt to their new environment (language, socialization, making friends, etc.)?
My oldest daughter was 5 years old when we moved to Zürich. It took her about 6 months to become friends with all the children on our street and become fluent in German. It’s absolutely amazing how quickly children pick up a new language.
My youngest was only 3 years old when we moved. She only started kindergarten at 5 years old, so she is only becoming fluent in German now.
The most helpful integration for our children is playing with the children on our street after school each day. This really helped them pick up the local language quickly. The girls took to the Swiss sports straight away, ice skating and skiing in the winter as well as swimming in the summer.
For two years in kindergarten, the girls go to a forest day (or “wald”) with all the neighborhood schools. This is an amazing sight coming from London. The kids bring a backpack full of food, make a campfire, and grill sausages and bread all morning. Switzerland is a wonderful place for kids to be kids.As an expat mom, what are your views about the Swiss education system?
I love the Swiss education system. My children are still in the early stages, one in kindergarten and one in primary school. I love that school starts at 5 years old and that they have two years of kindergarten. They do not learn to read or write until year 1, the year they turn 7. This gives them a chance to learn socialization and how to play well together and how to be creative on their own. There is a lot of free play and outdoor play in kindergarten.
Only now is my 7-year-old learning the alphabet sounds, whereas in London at age 4 she was behind in reading and writing! I’m not sure when they start teaching writing in Zürich, but it hasn’t started yet. So far my oldest is writing only numbers and her name at school.
I also love the amount of singing and music in the schools. They ease them in to school in Switzerland, keeping the pressure and stress for later when they are better able to cope. For now, it’s all about being a kid, having short days at school, and playing with friends. Get back to me in a few years and we can see how this expat project is going.What does your every day life in Zürich look like?
My day revolves around my girl’s school schedules. In Switzerland, the kids come home for lunch and the school days are quite short, especially coming from the London public schools. We make lunch together, usually play some piano, then we find a fun afternoon adventure. I love meeting friends in the mornings in town for a coffee catch up and a walk through the beautiful Old Town or Burkliplatz farmer’s markets. In the evenings, we all have dinner together and my husband reads them a bedtime story. On the weekends, we usually set off on an adventure all together.
What is your opinion on the cost of living in Zürich?
The cost of living is very high in Zürich, but I think it was also fairly high in London, Seattle, and San Fransisco, where we lived before. Although going back to London now, things do seem much more reasonably priced now that we are living in Zürich.
The quality of life here is so wonderful and the pace of life is quiet and slow. There are not conveniences like Amazon same day shipping and all those USA and UK things I got used to. I like that when I want something now, I have to think about it and access if I really need it or not. It helps with my decluttering mentality. And most shops are closed on Sundays.Is it easy for an expat to live there?
Yes, it is easy for an expat to live in Zürich. I can get through an entire day with my English. I remember on our visit 10 years ago saying to my husband that the people working in the chocolate shops were absolutely amazing as they easily spoke whichever language the customer spoke. It is normal here for people to speak at least 4 languages. It’s absolutely incredible. There is a strong expat community and I think it’s easy to live here.
How do you spend your leisure time?
I spend my leisure time walking or exploring Switzerland. I love taking the girls to new places. Coffee shops or walking near the lake are my favorite ways to spend my down time. And I’m always planning our next adventure and writing about it on my blog.Your favorite local dishes?
We just went to the cow parade Alpabzug in Appenzell and I fell in love with their cheese spatzli. It was absolutely divine. I ate it for every meal. It’s fun to eat fondue or raclette in the winter up on a mountain or on a hike.
What do you miss the most about your home country?
Mexican food, Target, the chattiness of shopkeepers, having conversations with strangers, the helpfulness of waitresses and their sense of urgency. I also miss the convenience of speaking English everywhere I go. I also miss my family and friends.What has motivated you to write your blog Mom in Zürich? How does it help?
Mom in Zürich came as a way for me to share my travel and food experiences with other people. As an English-speaking person, I feel like it is hard to figure everything out in a new foreign German-speaking country. As a travel and carb hungry family, we love to travel anytime we can, and I wanted a way to share our experiences.
People ask me how I fly with my girls alone or how I fly with them for 10+ hours a few times a year, or how I pack for these trips, or where to eat in Zürich, or where to take their kids in Zürich. I would love to help people bring their kids on holiday or to brunch and feel fantastic doing it. I want people to know the fun activities going on in and around Zürich, as well as fun travel adventures to go on.Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates in Switzerland?
Soak it up. Bring everything. Bring your entire kitchen, don’t leave the cupcake holder at home. Live in the moment. Don’t think about what you may be missing. Come with your whole heart in it and become a local. If you live in a bubble, you will miss it all. Come with your head and heart open. Experience this life in the now.
What are your plans for the future?
Traveling is our only future plan. I have never been one of those 5 year plan and 10 year plan people. Living in Switzerland continues to makes us all very happy. We are constantly learning and growing as a family. And living in the center of Europe with the ease of travel to all these amazing countries so quickly is an absolute dream come true.
Thanks again to expat.com for asking me to contribute to the wealth of interviews from people all around the world, exploring and living abroad. It was fun to reflect on our journey so far, why we are living here, and what our future holds.