Living In Switzerland: Just Arrived

Living In Switzerland

Living in Switzerland is not something I had ever thought I would be doing with my life. I’m the daughter of a mixed Eastern European family; born in one country, raised in another, schooled in a third. Despite all of my family’s jumping around, I had my life trajectory set. I had co-founded a successful startup, was doing my M.B.A., and had a circle of friends as close-knit as a silk scarf in my (third) hometown. There’s a Russian proverb: от хорошего не уходят, which roughly means “you don’t leave what’s good.” That’s true; you don’t leave what’s good, but if it’s Switzerland you’re leaving to, I say, jump right in with eyes wide open!

An opportunity came knocking less than a month before graduation. It took me literally a day to make up my mind – I was going. I graduated last month, and 4 days later, I was halfway across the world, in a country that I had never been, trying to understand a language I had never even thought about speaking (I studied French in high school and Spanish in college).

Learning German in Switzerland

On my second day here, I stopped by a cafe at the Winterthur train station before a meeting, scrubbing my brain for the basic German I had practiced the night before on Duolingo. You can imagine the results. “Deux cafe, bitte” came out of my mouth in a half-whisper, to which the waitress very kindly said, “zwei Kaffees,” as my head sank down through my neck and into the depths of my empty stomach, not unlike Rasputin’s in the 1997 Fox animated rendition of Anastasia.

Language Apps and Language Schools

If living in Switzerland, one should try to master German. English is most definitely used in business here, but everyday life goes on in Swiss German. I’m really liking Duolingo so far and highly recommend it. I practice for about an hour a day, and what I’ve noticed from the app is that it seems to give a very baby-like approach to language learning in terms of its emphasis on repetition. You can go through several levels with the same word bank, repeating writing, speaking, and sometimes translating. Once I master the A1 level, I’ll enroll in a language school. A friend recommended Alpha Sprachwelt – they have classes starting from the very beginner level every month. ZHAW was also recommended, but  their classes only start at the A2 level. I’ll have to master A1 before going there.

Find Online Resources To Help With The Move

Before coming, I tried to learn as much as I could about my new home. The website Hello Switzerland has really great posts about moving to and living in Switzerland, targeted mostly at American audiences. You can find all kinds of information about cultural differences, as well as very thorough guides on how to use the trains, register for bank accounts and mobile numbers, etc. Another useful resource was the YouTube channel of an American blogger called Sarah Nourse – she lived here for 5 years and is wonderful at showing snippets of what living in Switzerland looks like day-to-day. I did also hire an attorney to help me with the move, as I wanted to do everything the right way without missing any necessary steps. I highly recommend that route for those who want to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s.


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