The Swiss and their washing machines
As an expat wife, I know only too well how daunting and overwhelming the experience of moving to a new country can be. After packing up my life and moving to Switzerland, I was met with a variety of new challenges. From trying to figure out the language to getting used to the local customs, it was all a bit overwhelming.
We had temporary accommodation for one month and in this month we had to find permanent housing. The short time frame put a lot of pressure on me. And due to this stress, small things had a big impact.
As I was settling in, I was met with grumpy neighbours. During our second day, my kids crossed the grass to go from our house to the nearest playground. A Swiss granny, shouted angrily from her balcony at them. We figured she didn’t like them walking in the grass. It was not the warmest welcome.
The temporary accommodation had two washing machines in the cellar. An older one and a brand new one, both shared with the neighbours of the building. At the time I didn’t know this is quite common for Swiss flats and a big source of disputes and rules and regulations.
Dragging laundry and an overactive one-year-old down the stairs didn't improve my mood. I took care not to use the new washing machine, as when we got the keys of the flat I understood this was a precious item I'd better stay away from.
After my first wash, I got a short e-mail from the real estate agent saying that a neighbour had heard noises in the new precious washing machine. Did I keep stones in the pockets of my laundry? The tone was threatening. I was to pay for any repairs.
These examples might seem just small bumps, about which you can shrug your shoulders. But new into the country, having the housing stress, knowing no one, the grumpy granny and now this in my first week was just too much. And made me burst into tears.
In hindsight, the experience taught me two important lessons. First, all international moves are bound to have their hiccups. And it's ok to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and even desperate at times. But it's important to remember that these feelings will pass. Don’t let the hiccups get you down. Cry about them if you need to, but eventually accept them and move on.
Second, be patient and understanding of the people and customs around you. They might just be wary of this new intruder in their neighbourhood who might not do things ‘their’ way.
Months later, I finally found the time to read the book "Swiss Watching" by Diccon Bewes. A book which you should definitely read before moving to Switzerland. Bewes describes Switzerland, the Swiss and the funny, weird and frustrating things a foreigner encounters when living there. And yes, grumpy grannies and shared laundry machines are things he does warn about! Oh, how I could relate with that and laugh about it now.
What happened next? Well, we did find a house and enjoyed the place for several years. And guess what, we had lovely neighbours there!
For more stories about the rollercoaster of expat life, click here.