As a family of two parents and three children who emigrated from Australia to Switzerland ten years ago, we are often asked about the ins and outs of our big move. Here are some of the FAQ’s and our answers to them in case you ever find yourself wondering if you could do the same thing. (You totally could!)
The most frequently asked question we get asked, usually by Swiss people, is, “Why did you want to move here when so many Swiss want to go to Australia?” There isn’t really a short answer so here’s the long answer:
Well, the first factor was that the time was right career-wise for my Naval (as in the Navy, not as in your belly button 😉 ) husband who felt he was stagnating in a cushy shore position which didn’t offer enough stimulation for his capabilities along with an unpleasant encounter with a medical professional, a compulsory check-up, which made him feel almost worthless and under-appreciated. The new job in Switzerland came with promises of travel (which my husband loves and which I don’t mind him doing), good money and learning a foreign language. These prospects were very attractive to my husband who enjoys a challenge but what did I think?
As a Scot who had emigrated to Australia at the tender age of 20 (for the love of a good man), I was excited by the opportunity to be closer to my family in Scotland. Australia is a long, long way from anywhere and travelling internationally as a family of five was prohibitively expensive. Of course, I was tempted too by the promise of a good career move for my husband, which could only be a good thing, financially, for our family. But, I must admit, the biggest factor in my decision to say, “Ja!” was being able to bring up our children bilingually. My move to Australia had brought me into contact with people from all corners of the world. Having them become my friends and learning about them and their families was so educational, eye-opening and mind-broadening for me, it was a wonderful experience. But I was most intrigued and incredibly envious of my friends who could switch from speaking English with me to Spanish/Italian/Greek etc with their families within a turn of their head. The gift of a second language, and the opportunity to learn even more languages, was something that we could give our sons overseas that we couldn’t really have done had we stayed in Australia.
For the boys, who had just started to play soccer/football, it was the promise that we’d be able to take them to see David Beckham play somewhere in Europe one day. We’ve never been able to come good on that promise but they don’t even like football now anyway so, phew!
I have to admit, it didn’t really take long for us to decide to make the move. The opportunity obviously came at exactly the right time for us.
“How difficult was the move?“
Really, the logistics of the move wasn’t too difficult at all. The company my husband was going to work for paid for everything, which as far as I am aware, is the norm. They paid for an international removals company to come and pack and organise the whole lot. We basically just cleaned a house, wrapped up our affairs (not that we really had much) and got on a plane.
“But your family and friends, surely you didn’t want to leave them?”
Leaving family and friends behind is the hardest part of moving anywhere. If you have good neighbours, moving from one part of town to another is even difficult. We had a great life in Melbourne with loads of friends, all five of us. Our family didn’t live close, in fact they lived about 1200km away but of course it was a wrench to leave them too. However, we were very lucky to have some of the most supportive, wonderful friends and family who wished us nothing but the best and who promised to visit as soon as they could. Some of them already have; we’ve been incredibly fortunate.
As we know, with the internet and Facebook, Email, Twitter, Skype, FaceTime etc, communications-wise the world is getting smaller and smaller. It’s becoming easier and more convenient to keep in touch with the people we love the most who live far away. It’s never going to be quite the same as being able to drop round to a pal for a quick cuppa and some gossip but it’s better than it ever has been for long-distance relationships.
“How did you all cope with the language?”
Well, I had studied German to Higher level in high school. I’d forgotten most of it but was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the basics came back to me. My husband didn’t speak a word of German before we came so his company sent him to intensive German classes which, along with the fact that I’ve remained a stay-at-home mother, means that he is now far more advanced in German than I ever see myself being. The boys got plonked into the local state school (private, international school was never an option for us) and were practically fluent in High German and Swiss German within a year, with a good working knowledge of German within six months. They put us to shame, really. I am so incredibly proud of them that they’ve embraced their new life to such an extent that you’d never know they were Australian until you asked them their names and they answer with their Australian accents.
“Gefällt’s dir?“/”Do you like it?”
Truthfully, it was a tough start. The first week/month/year was disastrous, mainly through no fault of ours. The following years were also tough, with a particular low at about the three year mark when I asked my husband if we could just give up. And then, it miraculously started getting better. The culture shock of moving from Australia to Switzerland should never be underestimated but I guess that about the three year mark is when I started changing and adapting to my new environment more and I started to see Switzerland change around me. Now, ten years later, I can never imagine living anywhere else. We have some amazing friends here in Switzerland. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of being able to go to lunch in another country, if I take the notion to one day and I love being close to my family in Scotland which has been expanded with the arrival of a niece and nephew for me in the past five years. For us, the big move was the best thing we ever did for our family. Yes, we miss Australia and our loved ones over there and yes, we have our ups and downs as foreigners in a foreign land but we wouldn’t have it any other way now. We’re strengthened as a family and our children have hopefully learned that there’s a big, wide world out there to discover for their futures. A huge, wide world, full of adventure for anyone who wants to get out there and grab it.