Thursday, 25 May 2006
Moving to Switzerland?
Interesting side note, my friend Alison just got hired as a new reporter here. I’m officially recruiting people for my publication. Go me.
In other interesting news, my family is moving to Switzerland. Strange eh? Not my entire family to be precise. My father and 16-year-old brother are moving there. My parents are divorced and my mom lives in Connecticut with her husband.
The city they're moving to is Zurich, Switzerland's largest city in the Northwest of the country near the border with Germany. I actually just wrote an article last month about how the city was just named the best in the world for quality of life (Geneva was second). My dad was going to have to move to Zurich eventually, he works for a Swiss company in an executive position and has moved up over the years to the point where he should really be operating out of the company’s headquarters in Zurich. But, he had convinced them to allow him to work out of his Connecticut office until my brother, who lives with my dad, graduated high school. About a month ago they changed their mind, and said he had to come to Zurich. So they’re going to do it.
I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. My family is just about the most unlikely group to be moving abroad you could think of. My father started as a night shift security guard with this company, having never gone to college. Over the years he worked his way up.
His rapid promotion as a pioneer of the internal ethics concept was kind of a strange thing. Growing up, my family struggled to make ends meet. Now in the past few years that situation has changed dramatically, and my youngest brother (who is quite separated in years from me and my other brother, who is 23) has had a very different childhood than I did. Not only because his parents have been divorced through most of his life, but also because he’s grown accustomed to comforts I never would have dreamed of as a kid.
Anyway back to Switzerland. The point of all this is just to say I don’t exactly come from a jet-setting, country clubbing family. When my mom came to visit me while I was living in the Czech Republic, it was the first time she had ever left the United States. My dad, who travels internationally frequently for business, has never taken a pleasure trip outside of North America. Last week, when my family went to Zurich to buy a house and look at the school my brother will attend, it was my brother’s first time ever leaving the US. In fact when he moves there in August, he will have only been to two countries in his life. The United States and Switzerland.
Naturally this has me a little concerned. He will probably have an extremely difficult time picking up the language. Complicating matters is the fact that the Swiss speak Swiss German, a different dialect which I’ve heard from my German friends is unintelligible to speakers of High German. My brother has also led a rather sheltered life, and he’s only recently begun to come out of his shell. I think this was difficult for him, and now he’ll have to start all over. He’s said the biggest thing that worries him is not knowing the language, which I know can be very intimidating. I mean, when I was his age I would have jumped at this opportunity, but he and I are very different people. I’m worried he may only last a few months there and then decide to leave and come back to Connecticut to live with my mom, which would make things difficult for my father being there all alone.
On the other hand, this is an amazing, exciting opportunity. Anyone who knows me knows how obsessed I am with Europe, and the fact that I will now have a beautiful lakeside house to visit there seems too good to be true. Here's the living room of the house my dad will live in. It's right on the lake, has its own little beach, and you have a view of the Alps in the background there.
And, I am beginning to explore, as an option, joining them there next year. The plan is I would take German lessons from now until then, trying to get up to the level where I can at least understand and read it. Then, early next year I would move in with my dad and try diligently to get a reporting job for an English-language paper somewhere in Europe, looking in Germany first. Given Switzerland’s central location, I would then be relatively close to my dad and brother wherever I move to. The goal for this would be to settle in Europe permanently, even though this is not my dad’s plan (he plans to go back to the states after two years).
Who knows, maybe I’ll go there and hate it. After all, this would be moving to Europe for real. My experience in Prague was rather sheltered, living in a dorm with all Americans as I did. Still, I felt this excitement and passion for life there that I’ve never felt anywhere else, and since I left I’ve been hungering to go back.
Zurich itself as a final destination isn’t all that appealing to me. I’ve never been there, but from what I’ve heard about the city and the Swiss it sounds a little dull. There's virtually no crime, pollution, or litter, which is nice, but at the same time the night life isn't exactly raucous. Considering I missed the edge of New York in Chicago, I'm not sure how I'd do in Zurich. But I plan to visit in the late summer to see how I like it.
In yet another strange twist, by the way, my other brother, who is in the air force, may be transferring to a base in Germany next year. If you had told me ten years ago my family was going to end up living in Europe I would have laughed. Now it seems to be happening. Ah fate, you are a strange mistress.