I’m an American writer and copywriter living in a small town near Zurich, Switzerland. I write about life in Switzerland on my blog, www.onebigyodel.com. I also write about how to survive (and thrive) as an international creative person at Writer Abroad www.writerabroad.com. In addition, I’m the co-founder of the Zurich Writers Workshop www.zurichwritersworkshop.com.
I moved from the USA to Switzerland in 2006. Why? Curiosity more than anything else. My husband had a chance to take a job there and while I was worried about giving up my job as a copywriter, and therefore what seemed like my entire identity, I knew that if I didn’t go, I’d always be haunted by the “what if?”What challenges did you face during the move?
Well, for one, our shipping container had “China Shipping” written across it in big, block letters, which seemed awfully suspicious at the time. I had nightmares that involved all my stuff being sent to China while I sat in an empty Swiss apartment with nothing to show for my life but a fondue pot. Luckily, this didn’t happen and our stuff arrived seven weeks after we did. But sadly, not before our inflatable air mattress broke.
How did you find somewhere to live?
We had a relocation agent. We thought we wanted to live in a house (we were Americans, after all), but then we realized most of the houses in Switzerland were in the middle of nowhere and that sheep cut the grass instead of lawn mowers. So our agent found us an apartment in the center of town. We had to complete several forms stating salary, nationality, how long our fingernails were, well, ok, maybe not the latter, but boy are you scrutinized before you’re allowed to live anywhere in Switzerland. It took so long for the powers at be to approve us, I thought we’d become the first homeless problem in Switzerland in the process. Anyhow, we didn’t, and we got our chosen apartment, which was near a clock tower that dinged every 15 minutes. I assumed they would turn it off at night. Silly me. I had a lot to learn about living in Switzerland.
Are there many other expats in your area?
Yes, in Zurich there are a lot of expats. However, in our small village just outside of Zurich, there are fewer. This makes living in Switzerland more challenging, but it also gives you a more authentic experience.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
It took a year (and a few laundry and gardening lessons) before we learned our neighbor’s first name, but now we’re good friends and eat a lot of melted cheese together. But other locals are hard to get to know. Most Swiss people are very private. The few Swiss friends I have, I met at the office (I worked at an ad agency in Zurich). Although once my husband started learning the alphorn, making Swiss friends got easier.
What do you like about life where you are?
I have found a niche for myself as a writer and copywriter in Zurich www.chantalpanozzo.com I also find Switzerland beautiful (when it’s not foggy) and I love the way that nature is integrated into city life and that the transportation system is so punctual that I often regret my tardiness.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
I miss the ease of doing simple things, easy-to-find English books, and cheap ethnic food. But mostly, I miss family. While I probably see them more than I did when I lived in the U.S., the times I do see them (usually twice a year) are very intense and packed with activity. That can be tough. But we’ve also been able to travel abroad together and that has made for some wonderful memories.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Don’t be so worried about giving up your career so your spouse can advance his. If you want to continue yours, you will find a way to do this or discover a way to reinvent yourself.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m finishing a memoir and starting a novel. I’m also busy planning the next event for the Zurich Writers Workshop.
To learn more about Chantal, visit these sites:
One Big Yodel: a blog about life in Switzerland www.onebigyodel.com
Writer Abroad: surviving (and thriving) as an international creative person www.writerabroad.com
Chantal Panozzo: Writer and Copywriter in Zurich, Switzerland www.chantalpanozzo.com