Who are you?
Sarah Ryrie, mum of two and wife to one(!). I am a full time mum and home-maker, though I do some freelance writing and blogging to keep me sane.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
We moved to Steinhausen, Switzerland last summer as a consequence of a new role for my husband. The position came as a bit of a curve ball as my husband has worked for the same company for 15 years and this is the first time he has been offered an overseas position.
What challenges did you face during the move?Who are you?
The actual moving went fine, but we arrived in the middle of July, after the children had finished their school year in the UK and there was no one around in the local area! It seemed as though everyone had left town so we spent a lot of time together. The children loved all the boxes but after four weeks of spending all day everyday together making forts, trains and anything else you can think of out of cardboard boxes, were definitely ready to start school and start making friends.
How did you find somewhere to live? (e.g. how did you locate a suitable property?
Steve and I came to Switzerland and spent 3 days fitting in house viewings and school visits to try and tie everything up. We managed to select the school but we didn’t manage to secure a home. After this a lady working for Steve did the house viewing for us and sent through lots of photos which we made our decision on. It was a bit of a nightmare and a huge leap of faith! On the whole it has worked out very well, our apartment is light, airy and spacious and we get a view of Rigi and Mount Pilatus!
Are there many other expats in your area?
A few, but we don’t really know that many people in Steinhausen.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
Everyone is polite (you will always be greeted) but generally it is hard to make local friends as they keep to themselves and we don’t speak German.
What do you like about life where you are?
I love that the shops are closed on a Sunday which has made us venture out into the beautiful countryside as a family together. I love being able to walk out onto the balcony and see the amazing view of the local mountains and the Alps in the distance. I love that you can get in the car and travel three hours and be in Italy, or Austria, or Germany, 4 hours and you’ve hit France.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
I miss my family, but I think we have become closer since we have moved to another country! I also hate that I can’t just shoot the breeze with the cashier at the supermarket or the waitress at a coffee shop because of the language barrier. The children are at an International School and it is totally different to school in the UK, they have pretty much repeated everything they did the year previously.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
The Swiss are intensely private and are very quick to tell you when you have done something wrong. There is very little grey area, if a shop closes at noon for lunch, it will close bang on noon.
What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
Apparently there are over 400 varieties of cheese in Switzerland, raclette and fondue being the main dishes and both are as delicious as Sunday teatime’s cheddar cheese on toast that we used to have in the UK. The Swiss diet seems to be cheese, bread and pork products with seasonal fruit and vegetables. Despite the mass of carbs and fat that’s in the Swiss diet there are very few obese people which is remarkable and can only be down to the mass of outdoor sports that everyone partakes in.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Be prepared to spend lots of time on your own, especially if you are going to be a full time mum! Learn the language, conversational German will get you on your way but be prepared for the Swiss German to completely throw you and just to play with you the odd bit of French or Italian will be casually dropped in too. Get outside, explore.
What are your plans for the future?
Unknown at present…
Sarah shares more information about expat life in Switzerland through her blog Life of Ryrie.