I still don’t believe that I actually live in Switzerland.
Over the past three months, Justin and I have slowly started to settle into Swiss life. After weeks of searching and months of waiting, we found an apartment and moved in to our own place. By now, we’ve learned the public transportation system and have picked up bits and pieces of (Swiss) German. We are meeting people through Justin’s company, church, and chance encounters. We try to comply with the rules of Swiss society, such as Zurich’s strict waste and recycling laws. We get out to the mountains on the weekends, and in the grand scheme of things, we don’t have much to complain about.
But it still doesn’t feel like home.
I remember when I first moved to Madrid in 2008. I had just graduated from university, and I was thirsty for new experiences. I took great pleasure in being on my own and learning the Spanish way. I went to work, adapted to the delayed dining schedule, and adjusted to the madrileño accent. I was proud of my boldness to move abroad before my 22nd birthday, but Madrid held only a little charm for me alone. The loneliness, dark and twisted, threatened to blind me from potential enjoyment and adventure that awaited me every time I stepped out onto the lively streets of sleepless Madrid.
Although, I did have a couple of girlfriends from the start, my community didn’t fully reveal itself until Thanksgiving dinner. I remember leaving my friends’ apartment that night with a belly full of turkey and an overflowing heart. I remember walking away with an inexpressible gratitude for those girls (were we women then?) who I had met seemingly at random. Somehow, I knew with a profound understanding that a deep connection of lasting friendship had been sealed through the sharing of that meal. For me, that was the moment when Spain became home.
Today, I am reminded that “home” is so much more than an apartment, a neighborhood, a city, region or country. Home is my community – the people in my life who walk with me, beside me. Those who desire depth to our relationship, where we can listen and share in the joys and sorrows we encounter as we journey through life.
Already, I see glimmers of community here in Zurich, but I acutely wish we were experiencing it fully. I take strength and encouragement from those who are far from Switzerland yet staunchly remain within the context of my global community. I am reminded that those friendships did not form overnight… and neither will future relationships.
And so, I wait. With a hopeful patience that as time goes on, community will reveal itself to Justin and me as we walk through the stages of our Swiss life.
And then, just then, Switzerland might become home.
I came across your post while browsing the Zurich free tours. I moved to Zurich for work nearly two months ago, leaving all my closest friends in London and have exactly the feeling you had at the time. Since it was over two years ago, I imagine you managed to build your circle in Zurich. How did you manage to create your own community here?
All the best,
Thanks for sharing and welcome to Switzerland!
In short, our community is mostly made up of friends from Justin’s job (who are all expats, too), our church, and a few random encounters :)
Zurich is a great place to be an expat in this country, as there are so many here who are ready to make friends. However, the downside is that many of those folks are on short-term assignments and the revolving door of people flowing in and out means building community solely from expats is like building a house on shifting sand. In my almost 2.5 years in Zurich, I’ve made some really great friends, but they have since moved away :(
If you want to avoid that revolving door, I’d strongly recommend getting plugged in to an existing community of more permanent people. For example, our church has a good mix of people who are here both short-term and long-term, and becoming involved with that community has made us feel more grounded.
I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any more questions!
All the best,
That is exactly when Madrid started to feel like home to me as well, during my first American Thanksgiving. :) Life is full of these sneaky, lovely little moments and I’m sure there will be many of those for you in Switzerland.
Yes! The “home” part of a new setting can just sneak up on you. Again, it takes community to really solidify those feelings. I find myself wishing that my “Spain girls” would reenter my life, because y’all would make life SO FUN!