Tag Archives: Bloggers in Transition

by Christine Syrad

...in the Swiss Alps

I moved to Zurich in 2009, fresh out of University and clinging tenaciously to the vision that Zurich would be a year-long detour on an otherwise London-based career path. Back then, given the turmoil the economy was facing, it looked as though my two obvious choices were to either go home and live my parents (in Japan) until I found a job or get a waitressing job in London to keep myself afloat for the “time being”.  I actually really enjoy waitressing, so there was the risk that I’d end up too comfortable doing that to find something my degree had prepared me for. Having said that, I read English and Italian literature, so it’s not as if I was expecting a call from NASA to tell me I possess just the brain they were looking for.

Skiing was the best outlook about moving

So when the offer presented itself, despite not knowing anything about Zurich and regardless of the fact that my so-called “career” ambitions were nebulous at best and, to top it off, I didn’t fully understand the profile of the job I’d be doing, I went for it. I saw the move as a chance to do plenty of skiing and…well, that’s where the thought process ended, truth be told.

My B-Permit expires in a month’s time, meaning I’m approaching the five year mark, so it seems a fitting time to reflect on what my credit-crunch dodging move has unfolded for me.

What have I gained?

This is what I have gained as a result of my move:

  • General fearlessness – I knew nobody here and spoke three words of German when I boarded my plane. I had a job but I didn’t even really know what my job entailed. Did I survive? Of course! Was it always easy? No. Was it worth it? 100%.
  • Heightened sense of curiosity – this ties into the first one. Now that I know taking a leap of faith can yield favourable outcomes, I’d very much like to see what lies waiting around each bend I choose to navigate towards.
  • German language skills – my German is not perfect, but it’s functional and I can use it in a working context, more or less. The learning process has been fun and has opened many a cultural door.
  • Financial independence – one reason I left the UK was the allure of lower taxes and higher pay (relative to the UK). It meant leaving my Uni friends behind, but the payoff has been that I am debt free and financially securer than I most likely would have been had I not moved.
  • Last, but not least, the fire I need to chase my dream – I’m usually reluctant to reveal this to anyone I don’t know because it sort of reeks of cheesiness. Having overcome a few obstacles since getting here, I get the feeling that now, equipped with the positive vibes from the above four points, taking the path towards my dream career seems far less turbulent.


Contact me

You can contact me via facebook.com/reikalein and reikalein.com


By Rebecca Wheatley 

Rebecca Wheatley
Rebecca Wheatley

In 2010 when I first landed at Zurich airport, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew I would love it or hate it – I had been told. I knew people spoke Swiss-German and that wasn’t the same as German, which I didn’t speak anyway. I knew people paid their own taxes and that the public transport was amazing. I came over with my job on a short-term assignment, so I was lucky enough to know that I would have somewhere central to live, help with signing up/in/out and would be going back in 5 months.

That was about it though. I won’t forget the fear that I felt waiting to be picked up at the airport, with my huge suitcase in tow. Going straight to register and then being dropped off at my new apartment, which I had not seen before, then going out to try to buy the garbage bags (in English!).

That was nearly four years ago and it’s unbelievable how much my life has changed. After a short stint back in the UK, I returned to Switzerland in October 2011 on a permanent, local contract with the same employer. It was my dream job – European responsibility, projects that interested me and exposure to the top of the EU organisation.

I moved into my new apartment – again I had not seen it before applying and being accepted. It was huge. I went to Ikea. I started to learn the lingo. But something didn’t feel quite right.

After 6 months back in Zurich, I had everything I had ever hoped for – money, job, friends – but I felt the most unhappy I had in my working life. I realised that this wasn’t what I wanted at all.  The only bit that made sense was being in Zurich and learning German. Everything else was completely wrong.

So by the end of 2012 my life had changed for good. I worked with my amazingly supportive company to take redundancy, unsure what that meant in another country and how I would survive as I’d had a corporate job continuously for 16 years. All I knew is that my gut was telling me to stay. I was on my own.


Enter stage left Impact Hub Zurich: A network of amazing professionals

Enter stage left Impact HUB Zurich. It was my first business interaction ‘outside’ and has benefited me from day one. I found a whole new network of amazing professionals who wanted to make a difference in the world. I spoke and heard more German and learnt how to feel comfortable just trying and risking making mistakes.

I learnt how to deal with anxiety, the unknown and to have faith in my own abilities, even if I wasn’t the best at shouting about them. I started to write and reconnect with my love of art and my creative roots. Most of all, I learnt the value of my skills, experience and personality and how well they actually fit in Switzerland.

Of course, every day is a new challenge. I may be able to administer my life and go to the Doctors in German, but I am yet to get to a point of holding a meeting. Local connections are priceless, but take a lot of time to develop. Luckily I am pretty patient – it’s starting to pay off after 2 years. The true value is the push it has given me as an English national and back in my home community and to revisit my value to the corporate world.

Through the Hub network, I am back working in the UK as well as in Zurich, which brings creativity and innovation to my work. I took back with me skills, views and experiences that can only be directly attributed to living and working in Switzerland. A friend mentioned to me just this week that my outlook and confidence now compared to 2 years ago is unrecognisable.

Learning a new culture, language and way of living life may seem a huge challenge, but I would do it again tomorrow, without a doubt. Coming to Switzerland nearly broke me, but at 35, it made me myself again. And that can only be a good thing.

Contact me

Rebecca Wheatley is Founder of Five Brand Communication – a business that works with teams across UK & Switzerland to build their brands from the inside, by engaging employees in their skills and creativity, connecting their personal and their brand’s identity and creating human-centered communication solutions.  She also blogs about her personal development and art projects over at Life in Zuri.


by Valeria Crescenzi

Hi there! I am Valeria and let me start by thanking Angela for this opportunity to share my personal experience about relocating to Switzerland. I hope that my story has the chance to help people who might be thinking about jumping to a foreign country.

I’m not far from my native place but my life in Zürich is completely different from the one in Rome. To be honest until the end of 2013 Switzerland wasn’t in my plans. I moved to Zürich in January 2014.

A new experience

To me living abroad is a brand new experience: born and raised in Rome, I was pretty sure that my life would have been there all along. I’ve never lived in other countries enjoying such an international environment as the one in Zürich. I am 31 years old and moving here meant, first of all, coming back to school. In a broad sense: I am really going to school everyday to rapidly learn German but, more importantly, I am learning a new way to deal with life. All the expected things in Italy, here are not to be taken for granted. Even going to the grocery shop is different.

I had to start again from scratch, building up, day after day, my new Swiss life. How did I change so far? I am more curious, more aware of what happens around me and I am using Wikipedia and language dictionaries as never before! Joking aside, even thought my coffee is still Italian, my phone is fluent in Italian, English and German, my computer is Swiss and my new friends come from all over the world. I am also understanding the real meaning of the word “flexibility”, the ability to being responsive to change.


An idea to become self-employed

Regarding my professional transformation, my mind was already set on the idea to be self-employed. So that, I began to collect information even before moving. This made me aware of the characteristics of the Swiss job market reinforcing my desire to go solo. My first 7 months helped grasp the reality behind what I had researched in advance and to explore the community, through participation in many networking events.

I also re-analyzed my previous professional experiences countless times. Reality check: done. In June I started to be a “singlepreneur”. My baby is Crescenzi Communication, a communication “solo-agency” fluent in Italian and English (we are gearing up for German). Starting your own business in a foreign country is not trivial. More than formal bureaucracy – which is very lightweight here – the major challenge is facing the specific cultural gap. You never know what you are giving for granted about what is allowed and what isn’t.
In the start-up phase of Crescenzi Communication I am also learning to push myself forward not caring about blushing (forget old shy Valeria) and to rely on other people.

Again…it’s all about learning. To close let me say that success is not granted but, as a Williams quote says, I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it“.


Contact me

Valeria Crescenzi
Crescenzi Communication
Web: www.crescenzi.ch
Mail: info@crescenzi.ch
Phone: 0041 76 688 53 06
FB: www.facebook.com/crescenzicommunication
Twitter: @CrescenziComm

with kind permission of Gabrielle, guest blogger

Having passed the mid-30s mark recently, I couldn’t help but wonder: “where the hell did all this time go?”

Fresh out of law school, wide eyed, idealistic with grand plans for the future, I had no idea what life had in stored for me. The life now is totally not what I’ve envisioned. But that’s ok, right? Because Joseph Campbell said so.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” 

Do I regret anything? Not really. If anything, it is really the impact of some of my more negative behaviour that have had on others over the years. But hopefully, I’ve learnt to refrain from repeating those mistakes and am grateful to those who have the stomach to stick around.

Over lunch last week with one of my closest friends here, we got into a discussion about the challenges of moving abroad.

When the Mr decided to take this opportunity, we were so excited about spreading our wings. He, stoked about taking another step forward in his career, and me, well, to take a deep breath and step out of the corporate rat race. After the logistics were sorted and dust settled – like finding a roof over our heads, and location of the all-important Asian market, the Mr went back to work, and I was left pretty much to my own devices.

From time to time, I grappled with pangs of homesickness and panic attacks, which consisted mainly of “OMG, what have I done?!” and making calls to family in the middle of the night – their time – sobbing down the phone. Don’t laugh or roll your eyes. This happens, when you are chucked into a foreign environment away from the familiarity of your safety network of family and friends. Friends that you’ve known for many years. Friends you’ve been through thick and thin with, who have giggled with you over your teenage crushes, held your hand as you pierced your nose, made you drink 21 shots of tequila on your 21st, celebrated graduation, and helped you blow your first pay check…

There is also dealing with the harsh reality of being a trailing spouse – in this age of female empowerment. I lost count the number of times I wanted to call my ex-boss, begging for my job back. This is especially so when the honeymoon period is over, and you no longer see the new country that you’ve settled in, through rose-tinted glasses. (Zürich, I still love you though).

So, whilst your friends back home mourn your departure by posting mouth watering pictures of local food and tagging you on Facebook, rebuilding a new network seemed like the next natural step.

This is the part that no one who has relocated talks much about. They can tell you how: attend expat events, network, smile, engage in small talk  (“where do you come from? What do you do? I love Singapore!”) blah blah blah – oh dear Lord, shoot me – but they don’t tell you HOW.

The biggest lesson that I’ve learnt to maintain my own sanity is to be mentally true and good to myself. Trying to shape and mould yourself in order to get people to like you, is quite frankly, bloody exhausting.

Most often than not, it is easy to fall into the trap where you think that you HAVE to get along with everybody. Things that you normally wouldn’t hesitate to speak up about back home, you’ll think twice about – especially when someone is behaving like a complete twat – for fear of upsetting them. Culture differences aside – there are freaks under that human being. Freaks who seem to think that it is ok to behave badly towards others. But you embrace those freaks, and kiss their three heads because you keep telling yourself that maybe it is time that you need to learn tolerance and acceptance.

After all, isn’t accepting someone for who they are, part and parcel of a friendship?

Maybe – but I think I’ve become better at differentiating the crucial difference between being a doormat and acceptance. (I think I can hear those from home laughing their heads off and wee-ing themselves because I’ve used “doormat” and “I” in the same sentence.)

Perhaps I am a slow learner. Five years in, I’ve concluded that it is better to remove such toxic people than being around them. For people you simply don’t feel like you have anything in common with, be brave and say no, thank you – nicely. Sure, my phone beeps less these days and I have lesser mails to respond, but it is ok to like your own company. Spending time with a four-legged scamp helps too.

I find that being yourself will naturally lead to worrying less about what people think of you. When you do that and take a back seat by being the observer instead, you can see them still trying hard to shape how the world views them – be it as a parent, jet setter or a serious corporate ladder climber. Your narcissist radar will also naturally be honed to spot those from a mile away and beep like crazy.

Few other lessons I’ve learnt:

a. keep moving. Whether it is from your mistakes, toxic people, unhappy experiences or new places – never stop.

b. never stop travelling and seeing the world.

c. no one has ever truly grown up. You heard me: there are no such thing as a proper adult. Sure we pay our bills, manage our finances and take care of ourselves, but everyone is guilty of a childish hissy fit and engaging in schoolyard spats, once in a while. Learn from them.

d. lastly, and oh-so-random: throw out those size 6 jeans that you are hoping to fit in. Leave your skinny teenage selves behind. It is ok to be a size 10, 12, 18 or 20.

Be kind to yourself, be kind to others and the rest will follow.




For this year we planned to experiment. Sounds funny right?

So one of these experiments is that we invited bloggers to tell us about how their transition to Switzerland has changed their outer and inner life. The results are showing women with different voices and different stories. All of them have shown a lot of courage. We admire them for what they have mastered. We love their voices and we love how they admit their anxieties and shortcomings.

Going abroad is an adventure. It changes us deeply. Some of us can never stop and settle again. Others just want to do that. Let’s see what our bloggers want to share from Tuesday onwards. Every Tuesday a new post will appear. Your comments are appreciated and please share as much as possible.


Thank you