Author Archives: Angie Weinberger
Christmas

The holiday season is upon us, I am sure most of us are ready for a well-deserved break from work. We all feel a bit more exhausted this year from working from home and being digital all day.

Do you also need a break from being online all the time?

We face unseen travel restrictions this year. This could lead to you being alone or with your partner and kids only this year on Christmas. While you might want to be with your extended family in (insert home country) you are holidaying in Zurich, Switzerland.

(Not the worst of places to be but it can get a bit lonely if you don’t know what to do.)

While the holidays may be a time of joy and happiness for most people, they can be quite bittersweet for expats.

Maybe you have lost loved ones around the holidays. Maybe you are no longer close with your extended family and your friends are all married with kids.

In Zurich, there is a high likelihood that you haven’t made any close friends yet. It could also be that like one of my friends you are in the middle of your next move and taking time off isn’t an option. You can check our relocation guide for ideas.

So, if you are worried a little about how to handle the holidays here are our ideas for the holidays on your own.

“The 12 Days of Christmas” – Alone in Zurich

Although technically the 12 days of Christmas don’t start until 25 December, we will approach this topic creatively. I also understand that the 12 nights are more important in tradition and mythology and it depends on which sources you read.

Here the first magic night is on 20 December “Thomasnacht”.

This year you have a good chance to have two weeks off with a small amount of vacation days or overtime compensation. Also, many Swiss companies close over this 2-week period now.

Before starting on this topic I would like to invite every reader and client who is not Christian to enjoy the fun around our holiday traditions with us. Full self-disclosure: I come from a catholic background and I live in a relationship with a non-practicing Muslim. I usually only go to mass on Christmas Eve with my grandmother, because I know it makes her happy, but this year I am not even sure I can see my family. I might just stay here with you.

Being a Christian means to me to be a good human and about giving to others and yourself. In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter what your faith is as long as you aspire to do good in the world. And if you only believe in science or the force I like you as well.

Christmas is also a time where we connect with our inner child and give this child all the love it deserves. By honoring special traditions and rituals around the 12 days of Christmas we collect the energy that we need to be supportive of each other.

21 December: Collaboration Day
No office parties this year and no secret Santas. If you are still at work, try to appreciate one of your work colleagues and give them an hour of your time in a virtual coffee session. In our culture we tend to forget to celebrate the success and value collaboration. So try to appreciate this one colleague you worked with this year and send them a hand-written thank you card after your call.

Order your Christmas menu. For example, order meat and bread in advance, so you just have to pick it up on Christmas eve.

22 December: Decoration Day
Buy a Christmas tree at Bahnhof Stadelhofen or in your neighbourhood. Put on a youtube mix or your favorite music and decorate your Christmas tree. Make a special ornament by yourself. Go offline for crafting If you have been in a work frenzy in the build up to the holidays you probably want nothing more than switching off. Tag us when you share photos on Instagram.

Also, this is your chance for last minute shopping. The big shops will probably still be full. Wear masks and support your neighbourhood shops instead of going to Jelmoli.

23 December: Catch up Day
Catch up with old friends via video chat. Being stuck in a foreign country during the holidays is never ideal, more so if you don’t have family or friends there. A luxury not afforded to pre-internet expats, but still in no way a replacement for family and friends, is video chat. While not the ideal replacement for the people you are missing, it can allow you to keep in near-constant touch and keep the holiday spirit fresh in you. In fact, this can also be a perfect time to reconnect with old friends and catch up.

Do all your laundry because you cannot wash between Christmas and New Year. We call this time “zwischen den Jahren” (between the years). I like this expression and did a bit of research.

***
24 December: Giving Day

Read a novel to an elderly citizen on Christmas Eve. I’ve never spent Christmas Eve alone as far as I can remember. You probably know that I come from a big family and I hardly find time to see all my relatives.

If I am in Zurich on Christmas Eve, I will do my grocery shopping for three days and then use the chance to read to someone. In my neighbourhood I often see lonely elderly people.

There is also a shelter for homeless people and you could volunteer there. Or check with your religious community if you can help a child with a present. I’m sure you will find a way to help someone less fortunate.

25 December: Christmas Day

After you opened all your presents you could organize yourself a walking tour of Zurich with a lovely Christmas dinner at a cozy place like Rosaly’s or Wilder Mann. Probably you could meet a few lonely hearts in Bohemia. I would probably check if I could get a ticket for the opera or the Schauspielhaus. Despite the limited numbers they seem to be open.

26 December: Boxing Day

I don’t know why it’s called Boxing Day in English. Maybe it’s time to put a few things in boxes? Or box away the calories? My grandmother calls this day “Stephanstag”. This is a holiday in Zurich and shops are closed so you could plan a spa day or go outside. For example, take the S-Train to Greifensee and walk around the lake for a while.

Later, you should go to one of the nicest hotels in Zurich for afternoon tea and sip a glass of champagne.

27 December: Skiing Day

Why don’t you go to the mountains and check out if there is a chance for a skiing day. One of the lesser known places would be Hoch-Ybrig.

***

28 December: Clean up the (Home) Office Day

If your office is open use the chance to clean up. Update your LinkedIn profile with Nabeha’s tips. It’s time to review your work year. Write down one big accomplishment for every month or check the reporting facility in our RockMeApp. Send me a summary of what you are most proud of this year.

Have lunch with a poor colleague from HR, Accounting or IT who has to work in the office and wants to get home. With a cup of hot cocoa (or Gluehwein, if that’s allowed) start to clean up your desk.

  • Throw out old files,
  • Clean up your computer,
  • Update your task lists,
  • Prepare your performance reviews,
  • Order that new work phone and
  • Pay all your outstanding invoices.

Maybe you still have personal administrative tasks to do. My advice is to use the “Pomodoro” technique to start working on the task for 25 minutes.

29 December: Wish Day

For me this will be the day where I write down everything I’m grateful for in my life and what my wishes are for 2020. Join us for “Star Wars” or pick a movie and go to KOSMOS zurich or another movie theatre you usually don’t go to. Enjoy an “apéro” at YAMAS Zurich, the little Greek restaurant with a flair of the meatpacking district and Greek hospitality.

Don’t forget to stock up on groceries. If you’re like me, you probably have an empty fridge by now.

30 December: Pamper Day

No matter what gender you identify with, we all have a need for a pamper day at least once a year. Book an appointment at your favourite spa and enjoy the treatment. PURE zurich is great for that. If you still feel stressed you might want to get a massage from Pascale at CHINADOC.

These days the Bahnhofstrasse isn’t as crowded as usual, so you could also go to the city and buy a new outfit. Maybe with style advice from Rowena Downing.

31 December: Let Go Day

Take a leisurely stroll on Lake Zurich to Zurichhorn, a boat trip or if it’s raining take the tram 8 to Hardturm and check out the furniture and design stores near Prime Tower. Go up to the bar prime tower and enjoy the view.

It’s time to let go.  With your diary write down everything you wish to leave in the old year and join me for writing and a glass of champagne at the Savoy Bar around 3 PM. If you are into it please text me so I know you will be there.

Even if you can’t party order yourself a special dinner for tonight.

1 January 21: Welcome the New Year Day

Start the New Year with sleeping in as long as you can, watch your favorite movies or bing-watch a series. Be lazy for once.

I hope you enjoyed my tips and I look forward to meeting you in 2021.

Happy Holidays!

Angie and Team

PS: Check out those great blogs for more ideas: newinzurich and girlfriend guide to zurich.

Digital Control

Presence has become increasingly important as we are always pulled in so many directions and “energy flows where our attention goes”.

We can hardly survive a day without our smartphones anymore and when we are offline or have low batteries it creates feelings of anxiety. I have an ongoing experiment where I am trying to increase my productivity and get more done by using less and less resources (money, paper, time, people). 

I would like to summarize the learning for you and you might want to follow me in this experiment.

I want to simplify my life. I am always looking for topics that are complex in our shared, multifaceted lives today and I think about how to deconstruct them and make them simple again. (In my work as a Global Mobility Expert, this is essential.)

In a MasterMind Group we are all considering getting a paper planner again because we feel that our digital tools are just not doing all the tricks. I also feel that often paper gives me a higher sense of security than an app. Obviously, I am trying to reduce paper where it is not needed but there are areas where paper just beats digital tools.

Here is our Four-Step Approach to Digital Control:

1 – Start with an App List

To write this I started an app list I am regularly working with. The app list became very long. I am not even sure I finished it yet. It’s more a toolbox now than a list.

  • Email Accounts – 4 live accounts, 2 or 3 email ID’s that I never check
  • LinkedIn –  Inbox
  • Facebook – Inbox
  • Twitter – Inbox
  • Instagram – Inbox
  • Slack – Inbox (Member of 4 channels at the moment)
  • WhatsApp, Signal, FB Chat and other chat apps 
  • Seminar Apps such as Whova, Geneva

Once you have completed your app list review my simplification principles and check which ones apply to you. Do you have other principles for simplification you wish to share?

2 – Develop Your Simplification Principles

  1. People over Robots! Any personal message is better than an automated response.
  2. Move from DIGITAL to ANALOGUE on purpose. Use paper strategically.
  3. Delete unused apps from your smartphone.
  4. Turn your phone off from 9 PM to 6 AM. Give it a space for the night outside of the bedroom. (You will still hear the alarm!)
  5. Use Post-it for visualising what is important to you. The idea is: One thought, one post-it.
  6. Say “No, thank you…” or “yes, if…” to any proposal for meetings, work and tasks right away. Commit fast and decline fast. Don’t ponder on decision forever.
  7. When asked for meetings give two options only.
  8. Always set a deadline by when another person should come back to you.
  9. Wear black most of the time. On Wednesdays add a colour. Stop ironing during a pandemic.
  10. If you don’t know what to wear because you don’t know if the occasion is formal or not, wear a black suit.
  11. Choose your social media channels wisely. You are probably on too many.
     

3 – Write your 2020 Accomplishment List

Go through the RockMeApp archive and review all that you have accomplished in 2020. Check if there are open items that you wish to close within the next two work weeks.

 

4 – Participate in our online Workshops

 

Gluehwein
Gluehwein
Christmas
Christmas

 

I lay awake on a Saturday night that I had just enjoyed with my partner and our neighbors and even though it was only Saturday I felt a creeping dissatisfaction about all I wanted to achieve the next working week. I am not sure how you feel but the fact that I attend most meetings online now creates more anxiety when a topic is really important to me. I feel that in a physical meeting I would be able to show my emotions better and usually I can be very convincing in such situations and achieve what I would like to achieve. Oftentimes, the point of such a meeting is to bring the other person or persons to an action or a decision.

But then, when I started to think about my week I felt there were so many small and urgent tasks to worry about that I would not be able to adequately prepare those critical meetings where I would want to be fully present and prepared. And in order not to let anxiety dominate my thinking I did what I usually do in such situations: I fell asleep. I woke up refreshed, made myself a cup of coffee and started to work. Methodically I moved from one minor task to the next to set up my mind for success the next week. Then what happened next was that I was able to take my mind off the small tasks before the end of the weekend and I could focus on the “big wins” again.

And yes, it is easy to worry but usually action helps me the best to get out of the state of worry. What often blocks my flow is not a lack of motivation, it’s rather a feeling of having too much to do and too little time for fun and play. Here, as an entrepreneur I developed the habit of allowing myself to not be reachable for anybody on certain days and just work in my pyjamas if I feel like it. If I work on weekends, I usually schedule time in the morning so I can still go out and spend time with my loved ones in the afternoon. I even leave my phone in its bed for several hours on the weekend to be more present for my partner and friends.

I know what you are thinking now: “But what if a major client is trying to reach you and you are not responding for hours? Or what if there is an emergency? Or what if you wish to google something quickly? Or what if you forget important tasks because you have so much on your plate?” (And then, when you think of all that, you stop your activity and you decide not to follow your idea of starting a business because it suddenly seems “unrealistic” and “building castles in the skies”, and “it won’t be good for my old-age pension if I don’t get a regular salary…”, and “I don’t have enough experience, money, support to start my own business…”)

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt a major change was about to happen in your career or life but you were too frightened to even start? You might not call it “FEAR”, you will probably think it is “REASON”, but believe me my friend…all those stories you are telling yourself why it won’t work are based out of fear. This fearful voice was probably borne a long time ago when you were a child and you were probably born into a culture where taking risks was not encouraged, where everyone believed in planning, predicting and pushing through.

I think we all have experienced this issue before and I would like to call it the “mountain of tasks” that leads to a block in activity. It’s similar to sports. Once you stop doing sports it is really hard to be motivated again.

1 – Deal with Monday Anxiety

I believe that there are two ways to deal with the Monday Anxiety I am describing above. One is that you engage in your purpose. You clearly define why this task helps you to fulfil your purpose in life and on earth. 

The other trick is to hack the “mountain of tasks” into smaller bits and pieces, make it doable and start with a small baby step. Therefore it is important to create a system that helps you keep an overview of your tasks. Most of you probably have developed a system over the years to track tasks and projects.

However, what I am noticing and have talked about in the last two blog posts is that we are starting a lot of work and it remains stuck in Work-in-Progress because of various factors. I would like to encourage you to complete your Work-in-Progress before the year end and see how that makes you feel.

If you cannot fully complete a project, define a new milestone that you would like to have achieved by the end of the year. List all those milestones on a wall where you can see them, either by using post-it notes or a hand-written task list.

2 – Develop Weekly Practices

I read that you will perform a habit if you are able to run the same task on 21 consecutive days. Considering the year-end is approaching fast and we literally do not have a lot of time left before the Christmas holidays I would suggest you use this time to develop one weekly practice to enhance your visibility on social media and network more effectively on LinkedIn.

I would like to suggest that you develop your social media muscle. Here are a few ideas of what you could do. Remember to set the goal low. You could say: I will work on social media for 25 minutes every day.

These are the tasks I will try to perform in one week.

1) Start the week with LinkedIn endorsements. Endorse five of your contacts each week for 1 specific skill.

2) Reach out to at least two contacts for a virtual coffee meeting.

3) Write one blog post of at least 800 words and offer it to bloggers in your industry as a guest blog.

4) Read one industry report and write a short summary and share it with three LinkedIn groups in your industry.

5) Conduct a free webinar on a topic you have mastered and publish it.

 

3 – Declutter your Paper Mess

This is a good time to declutter your Paper Mess and either file or throw out whatever you no longer need. Scan everything, file it and throw away the paper. It will make you feel great.

 

 

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/getting-projects-completed/

This post is inspired by sundaebean.

We often hear our fellow expats complain about a lack of sleep and work taking over their lives -it seems that expat lives involve far too much work and impact sleep significantly. So for this edition, I thought I would talk about setting certain ground rules in our lives to get out of overdrive.

Getting Out of Overdrive Mode in Life

Christine Hansen, sleep expert and founder of Sleep Like a Boss, has detailed and often surprising insight into how expats can improve their sleep hygiene. Let’s dive in:

  • Before any ground rules can be established, it is important to figure out why expats have such frequent complaints about their sleep. The root cause can be traced down, surprisingly, to expats themselves. We just want to do everything as international professionals. Work, explore new locales, experience the local food and culture and architecture, give time to the family back home in another time zone and engage the kids in activities. As a result, sleep is the first thing that gets sacrificed in the quest to make each day last longer.
  • Many people, expats or otherwise, still question the science behind needing to sleep a certain minimum amount. The evidence is clearly there in your daily productivity – work output is shoddier and error-prone and any time you theoretically “saved” by sleeping less is consumed in correcting those mistakes. The evidence is also there in the long-term effects of low sleep, our bodies deteriorate with age and too little sleep not only accelerates it, but it also leaves us vulnerable to a host of symptoms and illnesses. Is that really a price worth paying for “a little more time” every day?
  • Sticking to the scientific approach, a good approach for expats who want to do it all is to figure out precisely how much sleep they need. It may seem counter-intuitive, but you start by getting slightly less sleep than you need. Then, by keeping the time you wake up at unchanged for the next two weeks – maybe use an alarm, you work your way backward in increments of 30 minutes until you reach a point where you find yourself waking up just a few minutes before the alarm is supposed to go off. That point may be less than 8 hours for some people, more than that for others, but this exercise will allow you to pinpoint the right amount for yourself. That way, you can schedule the rest of your life around the optimal sleep time.
  • As with most things in life, consistency is key to establishing great sleep hygiene and getting optimal quality sleep. That can sometimes get difficult if you have kids and have to travel, jet lag is the ruin of any good sleep routine! That’s why it’s important to try and continue on that routine even during travel, it really helps! An interesting tip here, especially for children, is to make certain fragrances part of the “going to sleep” routine. Our bodies react really strongly to familiar scents, so you can take these fragrances everywhere you go and they will help maintain the same sort of sleep your children get in the comfort of their own beds. This works for adults too, our olfactory senses really are that amazing!
  • Let’s face it, most expats have busy lives. There are many however whose lives are so busy that they frequently have no time for themselves and they end up encroaching on sleep time for their hobbies. The recommendation for them, inflexible and tough as it sounds, is to schedule “me” time in advance. It’s really the only way to consistently squeeze in hobbies and relaxation time into the very busy schedules.
  • Throughout these suggestions, the recurring theme has been “add structure, plan your sleep and your life around sleep” which can seem boring, but the benefits reaped from high-quality sleep are immense! Tired people are irritable, prone to more illness and generally not nice to be around. I am sure we can all relate to that last one!
  • One thing that can really help you get into the right frame of mind to improve your sleep hygiene is to remind yourself why you are doing it: Whether it’s for better work performance, or quality time with family, reminding yourself why you want quality sleep will help you be motivated – it’s human nature to prioritize yourself last and choosing external motivators will prove more effective for this.

To wrap up, one last tip: Something you can do immediately to improve your sleep hygiene is to start a sleep journal. Just take five minutes out of your day to just jot down all the crap and rubbish and stress you face in a day. That way, you’ll take it out of your brain and see an immediate uptick in the quality of sleep you get.

I’m sure you have noticed the arrival of fall by now – the avalanche of brilliant red-golden leaves falling off trees, the shortening of precious daylight hours and the sudden briskness in the breeze.

While the beauty of a European fall is unparalleled, for some people the shorter days and cold weather heralds a period of demotivation and negative feelings. For me it is the “Zurich fog” in November that can get to me. 

Considering the current situation of Covid-19 and the consequent loss of freedom, the thought of November could be overwhelming. So I have thought about ways to make November bearable for all of us.

Dealing with feelings of loneliness is doubly tough when you are an expat who just arrived here. However, even international people who have lived here for years sometimes miss close friends in this city.

Feeling lonely, sad and unproductive can affect not just your work performance, but your everyday life too. So today, I’d like to talk about ways in which we can keep ourselves inspired and motivated through November and the impending winter months, especially if we don’t have a family here.

1 – Plan and stick to an exercise routine and meal plan

A productive routine is key to keeping your mind crisp, and exercise keeps both your mind and body in tip-top shape – combine the two and you have a recipe for staying motivated in the coming seasons! 

Exercise for most people means a trip to the gym. Don’t worry if you are one of those who cringe at the thought of indoor gyms. Instead, you can take advantage of the wonderful sights and sounds that fall affords us and take up cycling or jogging. The double endorphin release of exercise and beautiful scenery is a great way to stay positive and inspired about your daily life.

Note, though, that it is important to strike the right balance with the rest of your routine. Most people enter exercise with a lot of passion and overdo it, which kills motivation very quickly. 

Start slow, perhaps with a 25 minute walk on two or three days a week and try to follow the schedule. That is more important than straining your body too much.

You should also develop a meal plan for every day which includes a lot of fresh vegetables and greens. Make sure you include lemons, apples and other Vitamin-C deliverers.

2 – Improve your Sleep Cycle

Another critical component of improving your health is to fix and improve your sleep regimen. In today’s always-on era, we are all guilty, to a certain extent, or taking actions that poorly affect the quality of our sleep. So here is a short primer on how to get better, more refreshing sleep daily: 

Take your mobile devices to bed. Give them a place in your home outside of your bedroom where you place them by 9 pm. After you’ve put your phone to bed, don’t touch it anymore. Use the “sleep” mode to block incoming messages. Turn off the buzzers.

Stop using all electronic devices two hours before you want to sleep. Studies show that the light emitted by screens can interfere with the body’s natural sleep-wake rhythms. Instead, consider going to bed with a novel or other light reading (again, not on devices). 

Practice relaxation techniques such as PMR. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is especially beneficial for reducing muscle tension caused by psychological stress and has a proven rejuvenating effect if practiced regularly. 

Get up at the same time every morning. This loops back to the discussion on how routine-building is beneficial to physical and mental health. 

3 – Don’t fall into the trap of worry

Worry is a feeling or a state of being anxious and troubled over potential problems. Worry is a type of futuristic thinking about events in a way that leaves you anxious and apprehensive. The back and forth around integrating into and adapting with a new culture as an expat can be inundating. From experiencing culture shock to trying to create a new professional network and then to the thought of being cautious not to catch Coronavirus. The most appealing response to this type of situation is obviously “Worry”. 

Ironically, what we worry about most times often does not happen. Worry is just a mental clutter that incapacitates you from taking any meaningful step and doing anything worthwhile. It blocks your brain from being productive. 

Hence, try not to fall into that trap! You may want to ask how. Let’s see.

Be present. Whilst it is good to be futuristic in one’s approach, do not allow the thought of tomorrow still the joy of today away from you.

Read a book. It is proven that reading helps reduce stress and anxiety. Simply by opening a book, you allow yourself to be invited into a literary world that distracts you from your daily stressors.

Ask for help. As simply as this sounds, it is a proven means of easing tension and offloading burdens. Asking for help from the right person is not a sign of weakness. It is, in fact, a sign of how strong you have been. 

4 – Learn a Creative Skill

An unforeseen consequence of expatriation is just how much every aspect of it takes over your life – from the learning curve of the new job to the transactional tasks of integrating into a new culture (send an email to angela@globalpeopletransitions.com to get the excel version of the checklist) and country. By the end of the day you may find yourself with no time left for your own growth.

In the scenario described above, it can be tough to carve out regular time for developing creative skills that interest you, especially if you don’t have an accountability buddy or coach to keep you motivated.

How does one find inspiration? I find that duplicating, or being a part of what the creative community does every fall is an excellent way to both build new relationships and spend time on yourself. You could participate in National Novel Writing Month (NoNoWriMo) where large swathes of communities online and offline get together to create and explore their artistic sides daily for the duration of that month. We have our very own Zurich writer’s community supporting you with the Woolf.

If such creative endeavours appeal to you, definitely pursue them! Otherwise, you can utilize the same template for whatever skill you are looking to develop. Devote a fixed amount of time daily where, distraction free, you engage in a certain skill-building activity. As with the previous suggestion on exercise, routine and regularity is key! 

This is the reason why I encourage you to write those 25 minutes practices into your RockMeApp and tick them off at the end of the week. A good practice would be: “On 5 days out of 7, I’m writing my long-hand diary 25 minutes a day to develop a writing routine”.

5 – Join a Special Interest Group such as our Theatre Nights

Last year we started a special interest group for going to the theatre since the Schauspielhaus Zurich introduced English-speaking surtitles. This is an example of a group you could join. Search on Meet-Up for anything you are interested in and I am sure you will find it. 

6 – Support and Help as a Volunteer

I recommend that if you are feeling a bit low in November that you find a group where you can help out as a volunteer. Helping others for the sake of being a good human being and without an agenda behind it usually raises your energy level. You can limit it to 3 hours a week so you don’t burn out but try if this works for you. If you have no idea how to volunteer contact us. We have an overview of associations and we also can recommend contacts for you. Also, we have four requests for volunteers that we shared in our Global People Club Facebook Group.