Tag Archives: Switzerland

Guest post by Lucie Koch

I have been in Zürich for a few weeks now and I am starting to adjust to swiss city life. I am amazed every day by how cosmopolitan Zürich is with all the languages heard in the tram. It’s wonderful.

In my last blog post, I wrote about how entry into professional life was one kind of culture shock. I have started to adapt to the professional and Swiss cultural frame. Working for Global People Transitions is a very interesting experience, especially since I get to be involved in very diverse tasks, from administrative paperwork to exciting business development projects. I am discovering how many gearwheels must be activated and maintained for the business machine to work properly.

While I expected to have to adjust to the professional culture, I wasn’t quite prepared for the general culture shock that I experienced in Switzerland. As a child who grew up in France with parents from the cantons of Zurich and Luzern, and many family ties in Switzerland, I have been exposed to Swiss culture throughout my upbringing. I spent a few holidays in Switzerland when I was younger and identified quite strongly as Swiss. But then this month, I found myself suddenly confronted with cultural and structural enigmas: What is the deal with these expensive trash bags? Why do people eat so early? I also found myself confused about how to greet new people properly – do I offer a handshake? Should I do the ‘bise’ (kiss)? – which resulted in some awkward moments of hesitation and embarrassed smiles. It turns out, I might be more French than I thought.

These experiences made me think about the topic of mixed cultural identities, especially in the case of expatriation and specifically about the children of expatriates who grow up abroad.

Indeed, when you grow up in a country as a foreigner, especially in an area of low cultural diversity as it is the case for the French countryside where I grew up, the Swiss identity makes one stand out, especially for children. You don’t understand the other kids’ popular culture references and you speak another language with your family. The scarcity of Swiss items like cervela, landjäger, and swiss chips or mayonnaise turn them into ‘precious’ objects for the expat parents and to expat children, they appear as relics of Swiss-ness that you get to share once every other month in a kind of family tradition.

In the end, as a ‘born-expat’, one gets a reflected image of the parent’s culture. Indeed, a born-expat’s understanding of the ‘culture-of-origin’ is imagined (through the information absorbed from the media, short stays in the country or from the family’s opinions and stories) and not experienced. Therefore, young expats born abroad have an incomplete picture of a culture with which they strongly identify. The resulting culture shock, when the born-expat realizes how different reality is, can be very difficult, especially since it touches the perception of one’s own identity.

Children of expatriates are a very interesting focus of study when it comes to intercultural competence and how culture affects one’s identity and life. We are quite aware of how being an expatriate family is complicated logistically, emotionally and mentally on all members during the first years of immigration or how tricky it can be to raise children in a country in which we are not completely familiar with the education system. It is, however, important to consider that expat-children may face identity struggles when they grow up and to actively address the issues of identity and nationality during the upbringing.

Have you experienced any issues related to identity as an expat? Do you know a good way to address the question of identity with expat children?

I hope you enjoyed the read, I’ll write again next month.

Until then, have a great day!

Lucie

Lucie Koch was an intern at Global People Transitions GmbH in Zurich, Switzerland. She graduated from an Intercultural Management Master study, which led her to study in Dijon, France, a city she was already familiar with and in unfamiliar Finland (for one semester). Previously, she studied one year at Durham university (UK) as part of a Bachelor Erasmus Mobility program. She was born in 1994 to a Swiss expat couple in France. She grew up in the French countryside, around horses. She’s a self confessed introvert, fascinated by different languages, cultures, science (especially astronomy and biology) and philosophy. She also likes to spend time drawing, painting or in cinemas.

 

 


Temperatures are at summer highs, soccer champions are keeping us busy in bars and before you know it we will have reached the summer hole. From Mid July to Mid August Switzerland seems to fall asleep. Recruiting dies down.

Nobody is around to take interviews and your chances of finding a job over the summer holidays are next to zero. If you haven’t signed a contract by now, I bet you won’t sign one within the next four weeks. Yes, I will invite you to a burger if you prove me wrong.

With the start of international and Swiss school holidays, you notice fewer people in the trains and motivation to work is generally a bit lower than usual. This is the time to take overtime compensation, to go home at decent hours and to get out of the country for a while. It’s also time to jump into a lake near you every evening after work.

If you are looking for a job right now you probably feel that you are late. AND the most common reaction I see from clients is to stop all efforts over the summer. This is counter-productive. You could still use this time for your job search by doing these six important steps for finding a job in Switzerland (and maybe elsewhere too.)

1) Finalize your brand

My advice is that you finalize your personal branding. You need to have your three professional “labels” ready and I want to see them on LinkedIn (below your name). You should know how you will introduce yourself to a recruiter. You should write a story that explains why you chose the profession you currently have, what you like about it and where your next step will take you.

You should also have your personal business cards printed, have your headshot taken and a decent email ID. You might also want to revisit why a personal brand is important and how it links to your seven work principles.

2) Build more personalized professional relationships

Summer is a good time to build new relationships and catch up with your current contacts. Most busy people might feel less pressure than normal. Encourage them to enjoy the nice weather and spend time outside. Why don’t you take them for an ice cream in the sunshine after work? Why don’t you request an early morning walk by the lake combined with a cold coffee? Or you could offer to take over their recycling runs as you have enough time on your hands at the moment for half an hour of them sharing career tips with you. A personalized request is key here.

3) Develop a weekly practice for meeting your contacts

Set yourself a weekly practice for meeting at least one contact. Ask them if they can introduce you to three more professional contacts in your field. If you have doubts about meeting your contacts you probably have not written down your purpose yet. Write down your purpose and add a weekly practice to your RockMe! App.

4) Enjoy the holiday with your family

This is also the best time to be away from Zurich if you are looking for a job. You will probably not miss much and in emergencies, companies could also interview you by phone or Skype in your holiday home. I would advise that you charge your batteries and get out of the city for a minimum of two weeks. Your children and partner/ spouse will probably love it that you have time for them.

5) Book your online exploratory coaching session and join the next HireMe! Group

Commit yourself to a schedule by working with us. The next HireMe! Group after the summer break starts on 24 August 2018. Book it now and get started. If you want to speak to me you can book an online exploratory session now. This will kick-start your job search and I can share more tips with you.

6) Practice German and prepare for the B1-Exam

You have now been in Switzerland long enough and should be on a conversational German level. Ensure that you have a B1-Exam in your pocket (and your application file). While the summer is a great time to enjoy your time off it can also have rainy days. Join Heike Reinhart for a trial class and work on your German at the pool or beach in July and August.

I look forward to talking to you over the summer in person or online.

Angie Weinberger

 

***
I am available for online coaching with the special summer deal of CHF 397 (incl. VAT) for the exploratory session of 1.5 hours (instead of 525 CHF + VAT).

We define your goals for the next 9 to 12 months. We come up with a learning plan and weekly practices. I will monitor your progress on a weekly basis in our RockMe! App.
***

 

 

 

Want to hack the Swiss job market and find a job faster?

Join our next HireMe! Group starting 24 Aug 2018.

HireMe! Groups

 

...can be cheaper than dining out.
…can be cheaper than dining out.

 

 

 

Have you ever wondered about your social status in Switzerland? Has it occurred to you that status shows in mundane details such as the coach class you choose when you are riding the train? It also shows in the health insurance system in Switzerland, and it does not always show in classical status symbols such as a car. Even a suit does not necessarily mean that a person is wealthy. Status shows in the job you have, the restaurants you go to and the language you choose to speak.

 

In Switzerland, the trains have a first and second class. The second class is usually for the “normal” people, the first class full of business executives and professionals on their daily commute. We love our public transportation system. It’s very effective, on schedule and trains are exceptionally safe and clean. So really, there is no reason to travel first class other than status.

I only went first class on a few business trips. I am a second-class commuter.  By choice. I like to tell myself that I don’t care about my status but in all honesty, this is not true. Often expats and local foreign hires come from a high social status and an elaborate lifestyle in their home countries. Many of my clients tell me that they had at least two maids and a cook, sometimes a driver. They are not used to doing housework or handling their children the whole day. They come here thinking they will thrive in the land of milk and honey (or cheese & chocolate).

And then…the Swiss reality is different.

Life is beautiful in Switzerland – for professional men. Women carry the full burden of running the home, educating the children and if they are professionals they often take a step back in their career once the first child is born. Even if you might be able to afford a cleaning person you will not always be happy with the quality you get for the price you pay. Childcare is expensive and we do not have enough qualified educators around.

 

Egalitarian Cultures value Modest Behavior

Another culture clash is that “status” here is defined differently than in other countries. Even CEOs take the bus. They do not necessarily drive big cars or wear expensive watches. Their houses seem small. The Swiss tend to be modest. They do not like to show off. They rather define status by the luxury they can afford as in traveling the world, a large number of children and a cottage in the mountains. Luxury is a longer period of time taken off work to follow a dream, being able to volunteer, support an NGO or support the “commune” by being in the fire brigade or in a “Verein”.

Luxury in some families is that one person (usually the woman) can stay at home raising the kids. What can happen that once you arrived in Switzerland unpacked your boxes and got used to the life here, that you feel like a “second-class” citizen? You might feel like you are struggling, working too hard and not going to the mountains as much as you would like to. You might also notice that you have underestimated the need for learning German / French. Often in this phase expats and foreign hires doubt if Switzerland is the right place. Some of them move to the next place.

Remember that this step will cause a bit of pain

This is normal when you build up a new life in a new country. It takes time and real integration in my view only starts about after two to three years. That is when you build a social circle outside of the expat community and when you really feel “at home”. I used to have status in Germany. I was an Executive, a “Leitende Angestellte”. I had an apartment, a nice company car, and a team. I also had a cleaning person, a tailor and enough money for several holidays and trips. Then I moved to Switzerland and suddenly my status changed. You probably wonder how I could let that happen as a Global Mobility Leader. I should have made a net-to-net comparison and request a better package. I should have insisted on coming to Switzerland with an appropriate corporate title AND I should have known that there will be social security risks when I move on a local contract. And yes, despite the fact that I am a Global Mobility Expert I made a few miscalculations. I did not get the deal I deserved and I suffered a few years from this mistake. I accepted the terms of the contract because I was following a dream. I wanted to be in Zurich no matter what. And when you are emotional about a goal in life, you easily forget the pain.

 

Today, I have status again but I still don’t take the first class on the train. I assume I haven’t convinced myself just yet.

 

Further reading:

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/culture/haves-and-have-yachtsadd-the-underlineswitzerland–in-a-class-of-its-own/35827762

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/society/data-analysis_six-things-to-know-about-switzerland-s-middle-class/42963242

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/society/data-analysis_six-things-to-know-about-switzerland-s-middle-class/42963242https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/new-content-item/42770386

 

#migration

by Tracy Hope

When I was 22, I moved from New Zealand to California’s Santa Cruz, from one ocean-loving, laid-back community to another. I was young, I was excited, I was a newlywed on an adventure, and I couldn’t imagine the culture shock that I was going to experience there.

It was only years later, when I had moved back to New Zealand and was preparing to move yet again, this time to Zürich, Switzerland, that I really took the time to analyse why returning to NZ from Santa Cruz was such a relief. I never found my niche in California, and it never felt like home. I made few friends there and had a permanent sense of being a fish out of water. And that was in a country where I spoke the language and grew up watching Californian TV shows and movies; the thought of living in a culture with another language (or two) with no prior experience was both exciting and terrifying, and I decided I was going to enter this new adventure with a firm plan to make it home.

 

There were many reasons why that first relocation felt like a failure. Don’t get me wrong: I loved living there and the opportunities I had for travel and new experiences. But I had expectations from TV and media that left me disappointed and disillusioned, and the culture of forming relationships with others was vague and confusing to me as an outsider. I read books and articles about life as a foreigner in Switzerland and set my expectations low when it came to making friends there.

 

I bought novels and biographies, learned about the history of the country, followed blogs and instagrams and researched my husband’s new employer, a global tech corporation with a large European headquarters in Zürich. We spent hours trawling through the company’s relocation tips and processes, and finally one day he pointed me to a page announcing a network just for spouses and partners of employees. Nervously I registered, noting the strict protocols to confirm that I was indeed married to an employee and therefore wasn’t joining just to learn company secrets. When my registration was confirmed, I was given access to a whole world within Zürich that I would never have known existed: a community of women and men in the same situation as me, learning to get along in a new country.

 

I read every webpage, browsed every topic in the mailing list archives, found the answers to questions I had and conversations that reassured me that everything would indeed be OK.

 

By the time I arrived in Zürich, exhausted and hungry on a snowy Tuesday evening, two children and a husband and a wagon full of suitcases in tow, I had already planned playdates with other families and had tips on how to get from the airport to our temporary apartment. Within two weeks, we had solved all of our new-arrival problems from registering at our local Gemeinde and choosing public transport passes to finding an apartment and buying new furniture. As soon as we moved into our new home (and assembled our Ikea furniture), I opened our apartment up to the community. Ten women came to introduce themselves and offer me their support and advice. Within a month of arriving on the other side of the world, I had found my home.

 

Having something with as much value as this built-in support network has been the most valuable tool for my relocation, and it’s turned me into something of an evangelist for plus-one networks for internationally relocating families.

 

There may be nothing more useful to a new arrival than this existing support network, made up of people who have already experienced what you are experiencing, and can give you not only helpful advice but the reassurance that it is survivable.

 

International HR researchers and RMC’s such as Brookfield publish extensively about this topic. They have found that more than 80% of international assignment contracts that fail, do so because the employees’ spouse or family is unhappy. Having a strong support network for spouses and partners of a company’s employees can drastically reduce the number of cancelled contracts.

 

The purpose of a plus-one network may vary wildly depending on the country and the community itself. My own community provides support for job seekers, language support, financial advice, social events and even regular welcome activities for new arrivals, giving them answers to the questions everyone has in their first months. The community can serve as a bridge between the company’s culture and the culture of the country, finding ways to connect foreigners with locals and open communications.

 

It seems unlikely that something so crucial to a successful family relocation can be so hard to find, but there it is: in the city of Zürich, a hub for international companies’ European offices, only one company and one university boast a network just for employees’ partners. In the case of the university, an entire department exists to support families of employees, while the company’s Plus-One network was founded and is managed entirely by volunteers within the community.

 

And here’s my point: anyone can make such a community exist. Whether in the financial, pharma, or academic sector, any like-minded group of partners or spouses of employees can create something that will boost the chances of a successful relocation, and hence the success of a company’s international employee contract. With solid support from HR, a company can increase the likelihood of their international employees’ contract lasting the distance. When the family is settled and happy, it should go without saying that employees are settled and happy.

 

A small amount of time and energy can go a long, long way towards happy relocations.

 

Want to learn more about how to create a Plus-One network? 

About the Author

Tracy Hope does not consider herself a “trailing spouse”. She finds new ways to support recent arrivals in Switzerland through integration events and small business support, and teaches English to children on the side. Kiwi by birth; community builder, writer and teacher by vocation, she will try anything once. Her business, Language Plus, is an English-language school for Swiss and bilingual children, but its boundaries are limitless.

Hiking and writing

Hiking and writing are similar. You start with a regular writing practice and move on to more elaborate content afterward. One of the challenges of the writing process is that we are not always in the mood. Well, I’d like to compare it to hiking. Maybe you are not always in the mood for hiking either, but when you have been outside even for just half an hour and you moved your body, breathed fresh air you will enjoy the feeling of accomplishment after your hike, your muscles are warm, your brain works better and you can handle more stress.

With writing it is similar. Once I completed my early morning writing I feel a lot more accomplished and ready to tackle the day. Mostly those pages are random. They are not worth reading again. They sometimes just list lose ideas and connect the associations in my head. Often I express a wish or two for the next day.

I stood on the Uetliberg (that’s the house mountain of Zurich) when I noticed that sometimes we walk up a mountain without knowing where the top is. We have no clarity how far the top is and what the top will look like.

We are not sure, what we will find there. For example, I expected there to be a restaurant but I did not expect it to be so full that I would walk out again right away without even considering a bio-break. Or I did not expect a water fountain up there where I could fill my water bottle, which was helpful.

If you consider your first year on an international assignment to be an uphill hike which takes your breath away and makes your heart pound faster than a “Geigerzaehler”, then you probably cannot wait to reach the top.

From the top you expect to have a view and your pace will be easier. You expect to walk along the top plain or you could just hike down. During my last hike I noted a few concepts that helped when I hiked up. I would like to share them with you for your support. Your current challenge could be that you don’t have a job in market you don’t understand or you have started a new role or you don’t know what 2018 will bring to your current role.

Stand at a safe space and look back down

We tend to forget what we have already managed, been through and survived when we only focus on the mountain top. Once in a while allow yourself a break and look back how far you have come already. What helps here is the weekly reflection exercise I recommend in the RockMe! App. You could also just take an A4 sized paper and write down “What is better than one year ago?”. 

You still need to hike at the top

Even when you are at the highest point of the mountain and would like to walk along the plains you still need to keep moving. As a manager you will still need to deal with people’s issues, as a Global Mobility Leader you will still manage special VIP cases, as an Expat Spouse you still have to take care of your partner and children.

You might expect too much of others

Expectations and disappointments are a normal part of human nature. If you want to move away from other people’s expectations and pressures, then you could try to write down and speak out wishes instead. Because with a wish you never know if it will be granted to you. And it’s ok to make a wish related to another person but it’s not okay that you expect anything of another person.

Hiking makes your muscles sore

If you are not a fitness-freak you might feel your muscles for a few days after you hiked the mountain. I also think it is the same when we have achieved an important aim. We often feel the after effects a few months later. Sometimes it is necessary that you remind yourself what you have achieved and you could allow yourself a small celebration too.

I recommend to celebrate with a Bratwurst at the top but that’s just a small instant wish. For your new team management, new project or first year on the international assignment you could celebrate. Invite your spouse, partner or best friend to a weekend treat.

Hike on!

Angie

PS: If you feel you need time out to reflect your experience and work on your next career or life steps in a safe environment, I recommend you enroll in our RockMe! Retreat.