The 12 Days Of Christmas – Lonely Expat in Zurich Edition

The holiday season is upon us, I am sure most of us are ready for a well-deserved break from work. Why do I bring this up? There are two main reasons for discussing it. The first, the more generally known reason is that the human body needs a break to recover motivation and energy. Extensive research by Harvard Business Review has found that more holiday time not only improves energy levels and happiness but is also linked to improved success rate and chances of promotion. You can read the findings of this research here.

The second reason is specifically for expat professionals. While the holidays may be a time of joy and happiness for most people, they can be quite bittersweet for the lonely expat. That is because some of you may not be able to return to your families or maybe you have lost loved ones around the holidays. Or maybe you are just no longer close with your family and your friends are all married with kids.

Maybe you haven’t made any close friends yet in Switzerland and maybe you just don’t feel like seeing your successful high school friends in the bar at home this year. Or you are in the middle of your next move and taking time off isn’t an option. Check our relocation guideSometimes insufficient integration into host culture can make it a tough period for mobile professionals like you and me. Even if that’s not the case, just being away from loved ones can take its toll.

So, if you are worried a little about how to handle the holidays here are our ideas for a Christmas on your own. (I know…scary!) 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. Christmas is about being a good human and about giving to others and yourself. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter what your faith is as long as you aspire to do good in the world. There is an interesting background that you might want to read more about.

Often Christians celebrated holidays when originally there was another meaning behind the days so here is a more mythical explanation too. In Germany, it is called the Rauhnächte. Christmas is also a time when we can connect with our inner child again and give this child all the love it deserves. I like to indulge in food like pancakes, marzipan, and hot chocolate even just once a year, and in my family, we follow traditions to the T because our lives are otherwise rather non-traditional and it’s fun to pretend to have some sanity.

Lonely Expat in Zurich
Lonely Expat in Zurich

Buy a fresh Christmas Tree at Bahnhof Stadelhofen

Put on the “Jingle Bells” (or another YouTube mix) and decorate your Christmas tree. I would also finally write Christmas cards, instead of just thinking about it. I would start to clean up my wardrobe, the attic, and the cellar and throw out anything I would like to leave in the old year.

Before Christmas: Go offline for crafting and cleaning on the day before Christmas

Being stuck in a foreign country during the holidays is never ideal, more so if you don’t have family or friends there. It is important to keep yourself occupied to prevent loneliness from affecting you too much. Planning visits to local attractions, farmer’s markets, and other communal locations can keep you busy in a positive way.

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. This can also be a perfect time to reconnect with old friends and catch up.

If you have been in a work frenzy in the build-up to the holidays you probably want nothing more than switching off. If I had time off I would do something crafty like making my own ornaments, bake Christmas cookies, and a gingerbread house.  Tag us when you share photos on Instagram.

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 on why you can’t do laundry (this is a local tradition not every German knows about).

No laundry between Christmas and New Year’s Day – Life in Germany.

24 December (Holy Night): Read a novel to a Senior 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 was ever alone in Zurich on Christmas Eve, I would use the chance to read to someone. In my neighborhood, I often see lonely senior citizens. 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. 

25 December: Go skiing on Christmas Day

After you open all your presents to yourself why don’t you go to the mountains and check out if there is a chance for a skiing day. Alternatively, you could organize yourself a museum tour of Zurich with a lovely Christmas dinner at a cozy place like Rosaly’sProbably you could meet a few lonely hearts in Bohemia. Check if you can get a ticket for the Opera or the Schauspielhaus.

26 December: Boxing Day

This is a holiday in Zurich and shops are closed so you could plan a spa day or again go outside. For example, take the S-Train to Greifensee and walk around the lake for a while. Later, go to one of the nicest hotels in Zurich for afternoon tea and sip a glass of champagne.

27 December: Back at Work (from Home)

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 the RockMeAppWith 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.

Decorate your desk with something cheerful. Maybe you still have personal administrative tasks or other fun stuff we usually procrastinate on. Here my advice would be to use the Pomodoro technique to start working on the task for 25 minutes. Then take a break.

28 December: Close Your Laptop early to enjoy Swiss-Greek Apéro Culture

Enjoy an aperitif at YAMAS Zurich, the little Greek restaurant with a flair for the meatpacking district and Greek hospitality. You can also check out this great blog for more ideas: Newinzurich.

29 December: Movie Catch-Up Night

Do you always want to go and see movies but you end up watching them on your laptop like me? Are you a cinema lover who is just too much of a nerd to go there alone? Why don’t you challenge yourself, pick a movie that you missed seeing this year, and go to FRAME, the new house of the Zurich Film Festival? 

30 December: Pamper Day

No matter what gender you identify with, we all need a pamper day at least once a year. Book an appointment at your favorite spa and enjoy the treatment. PURE Beauty Spa in Seefeld is great for that. Mention us for a discount.

Don’t forget to stock up on groceries. If you’re like me, you probably have an empty fridge by now. 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 or a new outfit from Adam Brody?

31 December 2023: New Year’s Eve 

It’s time to let go. For me, this will also be the day when I write down everything I’m grateful for in my life and what my wishes are for 2024. Review your RockMeApp archives too. Go to “View Weekly Reflections History”, Write down everything you wish to leave in the old year on a Farewell List and burn it (outside in a safe place).

Afterwards take a stroll on Lake Zurich to Zurichhorn, A nice place to spend the afternoon with a glass of champagne and salmon sandwich and a piano player used to be the bar at the SAVOY Hotel. It seems that it will re-open so check it out.


I promised you a second part of this post on the “Twelve Days of Christmas” as a lonely Expat in Zurich or elsewhere in the world.

1 January 2024: New Year’s Day 

Most of you will still have a hangover from New Year’s Eve and want to sleep in. I like to recommend fresh air and a hangover brunch to cure any headaches. Also, you could just drink less this year and go to the gym or do a yoga session. I would like to challenge you to join in for Dry January.

2 January 2024: Berchthold Day

Berchtold Day is a regional holiday in many cantons (Aargau, Bern, Fribourg, Glarus, Jura, Lucerne, Neuchâtel, Obwalden, Schaffhausen, Solothurn, Thurgau, Vaud, Zug, Zurich, Nidwalden) so unless you work for a foreign company not respecting the local laws (or run your own) you will probably have the day off. You could take the train to Davos and enjoy the amazing atmosphere there. Another beautiful place I recommend is Lindau in Germany. The additional benefit of going to Lindau is that the shops will be open there. 

3 January 2024: Slow Start at Work

You wanted to be an early starter this year and be ahead of the pack. You will be back at work wondering where you left things before the holidays. It might feel a bit harder than usual. Your iPad needs charging, you forgot a few passwords and the building is 18 degrees Celsius only. This is a great day to enjoy an extended lunch with a colleague in the city. Leave the office a bit earlier than usual and catch up on your work reading.

I love the first week of January for research and lecture preparation. Before New Year’s Eve, I’d rather catch up on novels and escapist drama (Don’t let me explain how disappointed I was with the last season of The Crown). Come 1 Jan 2024 my grown-up self is back and wants to take charge. Out with the magic, in with the science. Hit me with those Global Mobility reports, trend updates, and economic predictions of what to expect for 2024. Recession or no recession, investments in shares or money markets, housing prices, conversion issues, 

The light shifts and my mood too.

Also, lecture notes need updating.

Our Ten Commandments for the Global Mobility Manager



4 January 2024: Setting 2024 Intentions

This year we are forgetting New Year’s resolutions and working with setting intentions.

If you haven’t done so yet, this is the time where you should review your three major career goals in the RockMeApp and also check where you are on your learning schedule. As you know I am teaching practices to help you stay focussed and grounded. Check your ten practices. Are they still relevant? Do you need other practices in 2024? What are new learning goals? Can you evaluate your learning over the past year? Did you learn what you had promised yourself?

Check your data too. Do you have any measure of your progress that you can improve year over year? I have a spreadsheet with numbers. Data can be annoying if you can’t see visible progress so you must clarify your definition of success for yourself first. This would be a good topic for your next coaching session with me too.





5 January 2024: First Baby Step Day

Let’s get serious about the job market. If you are looking for a new role or are considering moving to Zurich, Switzerland right now I would say be carefully optimistic. We are still dealing with the fallout of the merger of Credit Suisse and UBS and we need to be mindful that not every job in Zurich is purely English-speaking. At the same time, there is a gap between skilled workers and talent that seems to be prevailing for certain role profiles. It’s best if you check your area of work closely before making hasty decisions. If you have not resigned yet due to stress or frustration you might still consider this over the next few weeks. If you just moved here you are probably more concerned about settling in and making it here in Switzerland. If you are serious about raising your profile, finding a new job, or getting your cash flow in order this year I invite you to join our free lunch workshops in preparation for our HireMeExpress program. Start with a baby step today.

Start a Business or Land Your Dream Job with HireMeExpress – From Frustrated to Fantastic in 90 Days


6 January 2024: Epiphany / Three Kings

This is NOT a holiday in Zurich so normally you would have to work, but not this year because it is a Saturday. One of my favorite traditions in the Swiss work environment is the “Dreikönigskuchen (King’s Cake) which you can also just buy for yourself. This is gender neutral so if you win the king as a female you would be the Queen for the day. What would you allow yourself to do if you were the Queen? One idea I love from Downton Abbey is that the ladies of the house have breakfast in bed. That would be my wish to be the Queen of the Day.

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