The arrival of November marks my one-year anniversary of living in Switzerland!
It really crept up on me…the fact that I have been here a year didn’t sink in until it came time to renew my work permit this week. Upon reflection, there could be no more appropriate way to spend my one-year Swiss anniversary than in the city administrative bureau, waiting in line to fill out some forms. In all seriousness, though, it has been a spectacular year and I am very grateful for how things have turned out.At regular intervals over the past year, I have kept checking in with myself, asking: Do I feel at home in Switzerland yet? How about now? like an insomniac keeping themselves awake by constantly checking to see if they’re falling asleep (and no, I wouldn’t know anything about that…why do you ask?)
Of course, I am massively more comfortable living Swiss daily life than I was a year ago. Going to the grocery store is now a routine affair rather than a terrifying expedition, and I can gaze absently out the window of the metro like all the other passengers rather than obsessively checking the route chart on the wall to make sure I haven’t missed my stop. I’m especially proud of how relaxed I’ve become about speaking French…notice, I didn’t say I’ve improved much, but my fear of speaking has decreased dramatically. I no longer over-think and practice in advance of opening my mouth…I trust myself to be able to get by in most situations, even though the words rarely come out in exactly the right order.
But the truth is, I can’t quite say that I feel totally at home yet…I am still self-conscious – still overly aware that I am living in a different country and culture. It’s kind of like getting braces on your teeth…for the first week or so, all you can think is, I am wearing braces! So, this is what wearing braces feels like. I can’t imagine what it feels like to not wear braces anymore!…etc., etc. After a month of wearing braces, you don’t think about them at all…they become part of you, and you don’t feel or notice them unless someone mentions them to you (“Did you know you have spinach in your braces?”).
Basically, I think that feeling completely at home, and feeling like I really belong, are another year or two away for me. But for once, this does not stress me out too much, because I know that based on the progress I’ve made this year, I’ll get there eventually. And the longer I am here, the more things I realize I love about Switzerland…not the least of which is our new apartment, which my husband and I are still in the process of fixing up and furnishing, but which is so warm and cozy as the cool weather sets in. I still can’t quite believe it’s ours, and that the long hunt for a place to live is over!
I’ll have more new things to write about, soon. Next month, the office I work in will be picking up and moving to Geneva, and so I will soon be spending a significant chunk of my time in a different Swiss city. I have been to Geneva a handful of times, but not enough to know it well or see more than the most famous landmarks. I am looking forward to the change…our new building will be bigger and more comfortable, and I think working in Geneva will be exciting. It will add about 30 minutes to my commute each morning, but my feeling is that 40 minutes aboard a Swiss train twice a day is better than any length of time stuck in traffic!Also, in a few weeks we’ll be taking a short vacation to Modena, Italy, to spend a couple of days walking around and to try a restaurant that my husband has been interested in. It is only a few hours from here by train…for me, being able to visit other countries without having to board a plane is a thrill that will never grow old! We might even take a day trip to Bologna. I will be sure to post photos when we return!