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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Zurich, Switzerland

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?


Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

I had to make my own experiences in Switzerland. No training in anything.

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

I speak the language. It is my mother tongue.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

No not at all. We have lived 12 years in Asia and I have never been confronted with a culture shock. Not even in South Korea nor China.

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

The Swiss culture shock was shocking. Even that I speak the language. You hear Switzerland, all must work like a clock, well I've been taught the opposite. Not much works like a clock. The inwritten rules we have learned with our years in Asia could be easily applied here too.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

Oh yes, we are here now 2 years and I count every day we will leave again. The current stage of culture shock is still on! It is hard, very hard to make friends with the Swiss. When they hear you are just a few years here... well you will see their back...

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

changes in myself did not happen so far. I try to be still open minded, to keep a wide horizon instead of a tunnel view I have recognized by Swiss.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

The air is clean, we can ski on weekends in winter. You see the mountains. But that's about it. I personally appreciate Asia much more.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Making friends with Swiss

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

hmmmm... Swiss sometimes do not understand German jokes. I laugh but the Swiss don't !

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

If you like to make Swiss friends, tell them you stay long term 10 years and above. That might will do the deal on this. Don't expect that a Swiss will call you back. Take it in your own hands, if you wish to stay in contact. Ask Swiss over for lunch dinner first. Swiss neighbor expect to be invited to a Apero' when you just have moved in! Do it, get drinks and finger food :) Get familiar with the garden rules, if you rent/buy a house. Living in an appartment, there are even house rules. Get familiar with them. Dealing with gardener, workers in the house, appartment..etc. Check the hours, square meters...just all what is written on the bill. Ask them to write the offers without hidden costs. Many friends & we had quite a few probs in that matter. To many hours written on the bill, to many square meters in garden...etc. There you know, why I like Asia more. Never had probs in this kind there! Overall Swiss are very friendly people. Living costs are high, I think not quite addressed. Many drive over to Germany to shop food & cloth.

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Comments about this Report

Sep 22, 2010 18:26

As an "Auslandschweizer" (born in Switzerland, living abroad" I can only agree with you on the fact that Swiss people are hard to get close to. Even though I AM Swiss I might just as well have been be Chinese or any other non-Swiss nationality you could come up with when I lived in Switzerland for 2 non-consecutive years. I grew up with Swiss parents, spoke the "Schwiizerduetsch" language at home, was familiar with all the Swiss peculiarities (yes, all of them), and still did not find acceptance. I was glad to leave the country of my birth, and I went back only once - to find that staying away was the perfect solution for me.

Jan 12, 2015 07:58

Hello, My family and I lived in Zurich for a few years, from 2000 to 2004 we all found it very difficult. One of the things I found very helpful was to tap into the expat community by way of the IPC church, bunch of wonderful people. Living in Zurich was a great adventure, I'd suggest learning coping skills to help with xenophobia tendencies in the general population. Best of luck...

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