Its been about 3.5 years since I moved to good old Switzerland and as I was thinking back I realized that there are some things that are somewhat normal for me now that were complete shockers in the beginning.
We all experience things differently and I do not assume that everyone has had it this way, this is just my version.
- Calling older people by first name – It was all mixed emotions meeting his family in person. It was not until his parents introduced themselves by first name that I thought about what I would call them. We were raised calling adults aunt, uncle, mum and dad and now I was confronted with calling his parents by first name. This went against everything I was taught. I later learnt that it is actually nice for people when you call them by first name. I am fine with it now but I will not pretend that it came naturally to me!
- Being served by my father in law – in the Shona culture, we are expected to show respect to our in-laws in many ways. I knew from the onset that I would not be expected to kneel and serve food but what I did not see coming was my father-in-law bringing me tea while I sat comfortably on the couch. I have never felt lazier in my life than I did in that moment, I could not help but think my family would be so disappointed in me if they witnessed this level of laziness. After 3 plus years its easy come easy go.
- Elections– Heck these folks vote all the time, for everything! I quickly learnt another definition to democracy. I guess its one of the few countries in the world where the voters, not the vote counters determine the election outcome.
- Drinking – My notions of drinking were toppled. Women openly drink beer and are not looked down on. This may not apply universally but the way I know it is that back home, women can have wine and ciders but for them to handle a bottle of beer with the men and it be easy going was a shocker for me. Am scratching the surface on prejudices here, I know, this is just the tip.
- The three kisses – My first “three kiss experience” was after a camp in Zimbabwe when my husband was saying goodbye, two weeks after we met. I took this personal as a declaration of his undying love for me. You can imagine what went through my head when I arrived in Switzerland half a year later and noticed that it was a common greeting (luckily there were other signs that he would love me for a really long time). I am used to the idea of three kisses, I just never know who to handshake, hug, chest bump and who to give the three kisses. I will probably never figure it out but thats alright for me.
3.5 years down the line and all I can say about me and Zurich is that it was love at first sight. My all time favorite food has become Raclette, I just cannot stop! I support the Zurich Grasshoppers all the way and am sure that they are way better than FC Basel and Young Boys. I panic when the tram is 2mins late. I run for trams like a maniac even when I know that another will arrive in 7mins. I usually try to be on time or earlier for appointments because its Switzerland and also cause I am on a mission to break the stereotype that Africans are always late!
Don’t get it twisted though, I am happy to fit in but I know that I was born to stand out. I adjust to my surroundings but remain true to by inner-being. This is my happy place, when you find yours, then I hope you dance!