Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dear Frau: Where are the Expat Families?

Welcome to the second edition of Dear Frau. It's kind of like Dear Abby, except with an international twist. If you have a question, be sure to contact the Frau and maybe it will be featured on next week's Dear Frau.

Dear Frau,

We’re moving from the U.S. to Baden, Switzerland. I am a stay-at-home mom and have two kids (ages 1 and 3). I am worried because it seems like most people that move to Switzerland are married with no kids. Do you see a lot of families in that area?



The Frau knows it's hard to believe, but The Internet lies sometimes. It may seem as if most expats in Switzerland don't have kids, but that is because most Swiss expat bloggers are married with no kids. Most parents don't have time to keep up a frivolous thing like a blog. They're too busy trying to determine what the heck their child, who now speaks Swiss German, was saying.

But the Frau digresses. There are hundreds of Americans with children in Switzerland. Many of them never leave. If you don't believe her, check out The American Women’s Club of Zurich. This organization especially caters to American women and their children. The Frau found out the hard way by joining and then feeling left out because she was ohne Kinder.

Anyhow, Switzerland loves families and will probably grant you those coveted B-permits right away because you are a stay-at-home mom and that’s what this country desires all women to be. That first morning the Frau went out in Baden, she saw hundreds of women pushing baby carriages, sitting at cafes smoking, and buying groceries. Don’t people work here? She thought.

The answer is no. Many married women do not work in Switzerland, and this includes the foreigners. The thing is, Swiss society does all it can to keep it this way. They keep stores open only until 6 p.m. They send children home from school at lunchtime. And childcare isn’t readily available (or affordable) unless there are grandparents nearby.

That said, the Frau thinks Switzerland is a wonderful place to raise children if one of the parents is committed to staying at home. And your kids will love Switzerland because the big slide parks haven’t been taken down and replaced with boring plastic tubes in order to avoid lawsuits and therefore avoid fun.

But the Frau is no expert on kids so here are a few other websites to check out:

Mami Zeit is a website for international moms.

Swiss Family Mac is a great blog written by an American mother of two. You don't have to be a mom to love Mrs. Mac's sense of humor.

Now, the Frau has run out of ideas. Anyone else have some advice? What’s living in Switzerland like with kids (or family members that act like kids)? Any other resources or blogs to know about for our newcomer? If you've got a blog about being a mother abroad, please leave a link!


Amy McCown said...

When we moved to Zurich we had a 1 year old and had another baby while we were living over there. I found playgroups, Moms and Tots groups, and the expat family yahoo groups a great way to meet people and finding chid friendly activities. The parks are another great way to meet people. I was already staying at home when we moved so it was not a big adjustment for me to continue doing so. is a good resource. It does focus on Zurich, but there are a lot of other tips and activities outside of the city. Good luck with your move.

Chantal said...

Thanks, Amy, this is very helpful!

mrsmac said...

Just saw this, we have been in Heidelberg for the week!

There are a TON of families here with children. It's not a problem :)

I will be back to say more later tonight; we just got back home and I have to unpack.

Thanks for the shout out Frau!

Chantal said...

Mrs Mac, how was Heidelberg? I love that city!

Yes, if you have anything else to share that would be great since you're a blogger mom!

mrsmac said...

Heidelberg was great! We were there all week which was nice. We had time to explore and give the kids their naps. And we found a great chocolate store. I am going to miss that place.

Anyway, for your writer.

Yes, there are a ton of expat families in and around Zurich.

The yahoo groups are a great place to start (my email can be found through my blog fro more information).

Schools and playgroups are also a great place. There are many bilingual and international places to meet other families.

And there's always the play area go to. First, you go to the playground/bounce house/kids museum/park etc. Second, you spot a family with kids- and they are speaking English! Third, you corner them, introduce yourself, and go from there.

That totally works.

Thing is, other moms are desperate to find playmates for their kids too. And, just like the non kid set, expat families are here without a support system and want to socialize. It is a great set up to make friends.

Good luck with your move!

Chantal said...

Great advice, thanks for your help!

Hattie said...

I had two kids, worked part time as an English teacher, put my kids in an all day school and had my own car and clothes dryer when I lived in Switzerland. Boy was I unpopular!
Kicker: I'm still married and a lot of those marriages with perfect little wifie and mom at home broke up!
I must confess to some Schadenfreude there, but only because they gave me such a hard time when I knew they were dying of boredom.

Chantal said...

Hi Hattie,

Thanks for your input. The poor Swiss housewife. Yes, I think everyone is happier when they do what they want instead of what society expects them to do. It's too bad Swiss society is so stringent when it comes to the expectations for housewives. Because you're right, I'm sure that leads to many divorces!

Therese said...

Hi Chantal.
This is always an important topic and my tip is:

For networking with other international moms in Switzerland i recomend joining the Mamicafé:

In Zürich, Luzern and Nyon they have coffee-mornings two or three times a month.

Lamielle here! said...

Hi Chantal,

I moved to Switzerland 1 and half year ago and I found a lot of couples here with childrens. I think it is depend on their arrangement. some people like me who's knew to this place doesn't want to have a kids right away since I am still adjusting with the country. I am also sorry to hear about the group of frau you went and left alone because you do not have kinder..Anyway, nice blog and very impormative. I'd love to add you to my blogroll if you dont mind :) have a great week!

Globatris said...

When I moved to Zürich i joined the WAC in Uster; an activity club not only for women but for families. it´s open all day and also do special activities on weekends and nights. Read about the mom disco here , and about my efforts to create contact with other living souls in Switzerland (& link to WAC).

In the same building there is the Learning Tree pre-school and afternoon classes for older kids. Many people like myself has found their new friends and "family" here!

I have now left Switzerland and blog about my expat years in different places and about repatriation at
I also run a small business helping women and families to settle abroad/back home - not practically but in their hearts and minds!

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Lindsey said...

Of course I ran across you in my searching, Chantal! :) This post is so great. What a blast from the past. xoxo

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