Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Hello, Wife

Guten Tag, yodelers (oops, how High German of me),

Hope everyone had a great holiday. While I recover from my first Nachtzug experience (more on that later), I wanted to share an essay that some of you might be able to relate to--especially if you are a trailing spouse.

I think most of us Fraus and Hausmanns know that in the end, it's worth a little identity confusion for the opportunity to live and travel abroad. But that doesn't mean it is always easy.

After all, the first time I translated what was on my Swiss permit, I practically had a heart attack. It was something like: "Only allowed in country because of Husband. Not worthy otherwise."

Thanks, Switzerland.

Read my essay, Expat, in Skirt! Magazine this month for more on identity at a (European) crossroads.


mrsmac said...

whoa! off to translate my permit.

and i love that one of the recommended posts at the bottom of this one is of the new swiss beauty queen :)

Chantal said...

Ha, ha. I do love a good Swiss beauty queen. Especially the male version who believes that women can only get pregnant when it's a full moon. (I've got to stop reading 20 Minuten...)

Of course, my translation of the permit speak is a loose one...or perhaps an embellished one. :-) But it basically says just that.

mrschlosser said...

Just so you know, the permit explanation has nothing to do with being a tag-along wife. I was in Switzerland working before I met my husband, but when we got married, my permit changed to "family reasons" as well -- even though nothing but my name and marital status had changed!

Chantal said...

Hmm. Interesting. So it has more to do with being a Frau. Oh well. I'm not surprised...

Yo said...

Chantal, this is a great essay, probably the best I have read on your blog... When I moved here five years ago I had the same fears, that's why I got a job first and then moved in with my Swiss boyfriend (now husband).

But as of March this year I am on unexpected sick leave ( need extra rest before my baby is born). And I miss work and although I am not American "if I'm not busy I'm not worthy" is exactly how I felt. Why do we all buy this weird logic is a mystery for me....

I can assure you, you are not just a wife. Because, see, I do not know Brian or his boss, but I know your writing. And I like it :)!

Chantal said...

Yo, thanks. It's great to hear you liked the essay. I appreciate your feedback. Yes, I know I'm not just a wife. But some days in Switzerland (especially with the way women are often treated in society here) it's hard not to feel otherwise.

Good luck with the baby. That will keep you busy!

Tina said...

What a great essay!

I can so identify just being the wife while I was in Geneva.

Now living this post expat life - I am so happy I sacrificed my previous job title for the experience.

It certainly changed the course of my life forever, as well as the perspective of taking things slow!

Thanks for the article!

Chantal said...

Hi Tina,

Thanks. Good to hear from you and I'm glad that looking back on it all it was a good experience.

erika said...

Great essay, Chantal! Love the part about going places and seeing them too :)


Chantal said...

Hi Erika,

Thanks. Yes, it's been a great experience to learn how to slow down the pace of life and really see things instead of always rushing through them.

Melania said...

I can relate and I love that you ended your essay on a positive note. It's been interesting to examine my life as a career woman in NYC, vs. a Hausfrau who doesn't even have kids to raise. What defines me and what gives me a feeling of self worth? I've heard the work ethic in Switzerland is much better than the US. It's not assumed you will work late hours and weekends and holidays. We'll see what happens. My job search has begun as of this week. I hope to find balance.

Chantal said...

Hi Melania,

Being a Hausfrau has its perks.

Yes, work/life balance is better in Switzerland, especially from the perspective of part-time work. Many corporations allow men and women to work 40-80% jobs and I know some parents who both work 80% so they can each have one day a week with their child. That is really nice.

And working the weekend is not usually a must. You're not even supposed to do laundry on a Sunday, let alone work!

Europeans in general are fine with enjoying more time off in exchange for less material items. I kind of like it.

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