Thursday, July 08, 2010

Dear Frau: Should I Move to Zurich?

Welcome to the latest edition of Dear Frau. It's kind of like Dear Abby, except with an international twist. If you have a question about life in Switzerland, be sure to contact the Frau and maybe your little Frage will be in the next Dear Frau column. And as always, the Frau does not have all the answers and welcomes your solutions to these questions in the comments section.

Dear Frau,

My company would like me to relocate to Zurich. Whilst I am experiencing ‘London Fatigue’ my vision certainly did not include this city. Not even in my periphery.

I speak no German but some French if this might help? Whilst many seem concerned with moving with spouses, family housing and children’s schools my concern is me, myself and I. (Not that I am altogether selfish, truly!) So what it’s like as a single woman living in Zurich? Any recommendations for best areas to live? (Near or in the city, a fruit/veggie market & coffee shop if possible, a gym and green space to go for a run.) And I will miss my gaggle of girlfriends and would be great to meet some friends in Zurich, suggestions for groups to join? I daren’t ask about dating.

Lastly, I have lived abroad before and travel fairly often so know it’s important to be open – but have heard more negatives than positive about Zurich. Cold people, weather, rigid, unwelcoming, etc. that I am needless a touch wary. Would really appreciate a response.

Best,

Single in the City

Dear Single in the City,

You’ve got a lot of questions here, so let’s address one at a time.

Will French help? Um, probably as much as English or German will help. The problem with living in Zurich is that Swiss people in Zurich don’t speak French, German, or English. They speak Züri-deutsch, which is really another language entirely. Züri-deutsch is a Swiss German dialect. Swiss German is a secret language, which makes sense for a country with secret bank accounts, but doesn’t make much sense to expats, who try to learn German and then realize they still can’t understand anything without crossing the border.

What’s it like to be a single woman in Zurich? The Frau will just say this: Not only does “Frau” mean “woman” but it also means “wife.” Clearly Fraus are not meant to be single in German-speaking worlds. But look on the bright side—you won’t be taxed extra for being a married woman that works (yes, this is a fact of life in Switzerland. Please tell me why no one is protesting discrimination?).

To be honest, the Frau does not really know what it is like to be a single gal in Zurich, but she has friends that do know and is hoping they will comment here. She does know that one of her single friends dated many Swiss men and found them all boring. I guess these guys didn’t talk much and the Frau’s friend always felt like she had to lead the conversation. But the world has a lot of boring guys. The Frau’s friend may have just been unlucky. The Frau herself has a couple of Swiss guy friends that are so far from boring that they sing Frank Sinatra tunes in strip clubs to earn extra vacation days at their Zurich ad agency. Yes.

Any recommendations on where to live? The short answer: wherever you can find an apartment. Zurich has less than 1% vacancy so it's hard to be picky. The long answer: read Where should I live in Zurich? Be sure to check the comments. And don’t worry about green space and a place to jog. Foot trails in Switzerland are literally outside every doorstep.

Any suggestions for groups to join? I would start a blog and join the Swiss Expat Bloggers. That’s how I’ve met a lot of people. Blog writers tend to be younger and without children for the obvious reason that they have time to blog. There are plenty of other organizations in Zurich for expats, but these tend to be filled with wives of CEOs who have 2.5 kids, eat $50 lunches every day, and spend their time shopping at Prada. There’s nothing wrong with shopping at Prada. If you like purses.

Cold people, weather, rigid, unwelcoming? Cold people: yes, they can seem that way as they don’t usually smile or make small talk with strangers. But if you can get past their hard exterior the Swiss people are generally kind and loyal. Weather: you’ll be fine with it. You come from London. Rigid: yes, do not put your garbage out a minute too early or you will pay the price. Unwelcoming: yes, there is a lot of xenophobia in Switzerland. On one hand, can you blame the Swiss when 20% of their country is foreign? On the other hand, the discrimination against certain kinds of foreigners is outright embarrassing for a country that prides itself on being neutral. The United Nations agrees.

Ok, yodelers, the Frau does not have all the answers. Let’s help Single in the City make a wise decision. Should she move to Zurich? The Frau thinks she should. She thinks there's a reason so many expats come to Switzerland and then never leave. What do you say?

21 comments:

jillsblog said...

"these [expat clubs] tend to be filled with wives of CEOs who have 2.5 kids, eat $50 lunches every day, and spend their time shopping at Prada."

I used to think this too, but no, it is not true (at least in my experience). I'm a member of the American Womens Club of Zurich and I am the opposite of that description. And I've lived outside the U.S. for 10 years now -- long enough to see the high-end and low-end of expat life. At this club, I have found a very wide range of experiences, professions, ages, family situations and interests. We smile at each other, laugh out loud, call you by name, and ask "how are you REALLY doing?" Among our members are MBA students, artists, full-time career girls -- and many are scraping by to live in this expensive town just like "non-CEO wife" people. There are some seniors in our midst, and they offer such a warm embrace and some darn good American eats -- I love them! Makes me miss my family a tiny bit less.

Women have enough stereotypes to cope with in S'land, eh? Why perpetuate this one? Other than this, I am totally tracking with you. I hope Single in the City will give it a try despite all the negatives. As we know, it is an amazing place!

Chantal said...

Hi Jillsblog,

Thanks for your input. Perhaps I just had a bad experience at the club I was in. It is great to have a support network and fantastic that these clubs exist.

mrschlosser said...

I came to Switzerland single (now married with two kids), and I have to say dating Swiss men really didn't do it for me. Although I know some really great Swiss guys, I ended up marrying a German.

As for expat clubs -- like any clubs out there -- they are what you make of it. Find the one that works for you and attend regularly the events that you like. When I was young and single (lol), I had the most fun and met the most people through classes, e.g. running, that weren't geared towards a particular nationality.

mrschlosser said...

I came to Switzerland single (now married with two kids), and I have to say dating Swiss men really didn't do it for me. Although I know some really great Swiss guys, I ended up marrying a German.

As for expat clubs -- like any clubs out there -- they are what you make of it. Find the one that works for you and attend regularly the events that you like. When I was young and single (lol), I had the most fun and met the most people through classes, e.g. running, that weren't geared towards a particular nationality.

Jo Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jo Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chantal said...

The other option is to form your own club if you don't see the kind of thing you'd like. A couple writers and myself just formed the Zurich Writers Workshop. Our first event will be in October.

Angela said...

Ah, the Swiss dating scene... I dated a lot while I was living in Zurich -- Swiss German guys, a Swiss French guy, a German guy, and it was more of an amusing pastime than anything else. I have lots of funny stories, but never really clicked with anyone I felt like keeping around for more than a few months. Coming from the vast ocean of Manhattan, where there are plenty of fish in the sea (which I imagine is the case in London), I was not impressed by the small selection of fish available in Zurich. Still fun, though.

I enjoyed my four years there very much, I am glad I went, and I still miss parts of it. I wouldn't live there forever, though, because it isn't a place where a foreigner can ever fully integrate, especially foreigners who are also non-Caucasian.

shelley darcy said...

If you're single in Zurich and you want to meet someone, go to singleinzurich.com

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