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.
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.
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?