Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dear Frau: Do you miss the U.S. and your family?

Welcome to another edition of Dear Frau. It's kind of like Dear Abby, except with an international twist. If you have a question about moving to Switzerland or life abroad, don't hesitate to contact The Frau. For previous Dear Frau posts, click here.

Dear Frau,

I came upon your blog as I was researching life in Switzerland. I wanted to know if you miss living in the U.S. and if you have intentions of moving back? Selfishly, as a mother with an only child who might end up living in Europe, do you miss your mom and family? I hope my child does not decide to stay over in Europe. I did travel there for work but would not want to live there as I have a large family here.

Thanks for your answer.


American Mom

Dear American Mom,

Originally the Frau came to Switzerland for three years with the full intention of moving back to the U.S. in 2009. It’s now 2011 and she’s still in Switzerland. There are many reasons for this, including that she and her husband have good jobs here, they enjoy the outdoorsy lifestyle, and until the baby came along, the travel opportunities.

Does she miss the U.S.? Well, she misses her family, the friendly people, the affordable food, and owning a house. But she doesn't miss her car, the crazy work hours, or the endless strip malls.

Are her parents disappointed she’s still here? Yes, of course. Especially considering there’s a grandchild in the mix now too. Does the grandchild change things? Perhaps. Time will tell. After all, Skype video calls only bridge the distance so much. And of course she misses her family. That’s hands-down the hardest part about living abroad. But consider this:

The Frau sees her family more now than she ever did when she was living in Virginia and they were in Illinois. When she was in Virginia, she had two weeks of vacation time a year. Her parents would come visit for a four-day weekend and she would come home for Christmas for a few days, but that was about it. She often worked weekends and basically had no life except for her job. Now she has five weeks of vacation and is living in a culture that accepts that a new mother might want to take six months of maternity leave instead of the standard three. In addition to her husband's six weeks of vacation time, her husband’s boss didn’t blink twice when he asked for an additional three weeks of unpaid paternity leave so he could be there for his new daughter and also have a week off when his mother visits.

In the last year, The Frau has seen her family more than ever. She was home at Christmas for two weeks. Her family was here in June for two weeks. Her father was here in September for a week, and her parents are coming back in December for two and a half weeks.

This is not to say that getting together does not require time, effort, and money for expensive long-haul flight tickets. And of course it’s not ideal to spend so much time together in big blocks with so much space in between visits. But unless the Frau and her parents lived in the same town in the U.S., she doesn’t know how the situation would be much different, except perhaps mentally knowing they were all living in the same country.

The Frau hopes this helps. Anyone else want to chime in on the topic of being far from family and how they cope?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Ultimate Hausfrau

I never planned to have a baby abroad, but then again I never planned to live abroad longer than three years. And life does go on—even when you feel more like you’re living in limbo than anywhere else.

One week ago, I had a baby. A beautiful little girl that I’ll call M for this blog’s purposes, for Maedchen, the German word for girl. The birth of M officially marks me as both a mother, and now, as I stay home for the next six months on maternity leave, I will become someone else: a true Swiss Hausfrau. I’ll try to document the ups and downs on this blog without turning it into a baby-centric Internet address that scares off non-mothers and men.

So far, I feel more like a walking zombie than a Swiss Hausfrau but maybe they are one in the same. I spent five days in the hospital and now I am lucky to have found an English-speaking German midwife who visits me once a day for about an hour to check how things are going—or to make sure I’m still sane, I’m not sure which. Swiss insurance pays for a midwife to visit you at home for up to 10 days after the birth of your baby.

The midwife and I discuss enlightening topics like swollen feet, breast pumps, and strange Swiss homeopathic treatments, which I’ll go into more detail in another post.

My husband has taken two weeks of unpaid leave (fathers in Switzerland are typically given only one paid day of paternity leave—mothers get 90 days) to help out and bond with his daughter. My neighbor joked that he is now a Hausmann, but then said he had always kind of been one anyway (she was always amazed that he ironed his own shirts, cooked, and did laundry). So this Hausfrau has a lot of help for now. And she is sehr Dankbar for that.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Five Swiss Websites That Could Use a Makeover

There is something that even after living in Switzerland for five years I cannot understand: Why Swiss companies can't design a decent website. I realize that like most things in Switzerland, 20 years behind the times is about standard. And nothing proves this point more than these websites. Yes. Instead of designing for the Internet, these companies seem to think it works to design for direct mail and use the direct mail ad as the website.

There are two things wrong with this approach:

1. Direct mail is bad enough in paper format.
2. Direct mail on the web is even worse.

Most of these websites also seem to forget that online commerce is something that is possible in the 21st century. Heaven forbid I would want to see an overview of what a store sells and actually order something with my credit card.

Anyhow, here is a good representation of the quality of a .ch. Have fun.

Are you often frustrated by Swiss websites? Know of any other bad ones I'd enjoy?


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