Monday, August 31, 2015

The German Chicago Expat Group

Recently, The Frau was interviewing a researcher who studies repatriation and her advice to struggling repatriates is 1. To find a way to continue their language skills and 2. To join expat groups related to their former countries.

The Frau is already doing both. 

See, The Frau went to an outdoor concert in Burr Ridge on Friday evening. She did not attend for the music (it was the kind of concert where old white men in the audience played air guitar to the tunes); she attended for the opportunity to speak German with a group of expats from Germany who have a lot of Geduld for her Deutsch.

Bad American music, but good
German conversation.  The Frau with her
Chicago-based German friends.
It may or may not make sense, but as an eternal expat at heart, The Frau feels most comfortable when surrounded by some level of challenge or discomfort. So she seeks out situations where she can continue her fish out of water existence. Meeting up with Chicago’s unofficial west suburban German expat group is one way to continue both her language skills and the strange sense of enjoyment she finds from feeling like an outsider.

Anyway. The outdoor concert in Burr Ridge was amazing because people were allowed to drink wine and beer. As one may or may not know, Americans cannot just crack open a can of beer when and where the spirit moves them. The Frau’s German friends were laughing because while beer and wine were acceptable at this outdoor American concert, smoking cigarettes was not.

To smoke, one had to set their beer on their lawn chair and go to the parking lot.

Parking lots are the new American smoking lounges.

You can’t smoke in American restaurants and bars—even in outdoor seating areas. And you can’t smoke at the local outdoor swimming pool either. Nor can you smoke directly outside the door to a public place—you must smoke at least 15 feet away from that door.

So in most public American places, you must leave the outdoors to smoke outdoors. The Frau can’t say she minds, as it is refreshing to be able to breathe after almost a decade spent holding her breath in Switzerland, but it is an interesting cultural phenomenon, especially when viewed through the eyes of The Frau’s German expat group.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Don't Bike On My American Road, You Crazy European!

The Frau became an avid biker in Switzerland. In her village, she'd go out the door and bike up road that led to the castle above her town and to the woods beyond that. The only danger around was the police, who once pulled her over for biking in a pedestrian zone.

Back in Chicago now, The Frau wishes she could keep up her biking. It's a nice way to get a workout and avoid using a car, but unfortunately, she doesn't like biking around her Chicago suburb. The roads are filled with potholes and it's hard to find a road without a lot of traffic. Bike lanes are non-existent and sidewalks aren't wide enough for someone with a bike trailer. 

There is a lovely path through a forest preserve to the Brookfield Zoo, which The Frau biked last weekend, but the forest preserve it goes through is divided into sections and one must cross multiple-lane highways at least five times before they get to the zoo. And there are no overpasses or underpasses for biker and pedestrian traffic like there are in Switzerland. It's quite dangerous. 

Today solidified the cultural mindset towards active Americans. The Frau was biking home from a local farmer's market, pulling Toddler M in a bike trailer, when a driver passing her said, "You shouldn't ride that on the road."

Wow. Excuse The Frau. But where should she ride her bike? On the non-existent sidewalk? If any fellow American has an answer for where The Frau should ride her bike in America, The Frau is all ears. Because come on, people. Have overweight, inactive Americans driving large vehicles won the right to all American roads? 

So far, due to a lack of bike lanes and safe pedestrian crossings, sadly, The Frau must say yes.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Dear Frau: How Can I Move to Switzerland?

The Frau has been a bit overwhelmed lately. Her inbox is still overflowing from the Vox piece about how Switzerland ruined The Frau for American life.

One of the things many people asked in their emails was this: How Can I Move To Switzerland Too?

Out of exhaustion and guilt for not replying to every person, The Frau has decided to answer this question here. But she’d like your help, yodelers. If you’ve moved to Switzerland from elsewhere, what was your path? If you don’t mind leaving a note in the comments, it would help a lot of people who are tired of America and ready for a country whose government actually cares about its people.

That being said, as The Frau has said before—and has also written an entire book about—the reality of life in Switzerland is not always a box of chocolates either.

But for those who still want to go abroad, The Frau’s recommended path is her own:

Work for an international company in your own country for a couple of years.
Once they like you, ask if a transfer would be possible.
If they say yes, great. You’re set. Hopefully moving costs and bureaucracy are taken care of. (Well, the bureaucracy never ends…just so you know.)

Another path?
Go abroad as a student. The Frau met with a nice young man from Chicago this week who wants to get out of Chicago. His plan is law school in Australia. That works too.

Another path?
Go visit Switzerland and try to network while you’re there. This could work, eventually, never say never. Or hey, apply to jobs in the country via various job boards or through a recruiter. Just know that unless you have VERY unique skills (especially if you’re from the U.S. or Canada—in other words, NOT living in the European Union), your path will be hard. The Swiss government requires any company giving a foreigner a job to prove to them that they couldn’t find a Swiss person to do that work. Or a non-EU person. Americans are third-string in Switzerland. That’s why it’s better to try the first two paths if you can.

Still have questions? Any yodelers have answers or other paths? Leave a comment.


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