Monday, June 20, 2016

How do you feel about U.S. policies after living abroad? Disappointed.

Moving Abroad: It can change your view of your own country’s policies. The Frau speaks from experience. When she lived in Switzerland and experienced Swiss policies personally, she was constantly contemplating and comparing them with her homeland’s. Her overall conclusion? The U.S. has a lot of catching up to do in its compassion for its people.

Lady Liberty…as seen from a road in France.
Take paid leave. The Frau never considered how important it was until she had her daughter. Sitting on the couch in her Swiss apartment seven weeks after giving birth, tears flowed constantly. She was sometimes still in pain and was also having problems feeding her daughter, who, at six pounds, still couldn’t seem to gain weight. The Frau couldn’t imagine going back to work at that point. And with Switzerland’s 16-week maternity leave (14 weeks of it were paid), she didn’t have to. In fact, by law, she couldn’t. Forever grateful for giving birth abroad, it made The Frau wonder why the U.S. is still questioning paid family and medical leave. And it also made her feel that her own country, as the only high-income country in the world not to grant paid family and medical leave to its citizens, was grossly behind in its compassion for its people. She was glad (but also, in a way, very sad) that another country treated her better as a new parent than her own would have.

Then there was healthcare. In Switzerland, health insurance is mandatory, offered by privately owned companies, and never tied to employment. The fact that health insurance is independent of work means that when someone in Switzerland loses their job, decides to try being a freelancer, decides to stay home with their children, or heck, decides travel the world for half a year, they have the ability to do so without worrying about a loss of healthcare coverage. When The Frau was laid off from her job as a copywriter in Switzerland in 2009, she never had to worry about losing her heath insurance (or paying for it, since Swiss unemployment pays a minimum of 70% of your salary for 18 months). The Swiss healthcare system gives its people a freedom that The Frau, like many Americans who have stayed in unfortunate jobs due to health insurance reasons, had never experienced.

Finally, guns. The Frau didn’t like being surrounded by so many guns in Switzerland (the Swiss are 4th in the world in guns per capita—behind the U.S., Yemen, and Syria), but they were a part of the Swiss military and civilian responsibility, so she learned to accept them.

Switzerland has similar freedoms to the United States concerning gun ownership. Like Americans, the Swiss have gun ownership rights and the right to carry them in public. Switzerland had one mass shooting in 2001, which killed 14 and injured 18, but even after that, an anti-gun referendum failed to pass. According to a piece in Time by Helena Bachmann which sited government figures, violent crime in Switzerland is 10 times less than it is in the U.S. Maybe it helps that in Switzerland, heavy machine guns and automatic weapons are banned. Another idea a more compassionate America could adopt.
But enough about how The Frau feels after living abroad. Here’s a piece The Frau wrote for VICE last week about how other Americans feel about their own country's gun policies after living abroad.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Living in Switzerland: It Changes Your Respect for Your Personality

One of the first things The Frau noticed upon moving to Switzerland was how quiet the Swiss were. They were quiet on public transport. In the office. And even on the streets.

Once, The Frau and an American friend even got yelled at for being “too loud” while talking with one another at a tram stop in Zurich—even though they were only talking in normal American voices.
Quiet, peaceful Switzerland.
A great place for American introverts.

It took awhile for The Frau to realize this, but a quiet and reserved culture like Switzerland does something really amazing for quiet and reserved people: it allows them to be themselves—especially in the workplace.

Those who live or have lived in “loud” America might understand this to a larger degree. Because if you’re an introvert in America, you are told from a young age that something is wrong with you. Never mind that about 50% of the population is just like you. Quiet is taught to be loud in America. Because in the U.S., loud is rewarded in both work and life.

So at any time, there are a lot of introverts pretending to be extroverts in America. The Frau used to be one of them. But after moving back to the U.S. after living in Switzerland, The Frau learned that her personality should be respected too. So now, as she recently wrote about for, she is an unapologetic introvert.

Has living in Switzerland (or another culture) made you realize something good about your personality?


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