Auf Wiedersehen Summer!
Summer is officially over and with that we welcome our first autumn in Switzerland. I have to say I am very excited to be in Europe during one of my favorite seasons. I am looking forward to seeing the landscape change it colors and wearing boots and scarves. I have a fascination for Fall fashion and I think the beginning of a new season is always a good excuse to go shopping. One thing I’m not sure I’m looking forward to is the winter cold, but at this moment I don’t want to think about that.
This week, on September 27, will be exactly 6 months since we moved to Zürich from the Bay Area. Time certainly flies when you are having fun. So far it has been great. We always knew we were going to move to Europe someday so it was very common for us to find ourselves day dreaming about how our life in a different country would be. The past 6 months have exceeded all of our expectations. We are doing everything we dreamed of doing and every day we encounter a pleasant surprise in our path.
Here’s a summary of our summer and the past 6 months….
Festivals. If you follow my blog, then you probably know Alexis and I are fans of local festivals, remember my post about Sechseläuten & Gruyéres Cheese Festival? I just think festivals in general offer a great opportunity to connect with the locals and learn about their traditions. On Monday, September 14, we had another excuse to attend to another festival as we celebrated in Zürich the Knabenschiessen. This is a traditional shooting competition celebrated each year during the second week of September. The competition is open to 13-17 years old who reside or go to school in the canton of Zürich. The word “knabe” means boy and that’s because originally only boys could participate in the competition. However, in 1991 the rules changed allowing girls to participate. But it wasn’t until 1997 that the competition saw it’s first female contestant. The participants use a modern rifle, like the one they will use in the army one day (a one year of military service is mandatory in Switzerland). Knabenschiessen is considered a holiday in Zürich only (not the rest of Switzerland) with most companies and businesses working half a day only. The grounds of the competition become a fairgrounds, with traditional fair good and entertainment for kids and adults. We didn’t get to see the actual competition, but had a great time walking around the fairgrounds with Diego and Valentina.
Learning the language. This is a work in progress. I finished German A2 and will be starting B1. A1-C2 refer to the European framework of Reference for languages. A1-A2 covers the basic language use. On B1-B2 we learn a more independent language use. Also, in order to find a job in Switzerland, many companies require applicants to have at least the B1 certificate. I can’t say I am able to have a full conversation in German, but I can communicate a little bit better and I’m asking less “do you speak English?” to people. Alexis is also learning, and although he only takes a few hours a week I can see some progress there.
Hosting. Alexis and I really enjoy hosting and receiving guests at our place. Seeing our friends and family is always a good thing. We have received more guests and seeing friends probably more than what we did in Seattle or San Jose. In May we met our friends Noelia & Jose from Seattle in Greece. In July we met my cousin and her family in Paris, our friends Ricardo & Erica from New York and Carlos and Matt from California. Then in August we welcome Carlos & Erin from Seattle who came to visit with their 2 little kids. Having guests gives us the opportunity to explore more and appreciate the things and places we’ve already seen from a different angle. The fact that many of them made Switzerland one of their stop during their European vacation to see us is priceless and we thank them for that.
So now you know, if you need a place to stay in Switzerland, for free! you can stay with us, just let us know with enough time in advance so we can plan accordingly.
New friends. We have met new people and are creating a network of friends in Zürich. Moving to a different country was and has been a very exciting opportunity for us. Something we have been looking forward to do for a long time. However, it can be stressful at the same time. Leaving friends and family behind and starting all over again is not easy. Meeting wonderful people has played a very good role in our adaptation to a new country and culture. Our new circle of friends is very international. Whenever we get together is like we are in a UN meeting, with a representation of every country. I really enjoy listening to how things work in each of their countries, what are their traditions and learning from their experiences.
DL! Got my Swiss drivers license. The best part was that I didn’t have to pass an exam.
Wanderlust. Last but not least is traveling. After all, one of the main reasons we moved to Europe was to explore this continent. In 6 months we visited 6 countries (Switzerland, Italy, Germany, France, Greece & Luxembourg). Once you are here, it is incredibly cheap to go places and we want to take advantage of every opportunity we get. Most of our trips have been long weekends getaways, taking advantage of national holidays, that way I don’t interrupt my German studies, but most importantly, Alexis can focus in his new job. Now we can take our time to go by train, car or bicycle to another city. Besides visiting other countries, we also want to see as much as we can of Switzerland. We never thought about visiting Baden, Switzerland.
A big plus of living in Europe is the fact that we are able to explore the less touristy and known places, to go off the beaten path. When we lived in the States and planned a vacation to Europe, we wanted to see all the “must see” places, but with limited time we had little time to go explore the less known areas. I don’t think it’s a place where someone in the states would say “I’m booking a trip to Switzerland because I want to go to Baden”, you just never hear about it. But one day we decided to bike to a nearby city and we chose Baden. It turned out to be a wonderful city, with great history and even a medieval castle.
People here say we didn’t have much of a summer and I believe them. It was cold and it rained a lot, kind of reminded me of our summers in Seattle. Nonetheless we had a lot of fun exploring around. For us it was a great summer and we already have an almost full agenda for autumn. Stay tuned for more…