When relocating to a new country, one often comes with hopes and expectations for a new life, some aspirations to discover a new culture, to connect with new people and to embrace the local way of living.
The bubble of expectations could be getting some heckling when the new comer goes through the change rollercoaster. When not taking care, it could lead to a bitter feeling, to frustrations and even to a certain angriness and rejection of what the new country has to offer.
The Swiss media is full of articles about expats complaining about the locals not being friendly and about the encountered difficulties to connect with Swiss people.
Each country has its own culture and its inhabitants their specificities. Some are more permeable than others. Margaret Oertig-Davidson, in her book – Beyond Chocolate: Understanding Swiss Culture – uses a pertinent metaphor: The peach and the coconut cultures. She explains that the Swiss are like coconuts, it’s hard to get in but once you passed the hard shell, you reach a level on inclusion few people do offer.
In the first months following the arrival in Switzerland, during the acclimation time, new comers will have to manage simultaneously their own change emotional roller coaster and the coconut shell barrier.
Here are the 2 keys for a soft landing that I would like to share with new comers to Switzerland:
1- Independently about how happy you are to move here, you first need to take care of your personal resources because a change is and remains a stressful time. The earliest you will realize that you need to pay an extra attention to yourself, the most you will make out of your Swiss experience. A coach can be a good resource to help you understand your personal psychological needs during the relocation transition.
2- Be pragmatic, take things step by step and pace down the expectations you set on yourself and on the new country. Take advantage of the available new comers’ communities such as Internations.org, Glocals, Meetup groups to fulfil your social needs. Time will come latter to integrate deeper into the Swiss culture: when you will be more at ease with the local language and once you will have entered a more comfortable stage of your change roller coaster.
We tend to want it all quickly, but embracing a new culture is also embracing its tempo and aligning our own internal rhythm to the country one.
Sandrine van den Oudenhoven
Sandrine van den Oudenhoven helps dual career couples to make their relocation in Switzerland a project for both. With the job4U2 programs, she is supporting the accompanying partners’ professional integration by sharing her knowledge of the Swiss economic network, of the recruiters’ expectations and custom, but also by deploying her ability to nurture individuals’ motivation and positive energy during this period of major changes.