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Life in Switzerland (part one)

View of France from Switzerland. Photo taken the day we walked from our village in Switzerland to France.

We live in the Jura which is rural. Our village has just a little over 1000 people living in it. However, we have a train station, bus, Coop, post office, bank, bakery, butcher (2, I think), 2 hair salons, a used book store and other conveniences. It is quiet but not boring. We are able to go by train and bus to all the larger cities to buy things that we cannot here or to get doses of city life that we miss. Actually, I like it better living in a small village and visiting the cities. We have the best of all the things we love.

The first two weeks were crazy. Vilay was working right away and I couldn’t run errands for him. It took a couple weeks to get the phone line because in Switzerland if no one has lived in your apartment during the last six months the line must be checked by an electrician. I have no idea why and it is not cheap. It was just under one hundred Swiss francs. I am averaging in my head when I say that is around 90 U.S. dollars and 70 Euros. We had to buy a new phone because the phone plug is not the same as in France. We bought a couple of electrical adapters to convert from French electrical plugs to electrical Swiss plugs for the small appliances that we brought from France (such as our computer and iron).

Vilay had only 8 days after moving to our village to register with the administration communale. In order to do that we had to have health insurance for the whole family (around 640 Swiss francs per month) as well as an additional insurance called responsabilité civile (we got the minimum coverage since we have close to nothing – it was around 250 Swiss francs per year).

There was a little issue with whether or not the kids should be registered as French or American. It was decided that French was better because of the ties between Switzerland and the European Union. The kids are still not on Vilay’s passport (the French can add all their children to their passport until a certain age instead of getting each child individual passports). We had to use the declaration of French nationality for the girls that was given to us when we came to France and had to register them with the French government as French. We thought that Sweet Bear had been registered by the French consulate in the U.S. However, it was only her birth that was registered in the livret de famille. We used Boy Blue’s French birth certificate from the city of Strasbourg showing he was born in France. It worked. It was stressful getting everything in order. We were thrilled when our Permit B’s were in our hands.

I have a permit B and am able to work in Switzerland because my husband has a permit B. I must declare that I am going to work for a company before I can actually start working. I don’t understand why I must declare I am going to work. However, I am sure there is a reason for it.

I am going to switch my Ohio driving license for a Swiss one which I can later transfer to a French license with no problem. I must transfer my Ohio license within the first year of living in Switzerland. It is around 350 Swiss francs but it is for life. I will never need to renew it. In Ohio, I had to renew my license every four years at around 12 bucks each time. I would rather pay once and have it done.

Sweet Bear will start the école enfantine this coming fall. Petite Clown is not old enough. France is ahead of Switzerland in the fact that kids can start public school at three years of age. Sweet Bear will start her first year of school in Switzerland while it would have been her third year in France. Petite Clown is not able to attend school due to her age while it would have been her second year in France. Like the French maternelle, the Swiss école enfantine in Switzerland is not an obligation.

Sweet Bear will go for only half a day Monday-Friday. Some days she will go in the morning and others she will go in the afternoon. She will have gym class once a week. She will ride a small bus to school (which is located in a near by village) on some days and the train on others. Sweet Bear is excited about getting to ride all by herself on the bus and train. The train makes me a little nervous. I am sure there is someone with the children but it still makes me more nervous than the bus.

In Switzerland, people are proud to be Swiss and advertise all things that are made in Switzerland for the quality. On many products I see tiny Swiss flags to show that it is a Swiss product or was made in Switzerland. Switzerland has a national holiday coming up on August the 1st. All the big stores are selling items with Swiss flags like American stores do for the 4th of July. You can buy sexy underwear with the Swiss flag!

Vilay and I are excited to see how the Swiss celebrate their national holiday. We are discovering life in another country together. I think it is good for our relationship. I am not as dependent on him as I was in France. He is not dependent on me here in Switzerland as he was in America. We are learning together and dependent on each other equally.

In many ways, Switzerland reminds me of the U.S. I understand how things work financially. The cost of health insurance doesn’t worry me. As an American, I am accustomed to paying for the health insurance where as Vilay has more trouble adjusting to this. Switzerland is like France (and other European countries) in that our village kinda shuts down at lunch time. The bank, grocery, post office, etc. are all closed after noon until 2:00-2:30 p.m.

In a way, Vilay and I are finding common ground in Switzerland. We are both able to relate in one way or another to this country and we are both foreigners living here.

I speak in French more here in Switzerland than in France. The Swiss don’t speak with me in English. I don’t know if it is by choice or if they don’t have the level. Only my husband’s boss has spoken with me in English.

I was speaking to an older woman at the park near our apartment last week. I understood all she said but for a few sentences. I am able to understand the Swiss accent now. When we first moved to the Jura I had some trouble catching words because of the accent. I learned new words because the Swiss use sentences and words that the French don’t as much. For instance, the French will say, “C’est pas grave” (No big deal – it’s not important). The Swiss say, “Pas de soucis” (No worry – don’t worry about it). The woman asked me how long I had lived in France. I told her about 2 1/2 years. She was surprised my French was so good. She told me I had a good French. It is always the same. I have a good French. That means I speak French at a good level. I don’t chop words, use slang or shorten words. You can say, “Ch’sais pas” instead of “Je ne sais pas” (I don’t know). I never speak like this. I try to speak in a clear and correct French. My landlord was, also, surprised that I spoke French so well.

My conclusion is that it is more important to speak a good French than it is to be “fluent” in a bad French. I will stick to my limited but good French.

I feel confident living and speaking French in Switzerland. I think it has helped to kick the English crutch. Many French would start speaking with me in English right away once they saw I tried to speak in French. It was nice of them but it didn’t help me in building up my confidence in speaking French. I, also, feel like Vilay and I are equals in this new life. Maybe, that is where the confidence is coming from? I don’t feel dependent on my husband to navigate our life any longer.

We are looking at buying a car in a few months. I have gotten over my fear of learning to drive a stick. I am looking forward to being able to legally drive in the country I live in. In France, I couldn’t. I was dependent on Vilay to drive me everywhere or I had to take public transportation. I hated not being able to just jump in a car and go. Since I got my driving licence at the age of 17 (I waited a year because I was in no hurry), I drove each and every day of my life until we moved to France. It was like cutting away my independence as a person. I am happy to find it, again.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • SwissGuy August 20, 2007, 1:38 pm

    Welcome to Switzerland!

  • Pumpkin August 21, 2007, 10:17 am

    Thank you!

  • Karen August 21, 2007, 4:36 pm

    You’re back in line! it’s been great catching up with your new life you sound really happy

  • Pumpkin August 21, 2007, 5:26 pm

    I am! Thank you. :)
    It’s been busy!

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