Well-Being//

How I Managed to Live Abroad and Stay Connected With My Roots

You can take the girl out of Switzerland, but you cannot take the Switzerland out of the girl.

Tomertu/ Shutterstock
Tomertu/ Shutterstock

I was born in Central Switzerland, in a beautiful valley with rivers, mountains and cows on green meadows — picture book country, as my husband calls it. Personally, I didn’t like the place where I grew up, and as a child all I wanted was to go as far away as possible, as early as possible. However, many years later, I realized that my problem wasn’t the place, the problem was me, and my mostly self-inflicted insecurities: lack of self-worth and the fact that I didn’t feel that I belonged anywhere. I had a huge chip on my shoulder, and it took me many years of personal development to start loving my life — and my home country. Only after I had lived in many different places did I start to appreciate the perfect organization, cleanliness, and safety of Switzerland. I needed to go far away to find out that beauty was so nearby.

I left Switzerland at the age of 21, first to travel the world as a tour guide for 11 years. Then I came back for a short while, to get some additional education before I settled down on the island of Cyprus, where my husband is from. We have two children who are now grown up and are both studying in Switzerland. One of the reasons why it is easy for them to live in Switzerland is the fact that I only ever spoke German to them, and they mastered the language as if they had grown up there.

I have been living in Cyprus for over 25 years, and there is a Swiss flag flying in my garden. On the Swiss National day, we either have a party here, or we go to a cocktail reception organized by the Swiss embassy. Our children always enjoyed celebrating this holiday. When they were small, we used to watch Swiss television and dance and sing to CDs with Swiss songs. Even though they went to a Greek kindergarten and were educated in a private English school, they were very much affected by my Swiss way of life.

I am in a Swiss ladies’ coffee group, and we invite each other regularly to our homes. We talk about life in general, and Switzerland in particular. Once a year, I invite them all to my home for a Raclette, which is a cheese dinner, traditionally eaten in Switzerland.

Moving away from my home country never had any impact on my identity because over the years, I realized that no matter where we live, humans are basically the same with the same needs, dreams, and fears. As a Swiss, I learned to be punctual, reliable, humble, and respectful and none of these habits will ever change no matter how long I am away from Switzerland. When I started working as an interpreter for the Cyprus Police, and when I started traveling with the Cyprus Police Association to conferences all over Europe, my multilingual Swiss upbringing, my sense of neutrality, and my knowledge of diplomacy became my greatest asset.

A few years ago, we bought an apartment near Lucerne, Switzerland, which gives us the opportunity to have the best of both worlds and to have two homes. I have a very multicultural group of friends here in Cyprus, and it makes me proud to be able to invite some of my friends to “my other home” in Switzerland.

I believe that when we live in another country, we have to learn to adapt. While I love keeping up my Swiss traditions, I also loved becoming familiar with the local traditions and customs wherever I go in Cyprus, and I made it a point to learn the language, which has helped me immensely in many ways. Living together, no matter where we come from, is all about appreciating each other’s similarities and respecting our differences.

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