For the column Mamas around the world today I take you to Switzerland where we meet Chiara. She is the protagonist of this interview about her life as an expat and how is living in Zurich with children.
I know Chiara because she is a blogger as well, and she writes for the same blog as me, Not Only Mama. Chiara, who has just released her new blog, has an incredible taste in discovering niches and coffee shops, around Zurich. You can also follow her on Instagramle as My Wander Coffee.
Interview for Mamas AROUND THE WORLD
Chiara from Zurich
1) Chiara, tell us a little bit about yourself, what did you do before you became a full time mum and how did you end up in Zurich
Meanwhile Francesca, what a pleasure to be hosted on your blog!
Before becoming a full time mum, I had the privilege to be born in the city of Verona and afterwords I moved to the impressive city of Rome, where I worked as a web designer. After five year among some multinationals in Dublin and the university in London, I arrived in Zurich with my little one of only four months and without any idea of where I had arrived. My husband had received a job offer from an insurance company and it seemed like a good time for a new experience. I knew the Helvetic city for some reasons. Firstly for the German language, that I didn’t know and its popular and beautiful mountains famous all over the world. It was not the ideal city for me, as I liked the sea and I can’t bear German!
I had a long experience of communication on the web and a degree in Design and Innovation but, arrived in a completely unknown city and with a newborn, I decided that it was time to focus on the family.
2) Before moving to Zurich, you lived in Dublin. What is the city you like most and why.
Without any doubt I find myself much better in Zurich. Dublin for me was the city of fun, of festivals, of new friendships but also of great difficulties, especially when I was pregnant and unfortunately I had several problems and the health care was practically nonexhisting. As for security, cleanliness, efficiency, I think no one can beat the Swiss Germans and since I have a family, these aspects have become very important to me.
3) How long have you lived away from Italy? How did the expat experience change you?
I have been living abroad for twelve years and this expat experience has changed me deeply. I must say for the better. Living abroad really made me realize that every culture is different and valuable, as rich and interesting as mine. That everyone should be respected and listened toand that diversity is a wonderful thing!
4) Living in Zurich with a family: what you like and what you can’t stand.
I like to go to the playground, leave the stroller with the bag hanged in the middle of the meadow, stay away for half an hour and know that I will find everything when I am back. I am pleased to know that my children can go to school alone since they are very young and that on Sundays the shops are closed so that everyone can enjoy the nature, which is the princess here! I like being able to leave my children free to go away from me without any danger and that they are growing free and independent. I like the culture of healthy food and sports: the Swiss Germans are all very active and with a care of their well-being. As Italian, I do not like that sometimes it is all too perfect and that there is little room for ‘ surprises ‘ and I do not like, still, the language I’m still studying after 7 years! Here among other things speak the Swiss German, which is not the classic German, so out of class you struggle to get a real match compared to what you study on the benches. It is also true that Swiss people know a thousand languages and live quietly with English or French or Italian.
The last thing that it is difficult to live with, as Italian, is the little openness to others by the local people: Zurich people are not extremely expansive. I must say though that they are very kind. Apart from some old grumpy, typical of every place I think! I have never found particularly rude people, indeed.
5) Switzerland and Italy compare on two issues, the school and the health care. Can you tell us your experience?
Unfortunately I cannot make a current comparison on health because now I’m living abroad for years so I tell you how it works and your readers, if they want, will tell me the differences.
Here is the medical insurance, which has a monthly base cost of about 200 francs.
Children up to 18 years old have plenty of expenses covered.
Doctors are less interventionist and give less drugs than in Italy (in my opinion, in Italy the antibiotics are prescribed too often). At the same time they are very fast when it comes to investigating a problem: analysis and responses are delivered at home, and in conjunction with the general doctor in just a few days.
The real treat for me is the pediatrician, who is available during weekends from 8am to 8pm. Also the vaccinations are done in the study by the pediatrician himself and all the necessary medicines are given directly by the pediatrician after the visit.
School. It’s really a very wide chapter.
It depends on a lot of choices of the family. We chose a private school since the primary in order to expose the children to two languages, English and German, and be trilingual right from the beginning. The Swiss elementary schools don’t push on the accelerator until the fourth class so, in my opinion, it becomes important to have an idea about the future movements of the family. To be clear, if a child starts the primary school here and moves to another country with the family when he is in the third class, he might find himself back at the school curriculum level. Starting from the fourth class, children start the lessons at 7:15 in the morning and the notional gap immediately shortens.
6) What would you recommend to a family who is thinking about moving to Switzerland?
I highly recommend that you check all the life costs that you will face because German Switzerland is very, very expensive. Efficiency costs in short. We say that the highest costs concern the house and the school up to 4 years (before this age the school is considered as a nursery and then paid).
It is also true that if you move within a company for which you work, or in general if you have a good package, it is a choice to consider. Schools allow children to enjoy their childhood without the school competitions that in other countries I know is: children are allowed to be children. In my opinion, there is also a big offer of public schools, IB and bilingual schools with Swiss curriculum, all of which complement each other quite well.
The expat community is huge here and I have to say that, the Zurich nightlife has grown tremendously in the last years.
7) Salaries and quality of life in Switzerland. Is it really a happy island?
No, Switzerland is not a happy island. There are many real difficulties, even among the Swiss families. If you move here is only because you have a profitable offer otherwise you will struggle a lot to live. But if you can get foot with a good salary… it’s a land of a thousand, unexpected discoveries!
Thank you very much Chiara for bringing us with you to the Swiss city and giving us a glimpse of real life of Switzerland capital.
If you want to read the other interviews below you can find all the links:
- Cristina, mom and psychotherapist in London
- Wanda from Sweden
- Maria Giulia from Antibes
- Olympia from Dubai