My Journey Across Cultures

We are a British family, two parents, two children.  We followed my husband’s dream to live in France in the year 2000, starting our new life in the adorable, vibrant city of Lyon.  Later we moved close to Geneva for work. We still live in France but both work in Switzerland, my husband in Geneva and myself in the “Canton” of Vaud.  As the two Cantons have different tax systems, the one payable at source the other at the end of the year, this makes for interesting accounting.

For various reasons, desire and opportunity, we have not restricted our life abroad to the ex-pat community, though we have seen many other families do so.  Our friends are French, our children went through the local school system and are completely bilingual, we have made many friends of their school friends’ parents and through local sport clubs.    Like other immigrants we none the less have had a steep learning curve and had to make huge adjustments to life in another culture.   From Day One the differences have surprised, intrigued, amused, delighted and frustrated us.   The trick is at some point shifting from “they do this here..” to saying “we do this here…”   Then you have integrated.

I have undertaken fascinating training on how individuals and families can cross cultures successfully and as smoothly as possible with some help and preparation.  I am therefore doubly qualified to help others in this regard, through my training as well as from my own experience.  I only wish my family had had that training before we came!

We have an added culture to cross of course, and that is the Swiss one.  The border between France and Switzerland is at the bottom of our hill, a border which made it possible for us to buy a family home on one side but found prices the other side unaffordable.   We are what is known here as “Frontalier workers” who live across the border but have permission to work in Switzerland.  Thousands of us cross the borders (twice) every day.  

Adapting ourselves to the Swiss culture has been different again, even such things as a basic cup of café au lait is completely different from one side to the other (a Swiss renversé is, I assure you, a different drink entirely).  

The fact that Switzerland is a country with four official languages was a cultural difference and a half for a British family to get their heads around,  and when the children were younger we all loved nothing more than driving somewhere on a Swiss motorway when the exits suddenly changed from Sorties to Ausfahrts.   We still find it fascinating when we are visiting a new area in Switzerland to have to ask what language we should use.  In one village we were told it was French, then learned that in the next village down the road they spoke Swiss-German, however.    The Swiss government, the most democratic in the world, completely based on the people power of referenda, is an incredibly difficult one to manage therefore, not least because, broadly speaking,  the different language areas also tend to hold different political views.  The francophone Geneva area tends to be more liberal than its Swiss German countrymen, with the Italian area around Ticino apparently tipping a recent vote to restrict immigration by a small percentage in favour of greater curbs.

I hope to tell you more, reader, about our crossings over the different cultures in future posts.

2 Responses to “My Journey Across Cultures”
  1. Colette says:

    Really good.

  2. tesscatiful says:

    HOTDAMN you can write 😉

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