Picture: Zürich, Switzerland
On 1 October of this year, I am living in Switzerland for exactly ten
years. This was a conscious decision for us. As a child with annual
summer holidays in Austria, my love for the mountains began. Later, when
I met my husband, we spent our holidays in Switzerland and visited my
husband’s family. We felt very comfortable in Switzerland and so the
idea came up: “What would it be like if we lived here?
When we had the chance to move to Switzerland, we used it and voilà … there you are, ten years later.
For me this step was a great challenge. Not only did I have to give up my job in the Netherlands, but with my hearing impairment I also found it very exciting whether I could get used to the language.
Fortunately, I have no problems with the German language because I learned it when my hearing was relatively good. I had also studied in Germany for a year. Swiss German, however, is very different from German. Now I would no longer be able to learn a new language. At home, with my husband, we talk Dutch at his request, otherwise the language is (Swiss) German.
When I had to go to hospital for a few days for an operation at the beginning of this year, I warned the doctors and the staff during the preliminary examination that I might be speaking Dutch after the anaesthesia. They all understood, but apparently the German language is so deeply rooted in me that this did not happen.
Soon after our move, I began to live actively in my new environment. I
went to yoga, became a member of the local recreation club, volunteered
and enrolled in associations for deaf and hearing impaired people.
Gradually I got to know people, built a network, engaged in all kinds of activities and even became a member of a women’s discussion group whose members all have hearing disabilities. It’s something special, because usually this group doesn’t take on new members very quickly (no one came after me).
I am now chairman of an association for people with hearing impairment, I volunteer at the local retirement home, write columns and a blog, give lectures, give tours of a museum in the near future and also run awareness-raising workshops for businesses and schools. In short, I am very busy again and have definitely found my job and my way here.
It was a long and intensive process that certainly took several years. The Swiss are very friendly and polite, but not very accessible – my in-laws are definitely a pleasant exception. For example, drinking a cup of coffee with the neighbours is not common. If you are invited to your home by Swiss people, that is something special. And to break through that, you have to do something about it.
Looking back on the last ten years, a lot has changed in every respect. It’s not just that our living environment has now been built up and there are shops next door, I really feel integrated here, and although I’ll never be a “original” Swiss, people here accept and respect who I am and what I do.