Its been about 3.5 years since I moved to good old Switzerland and as I was thinking back I realized that there are some things that are somewhat normal for me now that were complete shockers in the beginning. We all experience things differently and I do not assume that everyone has had it this way, this is just my version.
Calling "older" people by first name – It was all mixed emotions meeting his family in person. It was not until his parents introduced themselves by first name that I thought about what I would call them. We were raised calling adults aunt, uncle, mum and dad and now I was confronted with calling his parents by first name. This went against everything I was taught. I later learnt that it is actually nice for people when you call them by first name. I am fine with it now but I will not pretend that it came naturally to me!
Being served by my father in law – in the Shona culture, we are expected to show respect to our in-laws in many ways. I knew from the onset that I would not be expected to kneel and serve food but what I did not see coming was my father-in-law bringing me tea while I sat comfortably on the couch. I have never felt lazier in my life than I did in that moment, I could not help but think my family would be so disappointed in me if they witnessed this level of laziness. After 3 plus years its easy come easy go.
Elections– Heck these folks vote all the time, for everything! I quickly learnt another definition to democracy. I guess its one of the few countries in the world where the voters, not the vote counters determine the election outcome.
Drinking– My notions of drinking were toppled. Women openly drink beer and are not looked down on. This may not apply universally but the way I know it is that back home, women can have wine and ciders but for them to handle a bottle of beer with the men and it be easy going was a shocker for me. Am scratching the surface on prejudices here, I know, this is just the tip.
The three kisses – My first “three kiss experience” was after a camp in Zimbabwe when my husband was saying goodbye, two weeks after we met. I took this personal as a declaration of his undying love for me. You can imagine what went through my head when I arrived in Switzerland half a year later and noticed that it was a common greeting (luckily there were other signs that he would love me for a really long time). I am used to the idea of three kisses, I just never know who to handshake, hug, chest bump and who to give the three kisses. I will probably never figure it out but thats alright for me.
3.5 years down the line and all I can say about me and Zurich is that it was love at first sight. My all time favorite food has become Raclette, I just cannot stop! I support the Zurich Grasshoppers all the way and am sure that they are way better than FC Basel and Young Boys. I panic when the tram is 2mins late. I run for trams like a maniac even when I know that another will arrive in 7mins. I usually try to be on time or earlier for appointments because its Switzerland and also cause I am on a mission to break the stereotype that Africans are always late.
Don’t get it twisted though, I am happy to fit in but I know that I was born to stand out. I adjust to my surroundings but remain true to by inner-being.