Before moving here, I never lived more than 20 miles away from where I was born. I have always been excited about the idea of moving abroad and was ecstatic when it was actually happening. After the excitement subsided a bit, reality set in. I am moving to another country, another continent! They speak a different language. It’s a very different climate. I then started to freak out a bit.
I have had only two roommates, whom were both expats so I had an idea of what was to come. They never had to deal with the language thing, but the isolation, loneliness, and the constant feeling of being an outsider and never truly belonging to your new home were things they felt. I tried to prepare myself and do as much research and preparation as possible.
I googled “Zug, Switzerland” like nobody’s business. I looked at every single photo of Zug on Google Earth numerous times. Luckily, since Zug has a large expat community, there is a lot of information in English out there.
I think that the best information out there is from other expats who have been where you are. There are numerous travel sites, but I don’t think you understand a place unless you have lived there. Angloinfo is a great site for connecting with other expats and finding out what to do with day to day stuff.
For example, did you know that you are not allowed to take a shower between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am? You have to use special garbage bags, even though the grocery stores sell regular ones as well. There are numerous rules in Switzerland and if you step out of line, you will be fined.
The website for the Swiss Tourism Board (http://www.myswitzerland.com/en/home.html) is helpful for me still to keep up with activities, destinations, and living in Switzerland. There are a lot of festivals, especially in the Summer.
Other than information I found online, I hopped on Amazon and bought a few books I thought would help. ‘Culture Smart! Switzerland‘ and ‘Xenophobe’s Guide to the Swiss’ were very informative. They explained everything from the obvious customs and traditions to the smallest little quirks. Both of these books are part of series that include other countries and cultures. I highly recommend them.
After I moved here, ‘Beyond Chocolate’ by Margaret Oertig- Davidson came out. It is really good. I got it because it explains Swiss parenting techniques. I needed to know what I was up against. It turns out that they are quite different than the Brits and Americans. They have a much more hands off approach. They let the kids fight it out instead of intervening right away. It is also very common to see a 6 year old traveling by themselves on the bus or train to go to school. There is no way that would happen in the States or Britain. I will probably embarrass my son who starts Kindergarten next year immensely, because I will be walking him to school for awhile.
Another book that I have heard is good is ‘Swiss Watching: Inside Europe’s Landlocked Island’ by Diccon Bewes. I have not read it, but I have heard great things.
I am glad I did a lot of research before coming. You can never truly prepare for everything, and you will mess up along the way, but it is all part of the great expat adventure!