November 29, 2012 by Matt
The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that this blog is specifically all about my experiences in Copenhagen. But one of life’s little coincidences made me think about asking a friend if she would like to write something for WonderfulCPH.
In my last job in London, working for a PR company, I was met some great people who are now friends, including the lovely Katie. Oddly, as I was plotting my escape with Dorte to Denmark, Katie was plotting her escape to Zurich with her husband Sam.
So now we’ve both landed safely in our new hometowns and countries, I asked Katie if she’d like to put down some thoughts on her move abroad, because I figured if you were interested in my experiences in a new country, then you probably would be in Katie’s too. I’m very happy that she found the time to do so because it’s a great piece with some excellent advice in it (and I laughed out loud with recognition of the efforts required by Katie and Sam to make new friends! Love that analogy to dating…). So here’s the first guest blog post on WonderfulCPH, from our Zurich correspondent, Katie…
A Brit Abroad: My Experience So Far
I’m Katie Tazzyman, a late-twenty-something ‘Londoner’ who has recently moved to Zurich, Switzerland. Before moving here, I lived in London for seven years – some of the happiest years of my life so far; I met my husband, Sam, was surrounded by lots of lovely friends and had worked hard to build a career in the PR industry. Like Matt, I loved living in London, loved the variety of bars, restaurants, and shops and the comfort that all that brought with it. But I felt like it was time for a change.
Moving abroad wasn’t something I had ever really seriously considered, until I met Sam. He works in academia and has always had opportunities to work in different parts of the world. So when we finally admitted that we were getting a bit tired of London life we decided that, whilst we were still youngish and had no massive commitments in the UK, we would take a leap and move abroad together for a few years.
Some people probably thought we were crazy; leaving a comfortable existence and a city like London to move to a place where we don’t know anyone, don’t speak the language and where job opportunities for me are on the slimmer side. There have been some moments over the last seven weeks where I would have to agree with them, but on the whole it’s been a hugely rewarding adventure so far. I thought it would be useful for anyone who might be considering moving abroad to share the three main challenges we have faced and how we are tackling them.
It’s relatively easy to get by just using English here, as everyone seems to know enough to help me out when my German fails me. However, I feel it’s really important whilst living in a foreign country to take the opportunity to learn the local language. In this case we are living in the German quarter of Switzerland, so German it is. Not currently having a job, and therefore having plenty of time on my hands, I’ve signed up for an intensive German course starting in the New Year. The hope is that by the end of it I’ll feel confident enough to make basic conversation, fill in forms, write emails, etc. I’ll also have it as an extra string to my bow for my job search. Until the course, Google Translate will remain my new best friend and I’ll try to keep practising my limited school German. What little I can still remember seems to be appreciated by the locals, even if it’s probably full of inaccuracies!
Challenge No. 2: No Job Yet
Since leaving university, I have always been in full-time employment, so being unemployed has taken some getting used to. To avoid the temptation of long lie-ins and days spent attached to the sofa in my pyjamas watching boxsets, I’ve tried to make the most of my free time. I’ve started running and swimming regularly, indulged in some baking, found us a new flat for the start of next year (by no means an easy task in Zurich), and devoted time to teaching myself a bit more German and finding the right language course in the hope that this will help me find a job. I’ve had mixed opinions as to my job prospects here, but I’m trying not to let it hold me back. I am determined that I will be able to do some kind of work here, even if it’s not in the industry in which I have experience. I’ve realised that I am lucky to have this incredible opportunity presented to me at this stage of my life. Who knows what I might end up doing?
Challenge No. 3: Making New Friends
Having amazing, supportive friends on our doorstep was something that we took for granted when we were living in London. Moving to a new country where we know hardly anyone has made us appreciate existing friendships so much more and made us realise just how important it is to have such people in our life. This is why it’s been a huge priority for us to try and find some friends here, something that you can’t do unless you put yourself out there. It’s a lot like dating again; we’re saying ‘yes’ to every invitation going and trying to be as charming as possible all the time, which can be pretty exhausting! We’ve also looked to the internet for help and have recently found some sites where you can meet-up with groups of people with similar interests to you, be it a love of books, films, wine or even raw food (not for us, but each to their own). The people we have met so far are all really friendly and open-minded, many of them having been in our position not so long ago themselves. Hopefully through keeping a busy social calendar and joining some clubs, we’ll soon have a strong network of friends here.
I’m not ashamed to admit that our move here has been challenging. It was always going to be an overwhelming experience, uprooting ourselves from an existence we knew so well, and starting a new life here. But I have no regrets. Though it’s only been seven weeks I am really proud of all we have achieved so far and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to be on this adventure. At the moment, I don’t speak the language fluently, I haven’t got a job and I don’t know that many people, but I’m not letting those things hold me back. I’m loving living in a different country and exploring a new city. It’s got slightly bizarre ways, but breathtakingly beautiful scenery, amazing bratwürst, fondness for cheese fondue, impressive nightlife and an efficient tram network. So much has happened in the last seven weeks – I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us here!