Thinking back, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today had it not been for my village of friends and support of family near and far that helped me stay sane during this decade long expat adventure.
We moved to Switzerland in October of 2011 naive AF. My daughter wasn’t even 1 yet and I thought this will be fun for a few years. I quit a career I loved in the renewable energy sector, to follow my husband’s new job 4,848 miles away from our established friends and family.
It was temporary right?
I can handle this..
A week before we flew across the Atlantic to start our new “temporary” life I found out I was pregnant with #2. Talk about crossing off all the stress factors at once…
✅ Quit your job
✅ Move to a foreign country
✅ Far from family
✅ Toddler in tow
✅ Knowing no one!
You get the picture. We settled in a village close to my husband’s new job in lieu of one of the bigger more international towns.
It was temporary right?
I cried the first time I went to the grocery store. It was so small and I didn’t know how to read the ingredients (btw it comes in 3 different languages here none of which are English). I kicked myself for not learning some German before we moved.
Those first few months, moving to a tiny apartment, navigating doctors for my “geriatric” pregnancy, missing my friends and family back home …
I wanted to jump ship. Really I did. I missed the everyday ease, the comfort of my home, my family, and my favorite food.
But I really missed my friends. Friendship has always been my superpower. Since my first serious friendship in the 6th grade (btw we are still besties) to my most recent friendship with a mom in my daughter’s class. I’ve always valued and relied on friendship.
I made new friends. Other mom friends. Friends that would become my lifeline.
You hear quite a bit about the struggle expats have at making friends. And that spousal unhappiness is one of the main reasons overseas assignments don’t work out.
We found just the opposite.
Even though the Swiss aren’t known for their overt friendliness or welcoming strangers with open arms, we got lucky.
I attended an English speaking playgroup so my daughter could play with other kids, but really it was just an excuse for me to meet other moms. I depended on them for so much. And I quickly learned so much about the nuances of Swiss culture, how and what to recycle, how to bake with foreign ingredients, and how to find peanut butter. All the important stuff.
I need friendship like a dog needs a scratch on the belly. It fills me with energy and happiness and makes a really big world seem down to earth again.
My new found friendships would quickly be put to the test when less than seven months after stepping foot in this strange new land I would give birth in a strange new land.
When I started having some complications with my overseas pregnancy, my new friends stepped forward to help out during that crisis. Watching my daughter, bringing by food, checking on my husband.
I had found my village.
I would probably be back in the US if it wasnt’ for them.
Ten years later and I now have a group of amazing friends. We share spectacular trips together, message each other on an almost daily basis or meet for coffee. We have each other’s back in good times and bad. And I can tell you there have been some hard times these last few years.
Ten years later and I am raising my children in an actual village, a little differently than I had imagined. I am grateful to the family that flew across the big blue ocean to help me out in those early years. But I am forever thankful for the friends that have become my village.
Many say blood is thicker than water and that we are hardwired to have strong bonds with our families over anything else. As an expat you have to water down those familia ties and look outside those bonds if you want to expand your village.
As a health coach now, I often work with expat women who feel lonely and isolated. This can lead to emotional eating or lack of motivation for the things that once made them happy. This type of distress can quickly sabotage ones mental and physical health. I know this doesn’t come easy for everyone but I often help them find ways to lean into that discomfort so they can find that village for them.
I am super grateful to the family I call friends and the friends I call family. My village now consists of friends and family from all over the world.