Pulling up your roots and moving to another country is like bursting a bubble. Like you are tearing up this framework that you have built around yourself for so many years: saying this is right and that is wrong. Suddenly all your former beliefs are just like old post-its that doesn´t stick to the wall anymore.
– Hey, how are you doing? I occasionally run into an old colleague on the streets of Helsingborg when I am back in Sweden to visit friends and family.
– Well, we are really good actually. I mean, it has been an intense year with the move and all, but still I think we´ve managed well.
– I´ve heard that the Swiss people aren´t very nice. My friend has lived there and she told me that they are not really social.
– Oh? Really? Well…ummmm…I think they are actually….I mean…like us.
One thing that have become obvious to me since our move to Switzerland, and our travels we did the year before is how much people, all of us, are putting up walls around our own world – even those of us that claim that we love other cultures. It´s like this invisible safety net that we use, unintentionally, to block other worlds out from our own. Deciding that the way we live, the way our society is handling things is the right way.
Great minds think alike, or?
We all see ourselves as kind and social people, that want to help others and are open to new perspectives.
But are we – really?
Or are we just feeding of the illusion that we have built up around us. We are kind and understanding to people that think like us and act like us, joke in the same way that we do and greet each other similarly. We are open to our own clones. We are all little mini-judges of our own universe and most of the time we don´t even realize it. How many times during the past days have you caught yourself being angry about some silly quote somebody made on social media? You´ve discussed this with your friends or your partner, mocking the person that was stupid enough to place this unbelievably unintelligent comment. Now, reverse this. How many times have you actually surprised yourself by taking an extra look on this comment and try to see it from the other person´s perspective. Not so much, right?
I have been mocking my new home country Switzerland quite some times during this past year. And this exhausting behavior have sometimes drained me completely for energy. ´Til I finally started to understand that Switzerland wasn´t the problem, I was. My obstinate illusion of how the world should be was the problem. So I decided to sack my own mini-judge. Or at least put her in the corner and not pay attention to her.
And suddenly I started to find new perspectives on my old beliefs.
When you lack something you build it yourself
Living abroad make you love some things about your home country more than when you are actually at home. But, if you can let go of yourself, it will also start to give you perspective on your own beliefs.
Let me give you an example. In Sweden we see ourselves as a very social country. Well, not only we. The whole world sees us as the most social country on this planet. Switzerland on the contrary is in many ways is seen as the opposite to Sweden – capitalistic, conservative, a government that is more interested in cuddling the huge economical wealth of the country instead of using some of it to build up a solid social system for families. One thing that struck me though, now living in Switzerland for almost a year, is that I find that people here are helping each other out in ways that I haven´t experienced at all in Sweden.
In Sweden we have the perfect child care system where you as parent don´t have to think a single thought yourself. Everything is taken care of, to absolutely no cost at all. This is fantastic and I miss it dearly, this I admit totally. However, I´ve discovered that Switzerland´s lack of this system has actually made people come together and help each other out instead. If you take my kid on Wednesday, I´ll take your kid on Thursday. Do you have stress at work? Well, I am home early tomorrow do you want me to pick up your kid at school? Where people are lacking something they build it themselves. This is also social, but here the social comes from the people and not the state. Different perspectives but that both are leading to the same goal.
Stuck in the middle
What I want to point out with this very long explanation is that it is so easy to judge something that we don´t know, because it is different from what we´ve learned. But what we forget is that there are so many different ways of reaching a goal. And there is rarely one path that has all the answers figured out. Even though that would be nice right? 😉
So why don´t we enrich each others and be open to what we can learn from another instead of always trying to find flaws in the other, just to be able to cover up our own ones?
This past year, since we moved to Switzerland in March 2019, have been equally fantastic and hard at the same time. When people ask me how I feel about living in Switzerland I want to cheer and cry at the same time. I don´t miss my home country all that much, but I sometimes miss the feeling of belonging to one place. Fully being part of a society, a context, that I know and master. The past months our kids have started to use much more German than Swedish at home. I guess it´s a natural stage for them to engage in their new world. And it´s actually really positive. However, I am almost ashamed to say that this development also scares me a little bit. I am afraid that my kids will lose their attachment to their Scandinavian roots, while I will be stuck hanging in the middle.
And there I go trying to mend this bursted bubble instead of just accepting. Maybe being in between is not so bad after all. It´s all depending on the perspective. I can choose to see it as not belonging to any place, being an outsider. Or I can say that I have several places in this world that I call home. Which gives me the opportunity to create a richer world with more perspectives. Is the glass half full or half empty?
My 5 learnings about living abroad (so far)
- You have to let go of old beliefs to be able to develop new and broader ones
- There is never just ONE right solution to how you can solve an issue
- We are actually in general only really social and open to people that are like ourselves
- Multi cultural societies grow tolerance much more than homogenous environments.
- Letting go of your past and old beliefs don´t mean that you disappear. It just means that you are growing.
Snap shots from our new home country: