Thanks to Jennifer, I found this orchestra to join. She knew that in Germany people are very active in clubs for whatever interest you may have. I would never have found this orchestra in a Google search in English since the website is in German and I did not know to use the word Verein (Club).
I had emailed the contact from the website before we even moved here, and they said they would be happy to have me join. This small string orchestra has about 20 members right now and has been a club since 1924. Ages range from late 20s to 70s (?). Although most members are Swiss, there are also a few from other countries.
The last few conductors have been young and on their way to a more professional career. That benefits the orchestra, as well, working with different talents and gaining new music ideas. Our current conductor is in his first year with the Orchesterverein Wiedikon. He also conducts a choir in his hometown just outside of Zürich. It has been great working with him.
After our concert on Saturday, about half of us with our spouses and friends went out to dinner at a local restaurant. H and I sat across from the first chair cellist and her boyfriend. She is working on her PhD in biochemistry at the University of Zürich, and her English, I think, is excellent, especially since she has to use it at school. Her boyfriend also speaks English, but is too shy to use it, and they were kind enough to put up with our German, although they told us it was very good.
This was one of our most enjoyable conversations this year because I felt as though it helped us integrate a little more into the Swiss culture. We talked about a variety of things, and I asked questions about cultural things, like when to use the formal and informal you, and after a long talk about it, we decided that it is still sometimes quite unclear and complicated. What if your boss is younger than you? They said that when you are a member of a Verein, you are automatically informal with the other members. I said that sometimes when I am unclear as which to use, I tend not to say anything. I know that I should err on the formal side, and wait to be corrected, but I don’t always do that.
Another thing I learned (or had confirmed) was that the Swiss are not very forthcoming with compliments. One of H’s Swiss colleagues heard me practicing a particularly difficult word in Swiss German and told me that my rendition “wasn’t bad.” Apparently that is a compliment.
He also said that in public he is normally very reserved (züruckhalten) just as most people are, but we found him in this setting to be very charming and kind. We also learned that he is a Swiss Watch Maker. Wow! They really exist, and one can actually meet one! He works in Schaffhausen, so I think he must work for IWC. He showed us his watch, and it was pretty stunning with a number of dials.
This was probably our first meal / party with a group of locals, so we were glad that we knew of at least two traditions. First, when everyone got their drinks, we toasted each person in our vicinity with a Zum Wohl (to your fulfillment) and the all-important looking the other person directly in the eye as you clink glasses. Then, as people leave the party, you must be sure to say good-bye to everyone before you leave, even if they were at the other table, or at the other end of the table. This also involves shaking hands with everyone. We were near the middle of people leaving, so many had already bid us adieu, which reminded us of this custom. Theoretically you are supposed to say everyone’s name to them, but I didn’t hear that. I’m not sure that everyone knows everyone else’s name, and certainly not their guests. However, everyone seemed happy as the party slowed down.
In short, I am so glad to be part of this Verein. Not only does it give me a reason to play music this year, but it is the only way during this short period of time to integrate into the society, even if it is only just a little.