Here is what repatriation on Day One looked like. One the one hand, it all seemed so natural to us. Claremont has been our home for 29 years, and it was so easy to come back and jump right in. I thought it would be more startling.
And yet, we got to look at our life here through new lenses. I felt myself saying “That’s not very Swiss” or “That would never happen in Switzerland.”
For example, I noticed right away how casual (read sloppy) most Americans dress to go out into public. This seems to mirror the casual (though not sloppy) attitude of public interactions. It took me no time to turn into my chatty self with the people at the check-out who I don’t know. The Swiss would say that Americans are very shallow and “fake nice” with strangers, but I don’t think that’s quite right. As one of those Americans, I feel as though I am having a connection with another person, and it doesn’t matter that I may never see them again. I rarely had a casual interaction in Switzerland with a complete stranger.
The first thing on our agenda was to pick up our new car (all ready to go!) in order to run errands. We could absolutely not do this in California without a car, but we never really needed a car in Switzerland.
We went out to lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant where the waiter wondered why he hadn’t seen us in awhile. He welcomed us back with a handshake and a big smile. Neither of these would happen in Switzerland, especially two full meals for $13. (The cheese enchiladas in green sauce tasted, oh, so delicious!) We also noticed that people were not sitting for a long time to enjoy their meals, and the tables turned over quickly, an American thing.
Target beckoned. We had quite a list for items here that we didn’t need when living in a small Swiss apartment. We were reminded that owning a house requires more effort and capital than renting. The vast majority of Swiss live in rental flats.
We would never see a shopping cart this big in Switzerland! (We probably could not carry that amount of stuff in our arms after leaving the store.) Nor would we have had free food samples. However, we never stood in lines as long as at a Costco on a Saturday in Zürich.
So, my philosophy of enjoying where you live and appreciating life in other cultures is helping me adjust to changing countries.