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Out and About: An email from Switzerland

Nov 22, 2021

Out and About is a column where we chat with people who are currently living abroad, or who lived and worked there. This week we chat with Mahetgepraats Michelle Vosloo in Switzerland.

Where do you live and why there?

We live in beautiful Switzerland, a place full of lakes, mountains, adventures, and delicious cheese and chocolate. Since my employer’s head office is located here, they invited us a few years ago to accept a job opportunity here.

Was it a big adjustment?

Many people think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. The truth is that the grass is green everywhere, it is only the colour and scent that differ. The adjustment was probably more challenging because the people here speak French. But because we are people who love the outdoors, it was also full of adventures. The biggest challenge is to start over with the most important lifeline, your people. Family is far away, and you never stop missing them, but building new networks and friendships takes at least nine months. Thankfully God places family all over the world through His church and that made it easier to meet other Christians and South Africans and make friends. When you are overseas, your friends become your family.

You have an Instagram profile / web page titled Ma het gepraat. Why do you use this name?

The name: We all know that when your mom has spoken, she has spoken! It implies that we can talk about anything online these days, but you still need to remember the voice of your mother as well as your own voice as a mother, when “Mom has spoken”.

Do you feel that expat moms have a sufficient support base abroad?

No support can take away your own mother’s support and unless the whole family moved overseas, there will always be a void. The rest of the answer depends on where you live. In Switzerland, for instance, there is a lot of help for mothers who give birth. Midwives can visit you at home, you can stay in hospital for up to seven days if you want and everything is organised to be child-friendly. There are even play parks in some trains.   

Do you have any advice for mothers with small babies who emigrate?

Personally, I would wait for a while before emigrating with a small baby. It is a huge adjustment for the mommy and the new family to welcome a new little person and go through the emigration process, and it can be emotionally challenging. If circumstances allow it, I would give myself two years before taking on the emigration process. If that is not possible, and there is a possibility that a grandparent can come over for an extended visit, that is something I would recommend. You need people around you, you do not get enough sleep and it is a huge challenge, all of this while this is an experience you want to enjoy while putting in your best effort.

What do you do to relax on weekends in Switzerland?

Switzerland offers everything for children and nature lovers. You can get to the mountains within under an hour to ski, there are cycling routes and forests all around you and you are only five minutes away from the lake if you want to go for a swim. You are surrounded by beautiful parks and adventure spots for children around every corner. It is super safe, so you can just enjoy yourself in the outdoors. Despite the fact that things are expensive, there are many things you can do for free in the outdoors.

What do you miss the most?

Obviously, you miss your loved ones, but apart from them: the Bushveld! We were privileged to live in Sabie before we moved here, so I miss the wildness, the Kruger and walking barefoot.

Is it expensive to live there?

Switzerland is very expensive. Your salary enables you to live a comfortable life, but there are many luxuries one has to give up. Housekeepers, gardeners and childcare are almost unaffordable, which means that in many cases there is only one working parent because childcare is almost as much as a working person’s salary.  

What is your favourite dish you learned to make in Switzerland?

Fondue! I have always loved cheese and chocolate, so it was not that difficult to get used to and it is absolutely delicious.

Where in South Africa are you from and why have you decided to move overseas?

I am originally from Johannesburg, but my heart will always be in Sabie and the Lowveld where we fell in love, set up house and started a family. If anybody asks, I’m from there! I love South Africa, it is the land of my skull and the country that nurtured me as a child and gave me the training, wisdom and experience I have today. Our move to Switzerland was the result of a job opportunity and six years later we are still experiencing and enjoying this wonderful adventure.

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