It has been several months now since we learned that we are leaving Geneva. Months in which we have slowly started saying goodbye to Switzerland.
Is it perhaps a defence mechanism that we have started finding fault with our host country prior to leaving, or was it simply time to leave? I don’t know but the niggles are growing and I occasionally hear myself say, “Thank God we are leaving soon”. Which is a bit unfair to Switzerland as we have been very happy here.
The past months though have shown our limitations. The Swiss are not great at welcoming new people into their lives – which is understandable, given that they see a constant stream of expats coming and going. Opening their lives and their hearts means inevitable sadness and tears when their friends leave, and many have learned to avoid that by being polite but distant with their foreign neighbours.
My French is still miserably bad, due to the fact that I hardly speak it, and of course I stopped taking lessons a good while ago. If I were to do this again I would wait at least 6 months before taking formal French lessons, as I felt that I needed that long to settle in.
We have had problems with the school, particularly the lunch time club, which we had always praised so highly. Today I will be writing to the headteacher to tell her that I will be withdrawing the children from the club since they are so unhappy there.
The school is also changing as the children grow older. It is becoming more strict, rigid, unforgiving. There are many rules and punishments, a style of school that British people would find rather old fashioned. I do not believe that good behaviour will result from making the children write 50 lines, or that making them miss playtime is a good thing.
I also object to collective punishments when the behaviour of one or two children means that the whole class miss out on a treat, such as watching a DVD (and an educational one at that, which my son said was very interesting).
My husband commented that it is very Swiss – the regimentation and teaching the children to be responsible for their own actions. And with the collective punishments, the children are already learning how to become a Swiss citizen – personal responsibility and working together in society is a big part of the Swiss psyche. It explains the way in which the Swiss keep an eye on their neighbours, and let you know if you are doing something wrong. There is a very strong sense of community and working for the good of that community.
Free thinkers and expats don’t really fit in, we are the proverbial square peg in a round hole.
So we are packing our bags and our experiences, enjoying our last few weeks and the lull before the storm. In the next week we hope to sort out a flat for my husband in Munich and a house for me and the kids in Scotland. It is all go. Watch this space.