Tag Archives: abroad

What’s in a name?

16 Nov

In case you were wondering how I came to name my blog ourgirlinzurich, it is a reworking of the title of the Graham Greene novel Our Man in Havana. It is a satirical work which pokes fun at the intelligence services, especially the British MI6. It is a very good book, if you haven’t read it. Greene also wrote famous works, such as Brighton Rock and The Quiet American, which I think were both made into films. Our Man in Havana also has a film version.

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I guess I used this title as opposed to any other because, in a strange kind of way, I feel like my move abroad was a bit like going undercover and into the unknown and the description of the language barrier in the book, if I remember correctly, is also apt. At one time I was actually thinking about applying for a job at MI6 (or was it MI5, I can never remember the difference) but I didn’t even make the application because I didn’t make the selection criteria.

It turns out that a) I am too tall for a woman (meaning taller than average) and b) I have blue eyes (only about 10% of the population have blue eyes) and this would mean that I would be too memorable and, therefore, not suitable for tasks such as surveillance. I did want to argue that I can talk to someone for hours at a party and 5 minutes later the same person would have difficulty in picking me out in a line up but it probably wasn’t worth the effort.

What I have only just found out (isn’t Google amazing?) is that Graham Greene died and is buried in the French speaking part of Switzerland. So it would seem that my reworking of his book title has somehow come full circle.

There are a surprising number of famous people who have died and are buried in Switzerland. Charlie Chaplin and Audrey Hepburn are also buried in the French speaking part of Switzerland.

On one of many of my to-do lists is to visit the grave of James Joyce, who lived and died in Zurich and is buried at Fluntern Cemetery. It is in the centre of the city and I know exactly where it is but it feels a bit weird to go and visit the grave of someone that you never met seems to be a bit morbid. But I think in some sort of strange way, if I do go and visit the grave I might be inspired to read Ulysses finally. Because this is something else that is on a to-do list somewhere…

Article about expats moving home

24 Oct

I read this article on BBC news website today and, although I have no plans about moving back to the UK, I can fully imagine that it would be difficult to leave Switzerland and move.

Over the years I have read a few articles that document this problem that expats face when moving home. To begin with, it seems like a strange concept. It makes sense that emigrating to another country and all the would be difficult with settling in, language barriers and other problems which I have mentioned in passing in some of my other posts but it does seem silly to think that moving back to your home country would prevent similar problems. This is the culture you were brought up in so how could it possibly be hard to go back.

If I think about moving back one of the problems (apart from all of the benefits and advantages that I would lose from moving) that springs to mind would be friendships. I am still in contact with friends from home but inevitably, due to distance and time, the nature of some of these friendships has completely changed. I don’t mean this as anyone’s fault but just physically not being in the same country as someone does has an impact on your relationship. I noticed in the first months and years that relationships had fundamentally changed. People mentioned new people that were now part of the friendship group and had stories that I didn’t understand and I felt strangely excluded from the conversation. Now four years on, friends have moved, had babies etc and I can imagine that things would be different because of how completely they have changed.

I also recognise that my personality has changed and the person that I am today is not who I was when I sat nervously in Manchester airport clutching a one-way ticket. Of course, I would have changed if I had stayed in the UK and never made the decision to leave. I believe in the phrase that travel broadens the mindand if merely travelling to a place broadens the mind, then living somewhere abroad also transforms the mind but in a way that is far more than broadening; though I can’t quite think of the way to describe it.