Tag Archives: politics

Bonfire Night

9 Nov

Although it might be a bit late to be blogging about Bonfire Night (it was last Sunday after all), I have just finished watching the BBC Drama Gunpowder, which is a dramatisation of the events leading up to the 5th November and the plot to kill the King of England and the politicians in the House of Parliament.

After the first installment of the three part drama, the BBC was flooded with complaints about the episode, saying that it was unnecessarily gory. I was actually quite surprised that it wasn’t gory enough. One scene showed the public executions and the camera “looked away” at the really graphic parts. You did see someone having their intestines pulled out while they were still alive, but I am sure that the guts and gore was mainly made up of sausages and other things that you might find in the bin of the local butchers. I am convinced that what went on in the Jacobian era was actually a lot more horrifying.

The drama reminded me of what a rich history we have in England. Try to explain to someone from another country that in each November we gather in a field and set fire to the effigy of a Catholic from the 17th century and they will look at you in complete dismay. In Switzerland, there is the ritual burning of a snowman in April to get rid of the winter, which has a lot more positive and much less sinister message than burning someone because of their religion.

Bonfire Night is one of the traditions that I miss. Nothing is quite so British as waiting in the freezing cold for someone to set off some fireworks. All the while complaning about how much it cost to get in and that you will not be doing this again next year. As a child I remember being so cold that I couldn’t feel my fingers or my toes. I was so glad to be back in the warmth again to thaw out. By the time the next year came round we had forgot how cold a November evening could be and we were excited about going again. It’s a shame that the torch light parade that used to happen in our village stopped because of health and safety reasons. The world has gone mad.

It was Abba who said “the history book on the shelf, it’s always repeating itself”. I wonder if Guy Fawkes would have been inclined to use the same tactics today? Back then, people were complain about how the country was being run and people are still making the same complaints today. If he had have been successful all those years ago, perhaps we would have a parade in his honour and not be burning him on a pile of old wood.fireworks-2922007__340

Expat Questions

30 Oct

Stealing yet another idea from my fellow blogger extraordinaire, Bev, I thought it might be interesting to answer the questions of this Expat Quiz. People always seem to be interested in the motivation of expats, so perhaps this will answer a few questions that you might be wondering about.

Where were you born, where did you grow up and where do you currently live? I was born in Macclesfield, England, which is also the birthplace of such great individuals as Ian Curtis, lead singer of the Joy Division, Ben Ainslie, Olympic sailor, and Peter Crouch, the England football. I grew up in Rainow, a small village about three miles from Macclesfield. When I was a kid, it had a school, church, post office and three pubs. Not much has changed there to this day, apart from the post office was closed down and there is only one pub now, which is barely surviving. I now live in Buchs, a village about 15km from Zürich.

What made you leave your home country? Five years ago, I was working for a Swiss company in the UK. I had the opportunity to move to Head Office in Switzerland. It felt like too good to turn down. At the time, I was single and life was just ticking along.

What type of reactions do you get when you meet new people and tell them where you are from? When I meet new people from England, I know that they are thinking that I must have more money than I know what to do with, which is simply not true. People also normally ask if I can ski, go hiking in the Alps etc. People from other countries just say “Wow” and look at me with a cross between admiration and curiosity. It is always funny to explain to people I meet on holiday because they immediately know that I am English from my accents but before they asking me what the weather is like there at the moment, I have to butt in with that I actually live in Switzerland and then I feel like I am trying to show off a bit.

What was the easiest/hardest part in adjusting to your new country? I am not sure there was an easy part. Every thing was completely new and different. It was completely overwhelming and I didn’t know if I would be able to survive to begin with. The best advice came from a friend, who I knew through hockey, who had also lived abroad for a while. He said it you can make it through a full calendar year and go once through the seasons, you can stay there for as long as you like. I really did want to come back after six months because I was finding it difficult to settle. I often thought of this advice to get me through the first year. If I did the first year and still didn’t like it, I would have moved back, but by then I had started to adjust and I knew I could stay for longer with no problem. Going back to the easy part, maybe there is an easy part. Everyone in Switzerland can speak English very well and they like to speak English (when they want to!) so to begin with it was a bit easier. It has never been my intention not to learn the language fluently and slowly that it happening.

What images, words or sounds have summed up your expat experience so far? I think probably this image. I have never been a city person but for me Zürich is the perfect city; not too big, easily accessible to the surrounding countryside and lovely views.

Zurich

Your favourite food and drink items in your new country? Chocolate and cheese: What is there not to love? I am obsessed with Fondue and Raclette, both of which I had no tried before I moved here. I also have a fair few friends and family members hooked on these dishes as well. I also love Rivella. People told me that unless you grew up in Switzerland it is impossible to like the taste of Rivella. It is a fizzy drink, made from a by-product of milk. In fairness, it doesn’t sound nice but it is. I could drink it by the bucket load.

What’s the one thing you said yes to in your new city that you wouldn’t say yes to back home? This has to be swimming in the lake. In the summer it is nice to cool off in the lake on a hot day. The water is perfectly clear, clean and refreshing. In England this would be a definite no. The water would be far too cold and probably polluted with God knows what.

Are there any cultural norms and phrases in your new countrx that you can’t stand? I still haven’t go my head around greeting someone. I never know if I should shake a hand, hug or kiss. It’s so confusing and completely embarrassing if someone goes in for a hug and you misread that as a kiss. Awkward! Also why are hot drinks served in a glass here. It means that the glass is far too hot to pick up without giving yourself third degree burns. So you have to let it cool down and then you end up with a lukewarm drink and not a hot one. The clue is in the name. It’s a Hot Chocolate and not a Lukewarm Chocolate.

What do you enjoy doing the most in your new country? Although I don’t do it as much as I should, I do enjoy hiking. This isn’t something that I would do at home. There are so many hiking routes and mountain here that you are spoilt for choice. Next year I will definitely try to get more hikes done.

Do you think you will ever move home again? Never say never (Oops I just said it twice) but I think it is unlikely. I am settled here now and I enjoy my life here as well. To go back home, I would need to take a large pay cut and pay more taxes. Of course, there are more important things than money but that is a big factor in me being happy to stay here. Then there is the question of Brexit. Until that issue is cleared up, I am not sure that I would move back. There is too much instability at the moment,

 

 

Mystery Solved!

4 Mar

After my last post, I was seriously concerned about what I have actually been doing for the last 3 months. After much brain-racking, noggin-searching and head-scratching I have finally what it is. Though I warn you to be disappointed…

The last 3 months I have been mainly reading. Not very rock and roll, is it? I have spent most of my time with my head in a book and I have loved just about every minute of it. I would class myself as an avid reader but sometimes I can find reading a bit of a chore, especially when I can’t get into the book and the characters or the plot are unbelievable or unrealistic. This year I am yet to encounter this problem. It seems that I have effortlessly got into a book, devour it in a few days and then I am ready for the next one.

For the past few years, I have been attempting to read (on average) one book a week. I have always failed. I have an app called Goodreads, in which I can record what books I have read. This means it is easy to keep a record of how many I have read and what I have read. There is nothing worse than getting 50 pages into a book and realising that you have read it before.

Last year I read 39 books in total. In 2015, I read 31 books. So far this year, I have read 11 books and I am sure that I will finish my twelfth over the weekend. This means I am on course to read (on average) one book a week in 2017.

Four of the books that I have read this year have been in German. These books are shorter than a novel than I would read in English and a couple of them were aimed at a level that is a little bit lower than my level of German but I was still able to learn a few new words that I haven’t yet encountered. I am not sure if books read in another langauge should be counted as double for the purposes of this venture.

stack-of-books-1001655__340

Reading is actually a very good way to increase your learning of a language. Even if you do not understand all of the words in the story, you can look up words that keep reocurring and reinforce some of the grammar themes that you have learnt. Some people find it easier to rote learn grammar from a sheet but I find it much more effective to see how the grammar is used in context. Once you have seen the grammar three or four times in context, it is more likely to stick in your brain.

I also think that reading texts which are a little bit too hard is good practice if ever you decide to do a language exam. It is extremely unlikely that you will know all of the words printed on the exam paper and so it is important to be able to work out the meaning of the word by instinct and interpretation. A best guess is better than having no clue at all.

I am just looking at the list of books that I have read this year. It is an eclectic mix. There is the story of an MP who accidently kills an endangered species of owl, a story about life of teenagers living in the time of the Berlin Wall and a cult, who prey on vulnerable people in order to fund other nefarious activities.

Thinking about it in these terms, the reason why I have lost track of what I have been doing lately is because I have been transported to 1980s Berlin, I have been following the unraveling of a political scandal (with a Conservative MP as the lead, surprise, surprise) and I have been trying to piece together clues to solve a criminal investigation. And the whole time I was on the train to work!

That is why I love books.

Brexit: Will it ever happen?

24 Jan

7 months on from the vote and I am starting to think that Brexit won’t happen. Today there was a ruling by the Supreme Court that the government needs to consult with Parliament before triggering the process for leaving the European Union. The British government are convinced that the ball would start rolling at the end of March but now that is looking unlikely. It seems like there is no direction at all anyway. Maybe they have an amazing, radical plan that will blindside us all and we will all react like “Ohhhhh I see! Very clever!”. I would love that – really I would – but I can’t see that happening. Can you?

I won’t be shy to admit that I voted to remain in the EU. I am not some liberal, wishy-washy, wetter than a dishcloth person. In fact, on many issues, I am the exact opposite. If I was still living in the UK, I am convinced that I too would have voted to leave. However, living in another country and being able to open my eyes to new ways of life and new cultures made me change my mind. It is hard to describe exactly but somehow being an expat and leaving every thing that you know behind changes you emotionally and psychologically.

I don’t mean for this to sound patronising or big-headed, nor do I mean for it to sound as if I think that people who have not expatriated are somehow uneducated and neanderthal-like. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and everyone’s opinions are based on their own experiences. My experiences are different to my friends, my family, my neighbours and anyone else that I might meet in life. For me, it made sense to remain within the EU based on the lack of a plan but also because together we are stronger. The EU is by no stretch of the imagination a perfect organisation but reform will only come from within.eu-1473958__340

Of course, part of my wanting to remain in the EU was purely selfish. Even though Switzerland is not an EU member state, my work and residence permit is valid because I am an EU citizen. There are rigourous conditions that someone wanting to work in Switzerland has to meet to get a work permit. If you are an EU national, it is easier to get than if you are a non-EU national. What happens then to British people working and living abroad when one of the conditions that you are allowed to reside there is suddenly whipped out from under your feet?

I felt sick to my stomach and nervous on the morning of 24th June 2016 when I woke up to the news of the result. This wasn’t helped when a colleague came up to me later that day and said “Well, you won’t be working here much longer!”. The rest of the day I had to endure questions like “Just how stupid are British people? and “What the hell are you going to do now?” I assumed that these were rhetorical questions and didn’t dignify them with a response.

7 months on I still feel nervous for the future, although people keep telling me that nothing will change. No one has yet confirmed what will happen to the British expats who have made the life-changing decision to move to another country. In the meantime, I will sit and wait for the answers and have to trust that my choice to live in another country to the one I was born will be negotiated well and fairly by the British government and our friends in Europe.

 

 

 

Politics and Pop Music

10 Nov

I woke up this morning wondering if what happened yesterday was some sort of dream or a virtual reality Hollywood movie that had mysteriously found its way into my flat. It just didn’t seem real. It still doesn’t. In case you didn’t catch the news yesterday, I am talking about the results of the US presidential electionclipart-ballot-fn0n3v-clipart and the news that Donald Trump will soon be moving into the White House.

I can imagine that many Americans took the news as I took the news of British Brexit vote back on 24th June. Shocked, appalled, complete disbelief are some of the adjectives I can use but somehow they don’t even quite cover it. With Brexit I also had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and, as the implications of what might and might not be, sunk in the feeling grew and grew throughout the day.

I am not so melodramatic to say that I felt the same feeling yesterday than I did when Brexit happened. On one side I had no right to vote so, in a sense, nothing that I could say or do would make any difference to the outcome of the vote and, on the other side, I think to a certain degree the political events of 2016 have desensitized me slightly. Now, nothing is impossible.

There are lots of similarities between Brexit and the US elections. The most worrying parallel is that both of the campaigns were centred on the negatives, on hate and on fear. Playing on peoples’ fears will always stir up strong emotions and the protagonist will hope that this fear will sway the voter to see there point of view. So much in both campaigns was made about immigration and foreign workers. This is a far too simplified view. Immigrants can bring immense advantages and often are not immigrants just to take from the country that they have emigrated to. I should know this as I am also an immigrant, expat, whatever you want to call me.

Where is the positivity? I remember campaigns where hope and promise of new beginnings was at the forefront of campaigning, not instilling fear into the nation so that votes are cast on irrational emotions and not on the facts or reasonable assumptions.

It might seem like a crazy comparison but I think the negativity of political campaigning is directly proportional to the demise of popular chart music in the Western world. No really, hear me out!

In the 80s and 90s we had hope that our politicians would deliver a better future and they urged us to vote on the basis of hope for the future and not fear of what might happen if we voted for the other guy. The chart music in the 90s also instilled us with hope. It told us, young girls, that there is a young man out there who will tell you he loves you and want to be with you forever and ever (in fact, sometimes forever wasn’t enough). You didn’t need to settle for second best; you would find someone who loves you and deserves you.

These days pop music is about twerking and bae riding in your pimped up car. There is no lyrical indication of the complex emotions that come with relationships, love and heartbreak.

Ok so maybe this is just a coincidence. But I think that it is definitely worth making a social experiment, or even a commitment, to bring back the sentiments and depth (a relative term!) of music from yesteryear  to see if my theory has any legs at all. If it doesn’t improve the vibes of electioneering, then at least we will have better music than we have today.