Have you ever wondered what life would be like in another country? Meet Mawaddah Isaacs from Cape Town – South Africa, currently living in Switzerland. In this interview, she talks about her experience in moving to a new country, what life is like as a new mother in a foreign country, and so much more!
She is a novice mother to two little babies on an EPIC journey of self-discovery and motherhood!
SO, TELL US WHERE ARE YOU ORIGINALLY FROM – WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
I am from Cape Town, South Africa.
IN WHICH COUNTRY AND CITY ARE YOU LIVING IN NOW AND FOR HOW LONG?
I am currently living in Switzerland, Zurich with my husband and our two children. We stayed in Geneva for 2.5 years and the rest in Zurich.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE MOVING AND HOW DID YOU FIND THE EXPERIENCE OF SETTLING IN AND MAKING IT HOME?
By marrying a foreigner, I always knew that we would move to his country. And fairly to say it is, in most cases, quite difficult for a foreigner to get a job in South Africa. Secondly, it was a joint decision that once we conceive, we would be moving to Switzerland. This made it easy for me to accept because my mindset was to build my family in Switzerland. Also, when we made the move I was six months pregnant, so I think this was also a blessing because you know how it goes with your first child. My focus and attention were devoted to my firstborn completely. Even though it was a bit easy, I also use to find myself alone even though my husband was extremely helpful and considerate. My loneliness wasn’t because I was in a foreign place. It was because I have started the journey of being a novice mother. If I were to be single, I would know exactly what to do in a foreign place meet people, and so forth. However, this was not the life I wanted to return to. I have found a new part of myself, and that is being a mother. And being a mother in Switzerland is wonderful. There are times when I miss my “people”, the food, the language, the behavior as well as the old people, etc. South Africa will always be my home. But now I am fortunate to have two homes that occupy my heart. What I must say is that going back to South Africa rejuvenates my soul and reminds me of the beginning.
TELL ME ABOUT LIFE IN SWITZERLAND – WHAT IS IT LIKE FOR FOREIGNERS?
I thoroughly enjoy life in Switzerland. From my experience, the standard of living for children, especially in Zurich, is second to none. We live in a street where children play outside, and this reminds me of my childhood back in Cape Town. Zurich is quite a cosmopolitan city and there are a lot of foreigners. I also find that the Swiss Germans are quite helpful. They might not be friendly, but they are quite helpful.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE SWITZERLAND IN THREE WORDS?
Switzerland is a place everyone can enjoy!
WHAT ARE THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN THE AREA YOU LIVING IN; ANYTHING TO RECOMMEND TO FUTURE EXPATS?
In summer there are numerous spots to enjoy with your kids alongside the lake. There are parks close by, and the parks are second to none. Search for SPIELPLATZ Near ME, and you will be surprised. The city of Zurich takes the wellbeing of children into account. Kids love being outdoors and by the lake during summer. There are numerous hikes that you could do with kids as well.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST ADJUSTMENTS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HAD TO MAKE WHEN SETTLING INTO EXPAT LIFE IN SWITZERLAND? DID YOU EXPERIENCE ANY PARTICULAR ELEMENTS OF CULTURE SHOCK? AND IF SO, WHAT WAS IT.
I didn’t experience any culture shock. The most significant adjustment for me was becoming a mother in a country without any help from family members. In South Africa, I would have my sister around or aunties, but moving to Switzerland, I had no extended family support structure. So this was tough!
HOW WOULD YOU RATE THE HEALTHCARE AND PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN SWITZERLAND VS. THAT OF SOUTH AFRICA?
I don’t think we can compare the two. It wouldn’t be fair on my beloved country, South Africa. Our history and the mentality due to apartheid has a long way to go. In South Africa, you wouldn’t find my family or me in a public hospital. However, in Switzerland, I gave birth in a public hospital with both my kids and I was absolutely amazed at the public health care system. The people take pride in their work. As for South Africa, I think that our public servants are not being taken care of in a way that makes them feel valued.
WAS IT EASY TO MAKE FRIENDS AND SOCIALIZE?
Because I am a novice mother, I don’t have the time to make friends. But I don’t think its difficult because I would go to any place and just strike up a conversation with other mothers. I guess if you want to make friends don’t wait on others but you have to put yourself out there.
HOW DOES THE COST OF LIVING IN SWITZERLAND COMPARE TO SOUTH AFRICA?
I’m just going to say that I can’t even afford a domestic worker to come twice a week to assist me!
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR ANYONE WANTING TO MOVE TO SWITZERLAND WITH THEIR FAMILY.
Don’t expect it to be like home. Save yourself the disappointment. There is no place on earth like Cape Town or South Africa for that matter. South Africa is truly special from politics to social and economics and religion. I mean, we have coloured people in South Africa, and this confuses the whole world, haha. We also coexist with people from different faiths and we are happy to hear the Athaan or the church bells. We know all the Christmas carols, and the non-Muslims know exactly when it’s Ramadan. Be open to appreciate what your new “home” has to offer. This Ramadan, I learnt to bring Cape Town into my home and share a bit of the culture with my neighbours. But first, I asked them if they were open to accepting a Barakat (a plate full of treats given to the next person). Whether they like to taste a bit of my culture, and they were open to it! There will be things in Switzerland that might not agree with you but don’t criticize the country in public. Remember our own country also has far worse problems.