Top 10 ways to keep it real as Newlywed Expats... living in separate countries

By: Alecia McFarlane

Make yourself at home: First things first, get the housing bit settled. For us this consisted of what felt like a hundred different trips to Ikea and a lot of carrying cardboard packages up three flights of stairs. We learned early that even in a small village in Switzerland you could order yourself a pizza and enjoy an ice-cold beer after a day (or 4) of moving. It's important to feed the labourer (in this case the husband), especially with the thousands of tiny pieces he has to somehow put together. Biggest suggestion for the move- pay for the Ikea delivery… if you’re feeling flush with the cash, pay for the assembly too! 

Bother your new colleagues, friends, and neighbours for suggestions on everything! You're in a new country, take this opportunity to widen the scope of your daily experiences and routines. Did you know you're not supposed to do laundry or vaccum on Sunday, andddd everything is closed? While this initially seemed pretty darn inconvenient it has turned out to be delightfully refreshing. No, I can't be counted on to get the chores done on Sunday, but this leaves time for strolls along the lakeside and incredible Sunday dinners (including dessert). 

When the weather is looking glum, always go up. The mountains can be a bit intimidating as the clouds roll in, but spurred on by other travellers we’ve ignored the forecasts and struck out on various hiking trips. We've been rewarded with incredible views of mountains set upon the clouds and sunshine that didn’t make it’s way down to the city for days. 

Drag your a** out of bed in the early morning and get outside… Hop a train or a boat and enjoy the countryside. We were inspired by another Expat couple who had made it their mission to travel somewhere every other weekend for their entire first year abroad. We haven’t been quite that dedicated, but I will say we’ve experienced something new each weekend since we arrived. 

Experience things together. Being separated for 5 months of our 8-month engagement last year left us deliriously happy to spend every possible newly-wed moment together. Since moving to Switzerland we’ve been able to try out many new experiences, just the two of us. Personally I had never hiked a mountain, never swam in a mountain run-off stream, never walked through kilometres of mountainside vineyards, never witnessed chocolate manufacturing, or tasted fine chocolate to my heart’s content. Each time we set out on a new adventure, we're paid back three-fold, in the intial anticipation, in the experience, and in the memory/retell that inevitably follows- what a way to build a life together. 

Don’t be afraid to get out there on your own… or with a couple new friends. A Kiwi-Expat friend of mine has completely embraced this philosophy, joining in with Meet Ups around Switzerland- hiking, eating, dancing, you name it she’s tried it. I somehow lucked out with a great group of Expat colleagues who are up for trying out any sort of new activity whether it’s learning to ski, dancing Scottish jigs, joining a cross-fit gym, attempting the German language, or hopping the train to Christmas Markets around the country. This particular strategy has led to constant social outings that don't leave much time for missing home. 

Embrace Swiss (German/ French/ Italian) Gastronomy: After we settled in to our new home, with our new Ikea kitchen supplies, we got down to business with recreating some of our favourite recipes from home with the available Swiss ingredients. We also found some fabulous Swiss food blogs (and Swiss friends) and tried out some new recipes. Eating out here is notttttt cheap, however on our select adventures into Swiss restaurant culture we’ve been inspired by the delicious local meats, cheeses and vegetables and have managed to incorporate many of the local tastes into our weekly recipe repertoire

Stop comparing prices. Things in Switzerland are more expensive than back home... get over it now and life will get a whole lot simpler. 

Attempt to use the language. Try to convey your thoughts/wants/needs/thanks in German and be gracious when they use their "very little" knowledge of English to help you out. Patrick started us off on the right foot with basic phrases like "please, thank you, and do you speak English?" and we've taken up studying as much German as we can in our spare time, which leads me to my final point...

Learn the language. You may not develop a native accent (not that it matters in this country, every few kilometres introduces you to a new dialect), you may not speak with perfect confidence but you just may get to know some amazing people and experience another whole side to this beautiful country. And if not, well in my experience most language groups include wine.

As a final thought (yep you get a bonus), don't forget to record your experience. Whether you document in souvenirs, photographs or blog entries, have a way to remind yourself of this amazing opportunity you've had to live, learn and love in a new place. 

Thanks for listening, look at you using new acquaintances to get to know about Expat life- good on ya! 

- Al

About the author

Expat Blog ListingAlecia McFarlane is a Canadian expat living in Switzerland. Blog description: Learning a little about marriage, travel, living primal, photography and career life. We are newly moved to Switzerland for work, and are currently documenting our wedding trip to Ireland.
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Contest Comments » There are 7 comments

Rebecca Quirk wrote 5 years ago:

Love this! Couldn't agree more, wine is for sure the universal language!!!

Mary Jayne Anne wrote 5 years ago:

Great blog!! You guys have made it work so well AND what a great adventure you are having together. Looking forward to hearing more!

Kevin wrote 5 years ago:

A terrific story - well written and so helpful. We recently experienced number 3 - "when the weather is looking glum, always go up". No matter how many weather forecasts we looked at, the outlook was gloomy. However, we experience Pilatus and Regi from above the clouds - it was wonderful. Continue writing about (and enjoying) your adventure.

Shannon wrote 5 years ago:

Well written Al! (Like always) great tips on living abroad, sounds like you and Pat are doing great and having an amazing adventure, can't wait to see what you have next!

Katie wrote 5 years ago:

Love it! So proud of you two & happy to hear all about your newly we'd adventures!! Inspirational! Cheers

Greg Asselin wrote 5 years ago:

This was a very cool blog post. I hope you win and best of luck.

Elizabeth wrote 5 years ago:

This is such a great way to highlight the ups and downs of being newlyweds (especially in different countries)! And newlyweds or not, there's no excuse to not get off your a** and get outside ;) A great read - and will keep all these tidbits in mind for future!

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