by Becky Clifford  /  Photography Andaleeb Lilley  /  Photoshoot at ROOOM Kids Design

“sometimes you have to let life turn you upside down, so you can learn how to live right side up”

I’ve been living here in Zug, Switzerland for about 9 months now. I moved from Easton, Pennsylvania to the land of huge mountains, fresh air, and buttery croissants. It was my first international move with a loving husband, my first toddler, and a slightly elder Maltese puppy. I left everything I knew – my friends, family (within drivable distance), my full time job, my daughter’s awesome daycare, a wonderful yoga studio and community, a fabulous coffee shop… move abroad and live the life of an Expat mum.

Something inside me said it was exactly what I needed to do. That is why I find the quote above so fitting for this stage of my life. I hadn’t been the happiest at my full time job and was searching for something. With the added responsibility of being a mum + corporate job + commute, everything felt so rushed and so stressed and I was becoming overwhelmed. Maybe I could have been better at hiring outside help for the home front or being more confident and strong at work when faced with difficult situations that I didn’t agree with, but that is all behind me. I knew I wanted more time with my baby girl and as a cancer survivor, I also didn’t want to lose those parts of self care that I knew to be so important– exercise, eating right, yoga, finding time for joy, laughter and nature and my current situation wasn’t allowing me that.

My husband had always wished he had studied abroad so when offered this opportunity, I was more than encouraging and something inside me said this would be a great bonding experience for us as a family and growth as individuals. Sometimes when we do the scariest things, we end up with a renewed sense of self-confidence, faith, and zest for life. But that isn’t to say it’s not HARD.

I immediately felt different after I stepped out of the plane, got on the airport train and heard cows moo-ing. Once I realized it wasn’t just me hearing things and experiencing serious jet lag, I was able to enjoy it more. There were pictures of green pastures projected on the wall as the airport train moved and music that made me envision myself frolicking on green mountains like they show in The Sound of Music. As we rode from the airport to our temporary flat in Cham, the scenery really wasn’t much different than what was projected on that wall. The hills really were that rolling and they really were that shade of vibrant alive earth green. And the air smelled alive and fresh.   I wanted to keep taking these deep breaths and remember this exact moment. I knew not what lied ahead but that if I kept taking these deep breaths that all would be okay.

Here is my newcomer survival kit for starting your life as a Swiss Expat Mum and trailing spouse:

  1. Smile and say “Gruetzi”. I have read many an article and firmly believe this myself that a key to happiness is feeling like part of a community and having a support system. You land here without any of that. I have felt the need for that connectedness more since becoming a mother. That saying about it takes a village, some days it feels like a village and a half! So I have slowly made friends – old and young, all different cultures, and all different walks of life. I love hearing people’s stories, where they have lived, traveled, experienced, and what they are passionate about. Now some days it has been tough. Some days I want to crawl into a hole and head back to Easton PA where that community for me was already formed. I had relationships where they were so deep, we didn’t have to say anything and we knew how the other was doing. We knew we would be there for one another through thick and thin, ups and downs, triumphs and defeats. Then I remind myself we lived there for 10 years. And as a Virgo, patience is not my strong suit so this was another opportunity knocking on my door to give myself some time. To smile and say hi, to be open to those that came to cross my path, and to give Swiss life my best shot.

2. Make a list of the things you enjoyed about the places you have lived before and find those here. For me it was coffee, yoga, parks, shopping, church or place of faith, and friends. I fell in love with yoga about 6 years ago. Yoga keeps me grounded, breathing, and in tune with my body. I started taking classes here and it was different in German…I had to crank my neck in downward dog to see what the people in front of me were doing. But I have to say, the vibe and feeling I got after was the same.  My practice helps center me and slow me down so that I can listen to my inner guide and drown out the noise. As for my coffee love, this is where my husband laughs at me but thus far, I really love McCafe. I love the froth on top of their cappuccinos, the service is great, there is an indoor play area for my daughter, and I guess in a way it feels familiar, like being back in the US. So find your home here. There are plenty of stores that have things from all over the world. As for shopping, I am still trying to find stores with price tags that don’t make my jaw drop, but I guess no country can have it all! I can say Italy and Spain have thus far had some really cute boutiques with what I consider affordable price tags, and if the necessary need for a new top does arise, there is an H&M close by. I think I already touched on parks with the bullet point about the natural beauty here. And friends, well….I have been blessed to find those too. Plus, thank God for Facetime, which I utilize often to keep in touch with loved ones back home. There are certain people in my life, I guess I could call them soul mates that we can be x thousands of miles apart but a ten minute Facetime together feels like we are having a coffee back at Cosmic cup. Faith – I started going to bible study with a group of amazing ladies. There is something about surrounding myself with uplifting supportive women that feels just right, especially during a major life move.

3. Explore the natural beauty – My gosh, I walk out my door sometimes to walk the dog and I have a running “to do” list in my head and the nature around here often drives me to a complete halt. We are surrounded by such natural beauty, beautiful landscapes, and so many mountain tops to explore. So if #1 has drained your battery because putting yourself out there can – I suggest taking yourself up to the tipy top of a mountain and just breathing.   Or maybe pay the 3 francs to slide down an alpine slide while yelling “ommmmmmmm”. (Secretly, I have).



Kira is wearing Little Man Happy Bowl Dress Knockout and leggings from Stadtlandkind

Becky is wearing Princess goes Hollywood