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Indian student blog Swiss masala: the ingredients needed for a successful move to Switzerland

Sign in French and German, 'Universite, Universität'
(© KEYSTONE / GAETAN BALLY)

Gaurav explains why it's so important to start learning a Swiss language before coming to Switzerland - and have some cooking skills.

As a student you do your research before travelling to a new country, to know as much as possible. But some things are hard to prepare in advance. You also have some expectations, which may or may not be true. In this post, I will describe my first few months in Switzerland.

Before coming to the country I did the research I thought was required in order to make a smooth transition. It was the first time I went outside of India, so I wanted to make sure everything would work properly. 

I chose Switzerland after reading in a blog that most people speak English here, so I thought it would not be a big issue for me. In reality, Switzerland has four regions if you divide Switzerland by language, and most people prefer to speak their respective language even if they know English. 

I am in the French-speaking part and the locals are more reluctant to speak English then their German counterparts. That was a challenge because I did not learn French before moving here, and therefore faced difficulties communicating. For instance, when I tried to get simple directions to a specific location from a person on the street, I failed due to the language barrier. For the first few weeks before I started French lessons, I had to use a translation app to understand most things. 

I also hadn't expected any racism in Switzerland. This was due to the fact that Switzerland presents itself as a tourist country and hence it is hard to think that racism can exist in such a place. But in reality that is not the case. There have been many incidents in Switzerland which show that there is racism here, which I have also witnessed and been a victim. I will write a more detailed post on this in the coming weeks, but this is an example of racism I've seen.

Words 'No Asians' written on blackboard
(swissinfo.ch)

There are other things that are hard to predict or prepare for: How could I understand how to operate the ticket vending machines at train stations and bus stops? No such machines were available in India. 

And I was never used to buying groceries myself in India, but when I had to pick up some household items, there was always a nearby shop I could go to. Here, no such shops exist, but instead there are big retail chains, like Coop and Migros. 

Coop sign in a shopping mall
(swissinfo.ch)

The nearest Coop is just five minutes from my residence here in Neuchâtel but purchasing groceries was a new experience for me: The information written on all the products is in German, French and Italian, and - due to my limited cooking skills - I usually only buy pasta, even though all major products are available.

For more blog posts and information on studying in Switzerland visit our dedicated page Education Swiss Madeexternal link.


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