Even as a child, François Schwalb, who was born in South Africa, was interested in his father’s homeland. Today the 30-year-old, who works in the fruit and vegetable industry, lives with his family and numerous animals.
You weren’t born in Switzerland. Why are you Swiss?
I was born in South Africa to a Swiss father in 1988. We lived in Switzerland when I was 7-9 years old. We also visited in 2008 and again in 2018. After the last trip with my wife and one-year-old son, we plan to visit family and friends in Switzerland at least every two years.
What kind of relationship do you have with Switzerland?
Being Swiss is an essential part of my identity, of how I see and understand myself, my parents and siblings. I’m very interested in many aspects of the country and read up a lot on a weekly basis – and the more I read, the more I love Switzerland.
When did you start to feel Swiss? Why are you interested in Switzerland?
Since I can remember, Switzerland has been part of our upbringing. We heard stories and saw photos on a regular basis from older family members. During my high-school years, my two older brothers went to Switzerland for a couple of months, and it was part of my plans as well after school – but I went straight to university in South Africa.
The Swiss identity grew stronger during this period at Stellenbosch University from the age of 18 to 25. The theme of my Masters degree was the Swiss Reformation. As a hobby, I also enjoy reading about the Swiss missionaries who came to South Africa from 1875. Their influence can still be seen today in Limpopo.
What is your occupation?
I’m a qualified minister in the Dutch Reformed Church where I work part time. Full-time I work at ZZ2 as a marketer and logistics coordinator within the fresh produce industry. We also export fruit to Europe, including avocados.
Where exactly do you live at the moment? What’s your life like? What’s the food like there?
For the past five years we’ve been living in Mooketsi, Limpopo. Interesting fact: in Limpopo less than 3% of the population is of European descent. We live on a farm with open spaces and freedom, and we love to cycle and walk every day after work with the dogs.
Life is exciting and diverse with daily surprises – you always need to be on your toes. Being in a farming community, we eat a lot of fruit and vegetables during the week, and almost everyone does a braai [a meat-heavy barbecue] during the weekend.
What do you prefer about South Africa to Switzerland?
I won’t say better, but different – the nature, the coast, the bushveld [woodland], the trees, the natural wildlife and the unique cultures are very special in South Africa. The weather is also wonderful most of the year, and then the friends and family we have here are priceless.
What’s your impression of Switzerland?
Very organised, clean, wealthy, respects tradition and a leader in innovation and technology.
Do you sometimes feel like a stranger, or are you well integrated?
We feel well integrated. South Africa is a rainbow nation with a place for everyone.
Which cultural differences are the hardest for you?
The use of time – punctuality.
What’s the best part of your day-to-day life?
To do a job that I love and to add value in various ways in a farming environment with a diverse group of people. Also, when we drive to, from and around for work, we see all forms of wildlife.
Do you participate in Swiss elections and votes?
Not yet, but I’m planning to do so.
What do you miss about Switzerland?
The organised lifestyle, public transport, drinkable water almost anywhere, a rich history and its bright and secure future.
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