New York, Paris… 24-year-old Anja Glover has lived in some of the largest metropolitan cities around the world. This is no coincidence – after all, the young Swiss woman is studying urban sociology as well as working as a journalist. She especially loves the Parisian joie de vivre, which she sometimes finds lacking in Switzerland.
SWI swissinfo.ch: What made you leave Switzerland? Are you planning to return some day?
Anja Glover: I once read that not only plants, but also humans, need to be re-potted every now and then. After a few months in New York it was clear to me that I wanted to spend part of my life abroad. For the simple reason that here, far away from familiar surroundings, I learn something new every day and am less inclined to fall into a routine.
Paris was an excellent opportunity for me. As an urban sociology student I am interested in culturally diverse cities, and I also learned French for many years. Plus, the city is just three hours from my home.
But the main reason is that I fell in love with the City of Light and its people a few years ago. I had already spent half a year in Paris in the autumn of 2015 and came back here after Christmas 2016.
I’ll definitely be returning to Switzerland regularly. But so far I can’t really imagine settling in any one place. I think that the danger of succumbing to the routine of everyday life is always somewhat greater in Switzerland than other places. I want to protect myself against that. I like having several homes.
SWI swissinfo.ch: What kind of work are you doing? How did it come about and how is it going?
A.G.: I work as a freelance journalist and copywriter, and am also finishing my Master’s degree in Urban Sociology. This came about because I started writing sports reports when I was relatively young. Since then, I have been writing for various Swiss magazines, journals and companies.
Fortunately things are going very well. Most of the time I am lucky enough to be able to write about things that interest me. I’m really thankful for that. I am very grateful to all my employers for allowing me to live such a free life.
SWI swissinfo.ch: You currently live in Paris. What are the lifestyle and food like?
A.G.: I am currently living in the eastern part of Paris. Life here is wild, interesting, diverse and educational. There’s lots of dancing, and the food is good and notably diverse.
SWI swissinfo.ch: What aspects of France are more attractive than Switzerland?
A.G.: Definitely the nightlife, the mixing of cultures, the prices, the dance scene, very often the outlook on life: it’s less about possessions and more about living. Probably also for the simple reason that in most cases people here have less than the average Swiss person.
Wealth and possessions often have a constricting effect in Switzerland – you are completely secure, so you hardly ever have to leave your comfort zone.
I have the impression that here in Paris, for example, fewer people go to university just to say they went to university, but rather go in order to discuss, to learn, and to teach. My observations apply primarily to the capital, of course. I think that Paris is more attractive to me as a writer because the city is a wellspring of stories. Stories that should be written. I am constantly observing and writing.
SWI swissinfo.ch: What do you think of Switzerland now that you’re no longer living there?
A.G.: I love my homeland. I think very positively about Switzerland and am thankful that I can return to Switzerland at any time. I can only confirm the stereotypes: everything runs more or less smoothly, one is never in danger, it’s stunningly clean and well organised. However: living life, folie and joie de vivre, the mixing of cultures – all this seems to be much less present. Having both seems like the perfect answer for my life at the moment.
SWI swissinfo.ch: What is the political situation like in France? Are you interested in local politics?
A.G.: The political situation is at a turning point. France has just elected a new president and events couldn’t have been more exciting in the last few weeks. I am very interested in local politics precisely because I see France through a sociological lens. I am always asking myself how certain social situations come about or how integration, for example, works – or doesn’t work – here in France. Politics plays a very central role in this.
If it had been up to those in my area and social circle, Jean-Luc Mélenchon would be president today. We’re happy to settle for Emmanuel Macron as the new president mainly because the alternative – Marine Le Pen – would have simply been unthinkable. I must admit I was a bit scared of the possibility that Le Pen could actually become president. Especially in times like these, when not only Brexit but also Donald Trump became possible.
SWI swissinfo.ch: Do you vote in Swiss elections and referendums?
A.G.: Yes, I visit Switzerland frequently, and of course I keep up to date with Switzerland’s political situation when I’m in France. Just recently, in early May, I was in Switzerland for a work assignment and took that opportunity to vote. If it were possible to vote online, I would happily make use of that option. For a Swiss person living abroad like me, it would be extremely practical.
On politics, I think what is missing in Switzerland compared to France are simply designed informational videos. Sure, there are some for young people, but what I liked about the presidential election in France is that numerous YouTube channels provided comprehensive information about different views.
Young people here often show more enthusiasm for projects that are unpaid but meaningful. Students in particular are not afraid to take on the effort of communicating their knowledge, engaging in public discussion or enlightening their fellow citizens. The French revolutionary spirit, the struggle for a “better world”, is very noticeable to me in Paris. This kind of model could lead to more young people participating in Swiss politics, too.
SWI swissinfo.ch: What do you miss most about Switzerland?
A.G.: I miss the fresh air, the delicious water and the lakes. And of course my loving and crazy family; I miss laughing with them, being woken up by our frisky dog in the morning and eating homemade plaited loaf together on Sundays – the French have no appreciation for homemade bread, and the baguette can get boring after a while.
And I miss my friends, but hardly any of them live in Switzerland anymore either. And sometimes I just miss speaking “Schwizerdütsch”.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch.
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swissinfo.ch (the interview was conducted in writing)