You may have noticed I was away for a while. I happened to be in the US, waiting for my visa to be approved. Now I’m an official resident enjoying my new Zuritopian life. During my international limbo I stayed with my family in Southern California, which was a comfortable interlude before moving to Switzerland. I may have been impatient to get moving, but it was a pretty undemanding lifestyle while I waited.
This got me thinking about comfort zones in general, and how previously in Switzerland it was easy to stay home when the world outside was unfamiliar and uncomfortable. There’s one thing about being in a foreign country: you’ve been taken out of your comfort zone. In my case, I found myself making excuses to avoid going to the post office or getting a haircut. While I knew how to do those mundane tasks in the US, in Switzerland they became scary trips into the unknown. Eventually I noticed that I was getting bored and feeling unhappy, and that it felt like my life was shrinking around me (and my hair was getting really long!). I realized that I needed to get out and do things before my visit became a negative experience.
I made an effort to do new things, and every time I left the house to do something new, I expanded my comfort zone. To help myself get over my fears, before going off on a new adventure I researched things on the Internet, looked up words in German, and asked my Swiss partner for handy Swiss-German phrases. Yes, that’s a bit of overkill for a haircut or shoe shopping, but it helped me feel more comfortable. And yes, once I got where I was going everything went fine and was not a big deal. Very often we switched to English after a few phrases. In the case of the hair stylist, I looked for someone who advertised that they spoke English.
It was also a big help to sign up for a German class. Besides teaching me German, the routine of going out and mingling with my classmates motivated me to keep adding to my experiences. So now I know how to mail a package, where to get my hair cut, and how to chat with friendly old ladies on the bus. Eventually I plan to learn Swiss German, but most of all, I plan to keep getting out and getting more comfortable in Zurich.