The Joys (not) of expat living
Six months ago, Julie and I had no idea what we were getting into. We were so caught up in the excitement of the adventure that neither one of us realized we had no clue what we were doing. I mean heck, we are in our mid-50’s, we have both been pretty successful in our chosen career fields, we raised two fabulous children, and we had family and friends supporting us. Don’t get me wrong, we are both very glad we took this opportunity, but the last few days have been a struggle.
The struggle starts with me. I am suffering from my 3rd cold in the 8 weeks I have been here. This is frustrating in so many ways. The first is that I am taking so much better care of myself over here. I exercise more. I eat better. I even get more sleep. Yet I have been sick more over here than I ever was back in Wisconsin. I’m obviously not a Doctor, so I am guessing it has to do with new viruses and bacteria, that I have never been around. I guess I should be thankful that it is hitting me and not Julie, though. The good news is that this one didn’t hit me as hard as the last one did. The last one knocked me completely off my feet for a day and a half. That one got Julie as well. This one consists of not being able to breathe, and just generally not feeling well. The other thing that makes struggle through minor illness like this are just some of the differences in medication, and not having the instant means of transportation at my fingertips.
You can’t just buy cold medicine at the at the nearest grocery store. Even the cold medications that don’t have psuedo-ephedrine are only sold in pharmacies. One thing I have learned, is there are two kinds of pharmacies over here. One kind sells homeopathic stuff only. The other kind sells “medicines”. Yes, I know I just offended all the people reading this that swear by essential oils, and all those other nostrums. Even in the real pharmacy anything that might actually have an effect on the body are only for sale behind the counter. I think I even have to ask the pharmacist for aspirin. I haven’t needed to buy any yet, but I haven’t seen anything on the shelves either. 🙂 . The language barrier makes this harder. I am quickly getting better with my limited German, but I don’t have the knowledge for more complex thoughts or requests. So I pull up web pages on my phone, with an image, and then just hand my phone over to the pharmacist so she can get me what I need. Hey it works!
Finances: I think in an earlier blog, I explained a little about how much more secure the banking systems are over here. As an IT guy I really like that, but as everyone knows the more secure the systems the harder they are to use. I wound up getting in trouble with the electric company. Over here utility bills are paid either quarterly or annually. (Why anyone would ever go with an annual payment is beyond me, but that is for another time.) We got our quarterly electric bill about a month ago. I thought I had everything all set up through the bank but apparently I missed a step. My fault for not going back and checking it. I have never been one to obsess about the bank account. Once I paid a bill, I put it out of my head, and didn’t think about it again until the next bill came. So I did that with this one. However, it turns out I never actually paid the bill. So I got a nasty email this weekend from the electric company. In the online bill pay system back home, it was a simple matter of entering the company, company address, the customer number, and the amount you wanted to pay. Here, I had to find the company’s customer number with the electronic payment system, my customer number with the electric company, the installation number (turns out to be the house number), and finally an IBAN number. What caused me the problem was the installation number. My payment was withheld, because I used the “reference number” on the bill. Oh well, they didn’t shut off the power, and it only cost me $10 extra for the late fee. I just now have the awful feeling that Julie and I have a big black mark against us some where with someone.
Another frustration for the week also revolves around language and cultural differences. You see, in Switzerland, the local government is responsible for an awful lot. In addition to registering to live, we also had to register our Health care status. At some point, the town sent us a letter informing us that we needed to register our health insurance, but either . 1) I didn’t open the letter at all, and just figured it was junk mail like back in the US or 2) I opened the letter, and didn’t translate it correctly, or 3) I opened the letter, translated it correctly, and then forgot about it. Any of the three is a possible explanation, because the health care registration didn’t go very smoothly. When we would have gotten the letter, we did not have health care yet, so there was no way to reply. So this morning, after I write this blog, and take a shower!! I will be trudging down the hill to the town hall with copies of our insurance cards, copies of the bill, and hopefully I can find a letter on the website stating we have health insurance. I think we will be OK with the Government after that.
My final thought for this week involves things you miss when you make a move. I am very thankful for my friends keeping me updated via SnapChat, Facebook, etc… Social Media does make it easy to stay in contact. It also makes it easier to miss what you love. About 20 years ago my friend Mike Eierman convinced me to buy a shot gun and go deer hunting. The Eierman family owns some hunting land near where we live, and have been fabulous about letting me come and hunt most weekends every fall. That family have been some of our absolute best friends in Wisconsin. They have helped me when I needed the help, and I like to think I repay those favors every chance I get. Anyway, this past weekend some of the Eierman Family drove down to Arkansas to hunt with with some old family friends. I have been lucky enough to go on that trip a couple of times as well. Seeing the pictures of the happy hunters and the deer made me very sad this weekend. The part of the family that were not in Arkansas were all getting in the last bow hunt before what is the BEST WEEKEND of the entire year. Opening weekend of gun season for Wisconsin. Seeing another group of friends sitting around the table telling stories of their hunt really made me think about home. Next year, I hope to go back for the last bow hunt, and the opener. I am sure missing it this year though. Good luck to everyone hitting the woods in Wisconsin next weekend. My best wishes for a successful hunt are with all of you!