Our group had noble intentions at its conception: a group of wives and partners from a certain company would gather in each other’s homes to share food from our home countries and gentle conversation. None of us predicted it would become full of laugher, fun and absolute honesty about our lives… the good, the bad, the mad, the sad and the Appenzeller Farmer who walked in at just the wrong time….
The first lunch saw us all pile into various cars and make our way into the backwaters of Appenzell. The wind outside our hostess’ apartment almost knocked us off our feet, but so too did her view of Säntis mountain. We all presented our regional dishes with a mix of pride and embarrassment. Photographs were taken by our resident food blogger, introductions made, names remembered and forgotten. A bottle or two of wine appeared from somewhere and the afternoon disappeared in a blur of new faces, new foods, heady spices and raised glasses.
Over a year later and the rolling lunch dates continue. Many of us have run out of regional dishes (after Shepard’s Pie and scones, the British contingent started to go a little freestyle!) and just cook whatever can be balanced on our laps on the bus. For me however, the food is simply a nice side attraction. What continues to draw me, month after month, are the conversations that we end up having. We talk about our lives; family visiting and family missed. We tell wild tales of our travels, or mutter into our couscous about how hard it is to find work; find childcare; find our lives again in a strange land. Sometimes, just sometimes, especially when a bottle or two arrives with the dishes, the conversation turns to sex. That’s when you can hear the laugher from the next apartment building.
The truth is I missed this. Back in England, my girlfriends and I would go out, or stay in with good wine (or not so good wine as I don’t think we cared too much) to relax, giggle and tell stories. The more wine, the more honest, personal and somewhat outrageous the stories got. We would shriek with laughter and collapse on each other with tears rolling down our faces. It was therapy at its highest. It is what women throughout the ages have been gathering to do: gossip, share, relax and laugh. We laugh at life’s absurdities and that definitely includes sex.
Leaving behind our crazy support network and moving to Switzerland can be a very isolating experience. Our friendships help us to define who we are, feel connected and feel that we belong. The Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School showed that not having friends or confidants is as detrimental to our health as being overweight or smoking cigarettes. To get through this thing that we call an expat life, having a whole bunch of friends with whom we can talk about anything, is key. And when you find yourself laughing until your cheekbones hurt about lingerie, an Appenzeller farmer and a very long coat, at three in the afternoon, you know you are in the right place, wherever in the world you are.
By Tammy Furey
Tammy Furey works with expat parents in Switzerland and internationally to help them move from stress, isolation, frustration, anxiety and a sense of being lost to being stress- free and happy, no matter where they are in the world. Tammy is a coach, writer and blogger who lives in St. Gallen with her husband and daughter whilst attempting (badly) to speak German and fold her paper recycling in the correct manner. www.fureycoaching.com
Illustration by Laura Munteanu
Laura has studied Journalism and Advertising, and has been working as a journalist and an illustrator. She has been illustrating for magazines, websites, charity and different campaigns. She lives in Zurich with her husband and her 5 -year- old daughter.