Saying Switzerland is different from Hawaii would be an understatement. I would scribble down little notes throughout my first year living as an expat, Things that I found interesting or funny or odd. So here are my thoughts, in no particular order, 19 of them.
1. The Questions I get asked Frequently (like Clockwork)
- Why did you move from Hawaii to… here? (Saying it like Switzerland is Mordor)
- What do you think of the president (Trump)?
2. School Humor
My first months of school can only be described as a complete train wreck of laughter and snafu. My biggest snafu in my journey of learning German is when I tried to tell a young lady she had the Pregnancy Glow. Do you know what the pregnancy glow is? Well if you ever saw a pregnant woman walking on clouds of happiness. It seems nothing can shake her. It’s like she has found the secrecy of happiness. Another example of explaining it is when a person gets “lucky.” You know, when you see the person the next morning from a night out, and you stare that person in the eye and say, “I know what you did last night!” Two examples of the pregnancy glow in ENGLISH. Now try explaining that in another language you just learned combined with your limited bro-sign-language. When I told my wife the story, she busted out in laughter. She said I basically told the girl she smiles a lot when she is fat. It’s a good thing the student and I were already friends and she probably assumed I was trying to tell her something nice but couldn’t find the words to tell her. Bottom line, when trying to compliment someone in another language, a good ole thumbs up might just do the trick.
3. Learning German
Speaking of learning German. I have two little quips about learning Deutsch.
- My need to exaggerate. I always kind of knew I was an exaggerator, and like to express my feelings in pidgin or slang. For example, whenever I see something awesome, words like Animals, Next Level, Braaahh, Guy, Yea You, and Boom pop into my head. In the early 2000’s, people would say things like “That’s Hot!” Well in German, they say Gut, Schön, Tip Top, maybe Toll, maybe Sehr Gut, maybe Wunderbar. I remember trying to explain how big Halloween is in Hawaii compared to here. I lost count on the amount of Sehr sehr sehr I said. The teacher quickly said “Ein Sehr Rex, One very Rex.” I’m sure there are other German words to express oneself in excitement but trust me when I say, it’s not enough, and selfishly I’m already saying “Nächste Stufe” for Next Level.
- One would say learning German here would be easy because everyone is speaking German. Wrong! People speak Swiss German here. The best way to explain this flavor of German is Pidgin (Hawaii Slang). People who speak pidgin can understand people who speak English, but people who speak English can barely understand Pidgin. It’s the same here in Switzerland. Swiss can understand Deutsch (German) but Germans cannot understand the Swiss. So, what I learn in School does not necessarily translate to the streets. And when I sit down for dinners with my wife’s family, the only words I catch is Genau and Also.
4. Scheisse not Scheissi
Somehow I have created a new word while trying to say the word Shit. Scheisse (pronounced something like shy-say). I thought I was saying it correctly for a long time until someone said, “it’s so cute how you say Scheisse that we started saying it like you.” What? Have I been saying a German word wrong all this time time? Yes, I have. Yes, I have. Well my pronunciation of Scheisse is Scheissi (Shy-seeee). I love things that end in Skiiiii. For example I call my wife Babeskiiii. So having something similar like Scheissiiiiiiiii (with out the K), I found it to be a great word to express myself and I honestly thought I was nailing it. Nope. I still continue to pronounce scheisse wrong, why reinvent the wheel at this point.
5. Favorite day\Moment
I have seen 17 cantons in Switzerland in the span of one year. I seen the most beautiful locations. Everything is new. Everything is an Exploration. Everything is an Explosion. In addition to this year, I’ve also got to see France and Italy. And yet I am here to say the most memorable moment, I have had since moving away from Hawaii is on a simple morning. Waking up at 4ish in the morning and being dropped off in the middle of a field. I was there to capture a sunrise/fog time-lapse. I spent that freezing morning watching the fog dance in the morning glow by myself. The more the sun touched the white misty fog, the more it disappeared. Breathing in the chilled/fresh/farm air while I hear my camera click off a picture every few seconds. After an hour or so, I made my journey home. Walking alone on the empty streets. Seeing the beautiful mountains and empty farmlands struck my soul down to the bone marrow. It was in this moment that it hit me. “I am living in a new country. I am alone. What the F#$ am I doing here?” My emotions caught me. This moment became much bigger than taking photos. It was a defining moment of me being here in Switzerland. I am here and this is exactly where I should be, in the midst of the fog clearing away for my arrival on this empty street.
6. Hawaii is still more Expensive than Switzerland.
Don’t get me wrong, Switzerland is expensive, but your salary to cost of living is accommodating. I mean minimal wage here lives up to the name, you can live on minimal wage. Try telling that to a person in Hawaii. Most people in Hawaii work two jobs or move back into their parents house or give up and move away.
I do still try to find savings where I can, for example Aliexpress.com is my new best friend. I’m used to paying for shipping and waiting forever. Too often you see on any site, free shipping and in tiny print, except Hawaii and Alaska. Now living in Switzerland, it’s the same but I must wait on average 2-5 weeks for a package coming from China. It beats buying the same thing in a store in Switzerland for 10x the price.
7. What I Miss?
It’s not who I miss but what I miss about them, what I miss about that particular moment. Like the moment we saw the sunrise over China Man’s hat, or the endless amount of bbq’s we had together or the time we woke up in the blistering cold sandy beach of Makaha, seeing the surfers already out in the water warming up for their heat for the Buffalo Contest. I miss the music that travels through the air from random bars. I miss the diverse nationalities of living in one place. The Swiss are very diverse but Hawaii is the definition of Diversity. This means we can have our favorite Japanese, Vietnamese, Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, even Himalayan, of course local food, breakfast hot spots and plate lunch places that come with Poke. I miss watching the sunrise from the ocean. I miss driving around the island on a rainy day. I miss the collaboration with other indie film makers. I dearly miss Onstage and everything that comes with it, the regulars, the music and cheap beer.
8. Who am I?
I thought I would never move from Kauai and yet I moved away as soon as I graduated High School. I really believed I would never move away from Oahu and yet I’m in Switzerland writing this here blog. In the past, I got IT Non-Tax job offers to other countries for a pretty penny (alot of $). I was offered jobs twice in Singapore, twice in Japan, once in Italy and once in Germany. I turned them all down because I couldn’t get my head wrapped around moving away from Hawaii. I always felt I needed to do something before moving, but what? I didn’t know. As the years went by, the more I returned to my roots. Which meant more time spent with friends, bbqing, camping, fishing, crabbing, hiking, surfing, and exploring the different islands. Countless laughs, reminiscing of the past, exploring new places, making new memories and embracing every moment. It all meant more when I absolutely knew I was going to move away. It was 2 years of doing everything I wanted to do and even doing things I didn’t imagine. For example, camping on top of a remote mountain with little food and water.
9. I see Hawaii Everywhere and in Everything
How Hawaii has crossed oceans and countries. I see Poke Bowls. I see “Da Kine” backpacks everywhere. I don’t think anyone here knows it’s a brand that originated in Hawaii and “Da Kine” is a Hawaii pidgin word. They even sell Kona Beer here. Every pizza/Italian restaurant has a Hawaiian Pizza. Every single one. How heart broken would it be to tell them that all Hawaii people don’t eat their pizza with pineapple. And furthermore, pineapple is no longer grown in mass in Hawaii. But the most memorable time is when I seen a guy wearing a BJ Penn shirt. I yelled “Hawaii” and ran up to him and started blabbering. By the time I was done talking to this poor stranger, he had a confused look like “What?” I did not realize how fast I switched into pidgin. And no the guy was not from Hawaii, he bought the shirt years ago in Hawaii. Brah!
10. My Crazy Brain
I always secretly wanted to give up everything and start over. I knew it would be a struggle. It would entail an exploration of oneself. I’m obsessed with oneself and what that means. How we can change as human beings. Diamonds are made from constant pressure. The most interesting people I have met in life either had a hard up-bringing or had a tragic event happen to them. Here I am in that moment and it is harder than I ever imagined and yet it’s easier. My wife helps a lot, like a lot-a lot. I also find strength in knowing that I will be a better person in the end. My ego can be my greatest strength and my worst enemy. I must manage him constantly.
11. Pünktlich “On-Time”
You know you are becoming Swiss when you get worried when the bus or train is 1 minute late. I hope everyone is OK. Maybe there was an accident. I shit you not, 1 minute late. The transportation system here is soooo LEGIT! When it says 2:01, you bet your ass that bus or train is going to be there at 2:01. It is almost Harry Potter like magical. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m very grateful and happy they have figured it out. The world, especially Hawaii should adopt whatever system they have here in Switzerland.
The beauty of living in a place like Switzerland is that traveling to other European countries is reasonably affordable. In the past year we have visited France and Italy (twice). It’s totally possible to do weekend trips to neighboring countries that won’t break the bank. Here is one of the Rex Vs videos from our recent trip to Italy.
13. My New Swiss Ohana
A family that hikes together, stays together… I love going to places that Manuela and her brothers went to as kids. They tell me stories of them playing in puddles and sliding down mountains. And what can I say, I want to play there too.
14. Job Hunting more like Job Looking…
15 years of IT experience working on one of the largest intranets in the world. Successful Entrepreneur as a Hot Sauce Manufacturer, Da Secret Sauce. Award winning Film-Maker, Dear Thalia. Lastly a Professional Athlete (bodyboarder) with Sponsors like Manta Bodyboards and Viper Fins. You would think finding a job would be easier. Well you would be dead wrong. I mean don’t get me wrong, I expected rejections but not a black hole. The Swiss love degrees, certificates and what’s really important is previous experience in that industry. For example if you want a job at a Pharmaceutical company, they require you to have previous experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry. “It’s like what came first, the chicken or the egg.” Here are my “Stages of Grief applying for Jobs in Switzerland”
1st – Disappointment.
2nd – Frustration.
3rd – Self reflection. Is it me, is it you? Should I change?
4th – Anger.
5th – Really Angry.
6th – Crying in the shower.
7th – Acceptance.
8th – Just another Tuesday afternoon. Did I have my Cappuccino yet? Oh it’s late. Better just eat a quick lunch before Deutsch class. Did I do my homework? Oh yea I did, the night before. I wonder what new grammatical word that pushes the verb to the end we will learn today. Let me read that rejection email one more time. Oh yea it stings. I still have emotions. Cool. Guess I will go to school now and pretend I didn’t get rejected for the 37th time.
15. My Accomplishments here in Switzerland
Though I have struggled with finding a Job, I have still gotten a lot of things done. I have kept busy by either going to school, blogging, vlogging, volunteering or networking. Here are some of my highlights.
1. Newly Swissed; I am a part of Newly Swissed. An online magazine that caters to visitors and locals. I got to do some amazing things being a part of this great social network. For example, I got to go surfing. Yes I said Surfing.
2. Lily Centre; I joined a local community here in Luzern called The Lili Centre. This is a place for people to meet and network with other expats and some locals. Here is your home away from Home. I made their promotional video and I hope to be more a part of the community this coming year. They also run Living in Luzern. Daily news, weekly updates, things to do, advice for expats and what it’s like to live in Luzern.
3. Vlogging; I’m vlogging more. Although, I have slowed down the first half of the year. I plan on vlogging more of our adventures and daily activities. These won’t be fancy edits but more of a raw look into my life living here in Switzerland.
4. Xfinity.com; While in Switzerland I got a very exciting email in which it was stating that my film, “Dear Thalia” was selected to be a part of Comcast streaming platform Xfinity, and it would stream the entire month of November. Here is the link to my Filmmaker Spotlight Interview.
5. Great Big Story: I was on site doing a story on “The Valais Drink Pure Festival” in the canton of Nendaz, when I bumped into another film maker. He was there for Great Big Story and doing a story on a certain Alp Horn player. While sharing a beer together, we told each other about our lives and how we got to this place. And long story short, my drone footage ended up in his video.
6. SIVO; I was selected to be a Mentee and I would be assigned a Mentor. He or she would help me with my Career here in Switzerland. I got a very successful expat that has gone through the same issues as I (see above #14). He has helped me with my CV and Linkedin profile to meet the Swiss Market.
7. Deutsch; I am at B1 level. Yeah Me!
I knew it would be cold but how cold. It wouldn’t matter because what I didn’t know and what I soon found out, is that what you wear during the cold is most important. Layering. Layering your clothes is probably the most important things you can learn. In the beginning I would wear a t-shirt/jeans and a big jacket. So either I’m hot or I’m freezing. No middle ground. Learning how to layer so that you can always find that perfect amount of warm is mission critical.
17. My Big First: Seeing Snow Fall
I can only explain seeing snow for the first time like being kissed for the first time. Or maybe catching your first wave. The longer you wait to see xyz (fill in the blank), the more impactful that moment is for you. I remember a friend from Paris seeing the Pacific Ocean from a Hawaiian cliff for the first time…she cried. She actually cried. I initially thought something was wrong, but then she so poetically in her french accent said, “You are so lucky, you live in the most beautiful place in the world.” For me that moment was seeing snow fall for the first time. All the cliche things about snow, like making a snowball, making footprints in the snow and even catching snow in your mouth was all done by yours truly.
18. My word for 2017 was “Adapt”
They were many moments where I wanted to turn around. In fact, one networking event in Zurich I almost turned around and went straight back home. I was so mad at myself for already giving up. When I got off the train in Zurich, I told myself, just get on the next bus. On the bus I said, just get there and on the door step I said just go in and give it 15 minutes. And the rest is history. I met a lot of cool people and it was not as bad as I thought it would be. I did learn that listening to Hawaii music calms my nerves. And the constant mantra I repeated to myself, “I Refuse to Fail Here” We can make a million excuses not to do something or see it as an opportunity to push through that excuse. It’s not always easy but I encourage you all to take one step at a time.
19. Hawai’i Aloha
The song that plays on repeat and brings me to tears. If you choose to watch only one video on this blog, well this is the only one you should watch. This is my home. The music. The people. The land. The ocean. The spirit. Hawai’i Aloha. Mahalo for reading.
Aloha and a hui hou,
Bonus: Other Random thoughts…
Chicken? Beets? Yes Please.
Any type of steak is like buying the finest filet mignon in the States. Bottom line, I’m not paying 30 something bucks for a single serving steak cut that I have to cook. However, the chicken is dirt cheap and Swiss guaranteed. Which means I eat chicken at least 5 times a week. Also this is the most vegetables/salads I have ever eaten in my life. The produce here actually tastes like produce. I absolute love the beets here. I eat beets at least 3 times a week. Although, I do miss a good bowl of Pho or a Spicy Tuna Poke Bowl or a simple Spam Musubi. Yes we LOVE spam in Hawaii.
In Hawaii, once a month I visited the hospital to get 2 allergy shots. One for Nature (pollen, dust mites, grass, etc.) and one for Pets (Cats, dogs, horse, etc.). I also took an allergy pill (Claritin D) every day. Doing these two preventative actions, I gotten my allergy attacks down to once a month, instead of once a week. Here in Switzerland I take no shots or intake no pills. In one year, I had 2 allergy attacks. And in general my nose is less clogged. I don’t know what is in the air but it seems to be a whole bunch of nothing. Well at least for me. Just fresh air for days. And honestly the biggest fear for me moving here was my Allergies. Not the cold. Not the People. Not the Job search. Not not having Friends. Not learning a new language. But my dam Allergies. Knock on wood or more like knock on my nose because I’m not sneezing.