Latvia routinely sees winter temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius. Despite these harsh conditions, Lasma has not brought any of the cold with her.
On the contrary: When I recently met Lasma, her incredibly warm personality and sparkling eyes captivated me. No doubt she is emitting positive energy to the people around her. The charming Latvian blonde is a Newly Swissed. (She has moved to Switzerland just a year ago.) With the North in her pocket, she has stubbornly been trying to break into this competitive marketplace.
NorthLiving brings Nordic culture to Switzerland
I am meeting up with her at one of the trendiest places in Basel – the Spira Popstore, a dynamic pop-up store hub. The offer is constantly changing – after one pop-up store closes after a few months, another one takes its place. Lasma is there to represent her online store NorthLiving – an aesthetic collection of eco, design and lifestyle products.
A vagabond at heart, Lasma has spent a lot of time in her life abroad in many places around the world. She tells me that after the fast paced life in China’s mega city Beijing, Lasma appreciates life in the peaceful, green countryside in the outskirts of Basel. She loves the work-life balance in Switzerland, as well as its stunningly beautiful nature.
The contrasts of different lifestyles. What's Lasma's choice?
Lasma is drawing parallels with Latvia. Having grown up in a country where over half of the land is covered by forest, nature has always been close to her and to her family.
Back home, her sister is making 100 percent natural cosmetics and collects herbal teas from the nearby meadows. And Lasma’s mother is the creator of delicious DIY liquor herb mixes.
Even her boyfriend joins in the "green" and creative spirit of the family: His hobby is wood turning, a type of craft being mastered both in Latvia and Switzerland. The works of Lasma’s family members are all represented on NorthLiving.
Being home away from home
Now, life in Switzerland is not all fuzzy and fluffy as it may seem when you arrive and breathe in the fresh air of the Swiss Alps. When you take off the pink glasses, a curtain of reality drops and you start facing the difficulties.
However, Lasma keeps a positive attitude. “I guess due to my travels in the past, I did not experience a big culture shock when I moved to Switzerland. But I still find it difficult to get used to my mail box being full – the Swiss just love sending letters and arenot big fans of the Web. They are big fans of mustard, though, as they put it on anything!”
Asked whether she misses anything from home, she shakes her head. Lasma’s family is always making sure that she receives her favorite Latvian treats by sending her parcels or stacking her bags up to the limits when she arrives home. As delicious as the Swiss bread might be, one of her most beloved home goodies still is a nightly dark 100 percent rye bread from Latvia.
(Photograph copyright Liveriga.com)
Speaking of her future in Switzerland, mastering the German language is her near term goal. Swiss German? That will be the next step. Other ambitions include developing her NorthLiving online store into a brick and mortar shop, and traveling in Switzerland more frequently.
Last but not least, I ask Lasma what she would recommend those who have just moved or are about to move to Switzerland.
"That's easy: Don't tell them you've had better cheese elsewhere. Or chocolate. Or even heard of a better pocket knife! Otherwise, talk to them. Many Swiss may seem distant and shy as strangers, but once you do the first step, they are very friendly and helpful."
The North is not so far from Switzerland. Actually, what does "far" really mean in this globalized world? It is more our values and the ability to adapt that make a place close (or distant) to us, not the physical distance anymore. Ask it to the blonde, starry-eyed girl who now calls Switzerland her second home.