Do you know the 7 stages of becoming Swiss?

From the perspective of an expat in Switzerland, here is a humorous theory on becoming Swiss. This is based loosely and unashamedly on the Kübler-Ross model of grief.

1. Shock & Denial

You will probably react with disbelief when you first learn the cost of a kebab in Switzerland. In order to avoid the pain of shelling out 8 or 9 Francs, you may deny the reality of the pricing at one point.

Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This stage may last for weeks.

The 7 Stages of Becoming Swiss - Ali Kebap

2. Pain & Guilt

As the initial shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. You may feel guilty for flushing the toilet at 11 PM, or for eating lunch at your desk.

Regarding the 10 PM rule, it is important that you do not escape the guilt and do not hide it, avoid it or escape from it. At this stage, it is crucial that you feel the pain which Swiss societal laws may present, or else you will never become truly Swiss. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.

The 7 Stages of Becoming Swiss - Rules

3. Anger & Bargaining

As you learn about the concept of paying annual taxes for a TV license, frustration gives way to anger. You may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the Swisscom/Cablecom incompetency on someone else. Please try to control this, as you may cause permanent damage to these companies' complaint tracking systems.

This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion. You may rail against fate, questioning "Why me, why does it take 3 weeks to connect to the Internets?!?" You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair: "I will never question the holes in cheese again if you just hook me up right now!"

Discovering Little Switzerland in North America


4. Reflection, Loneliness

Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. Right around October. This is a normal stage in becoming Swiss, so do not let others talk you out of it. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage.

At this point, you finally realize the true magnitude of your financial losses since moving to Switzerland, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, eating only Migros Rösti, reflect on things you did with your free time before you moved here, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.

5. The Upward Turn

As you start to adjust to life without walk-in closets, you become calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your depression begins to lift slightly.

The 7 Stages of Becoming Swiss - Acceptance

6. Reconstruction & Working Through

As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by Sundays without shopping. You will start to work on practical and financial problems, and reconstruct your life in meaningful ways without Taco Bell.


7. Acceptance & Hope

During this last stage of becoming Swiss, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. It sucks, but at least you know that everything is of better quality in Switzerland. Everyone is on time. Public transportation rocks. Food is organic by definition. Four weeks of vacation is awesome!

Salon du Chocolat Arrives in Zürich, Chocoland

Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness or steaks for lunch. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled you from before Switzerland.

But you will find a way to justify it, because it's Swiss. Except that you are not Swiss, you are still an Ausländer who cannot vote. However, you choose to ignore this fact. Instead, you find a strong urge to hang around expat forums consoling others who have not yet reached Stage 7 of Swissness and do not yet understand that Switzerland has the best of everything.

Pretty much right on, or not true at all? Share along...

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Dimitri Burkhard

Founder, Editor-in-Chief at Newly Swissed GmbH
As the founder, editor and community manager of Newly Swissed, Dimitri owns the strategic vision. He is passionate about storytelling and is a member of the Swiss Travelwriters Club.

Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.
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9 replies
  1. Reikalein
    Reikalein says:

    “Why me, why does it take 3 weeks to connect to the internets?!?”

    This so applies to Italy too. In alot of cases they will have to DRILL holes into the road to install phone lines that never existed. If it takes only 3 weeks for the Fastweb men to finish drinking their coffee and get on with drilling, you’re considered supremely lucky (or perhaps you flashed your cleavage at the Fastweb guy, that’s equally feasible).

  2. Deirdre
    Deirdre says:

    lol! can’t vouch for the true, but very funny! and the price of kebabs is getting a bit steep. I always got a kebab at my favorite place near the Banhoff in Zurich just down from the Martahaus and they were expensive, but not that expensive. Still, I’d pay it if I were there now… *sigh*

  3. Swiss_Chris
    Swiss_Chris says:

    I found myself laughing out loud reading this. I lived in the UK beeing swiss and I had pretty much the opposite experience… Not easy either. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)


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