One day, less than a year after arriving in Switzerland I was watching my kids play in the garden when I heard a noise. A noise that was so loud it frightened me. It was a ringing, moving strange noise. We all started looking, and in the distance, we saw it. Men were walking in traditional clothing, carrying sticks with hundreds of cows. The street was overcome with cows wearing crowns of flowers, and the hills were alive with music. We ran down the hill to see the spectacle.
"Wait what?" is the thought crossing my mind. Who are these weird Swiss and what are they doing with their cows?
I found out that this tradition is called the dèsalpage. Every fall they bring the cows down the mountain for the hard winter months to follow.
It took me years to understand everything from how to clean a fondue pot to how to greet someone. The most basic task of saying hello became a challenge. When is it a kiss, or make that three or do I need to shake hands?
I moved to Switzerland thinking it would be paradise but it wasn't at first. On our arrival I understood nothing of the school system, I thought their traditions were strange; at the school party the parents were getting drunk (beyond my cultural acceptance level), and they thought I was rude and weird. Imagine that, I was the rude one, and here I was trying so hard to learn.
The teacher told me I was rude; my neighbor told me I was rude and well.... I was starting to believe it. I had three small children and was pulling my hair out with my day to day life... maybe I had become a monster.
I found out I hadn't become that monster. It wasn't me. What was I thinking? I had just moved to Switzerland. Why did I think I should know how it works?
Every move, every transition I make I come up against this same challenges. I need to figure it out and accept my new reality. Until I have accepted it and as long as I am still holding on to the past, I cannot move forward.
In Switzerland, it took me more than two years. I had to goof up the first day of school twice (I took them to school at 8:28 instead of at 13:30...embarrassing), be told off, pulled over by a cop and cry a numerous amount of times until finally I just accepted it. Cows wearing flowers and their bells have become routine and we don't run down the street anymore.
This mountainous country has become home and my favorite place. How does this happen, I accepted some things and then changed my life and things around me to make it work for me.
I am making a career out of transition. Just like a kid letting a lantern fly into the night sky I need to let go. I am more relaxed this time around, and I will have a new story, but it won't be cows in Amsterdam.
—Allison Ochs Social Worker M.S.W. , Coach, Expat, Mother of three, Wife