Culture Shock - You're late again!

Culture Shock - You're late again! 

When we moved to Switzerland, I was a seasoned expat. I spoke French and German, and I thought, "This will be a snap." Wrong! 

We moved into a house in the hills above Montreux with beautiful views of Lake Geneva. Our eldest was to start in the quaint little village school. I had a meeting with the school, and they gave me a letter describing everything she needed and the hours. On this paper it was written, school begins at 8:28. I remember distinctly laughing at this and thought, "Oh my, the Swiss and their watches... they are serious about this!"

If you have kids you can imagine the scramble of getting three kids into the minivan and down the hill in the morning. I am proud to be punctual and always arrived latest by 8:25. 

After about two weeks I was called in to see the teacher. I thought she wanted to talk to me about Carli adapting to a new school and a new culture. Wrong again! I was sat down on a child's chair and scolded! It went something like this. "Mam, do you know how to tell time?" (She honestly asked this!) I answered, "Yes, of course." Her response was, "Then why can't you make it on time in the morning, your daughter is almost always late."

I got angry, which I shouldn't have, but nevertheless did. I told the teacher that I was there by 8:25 every day. She explained that school start meant that the children needed to have coats hanging, shoes off, slippers on, and be at their desks. I apologized and told her that in France, where we had been living school start was when the bell rang. I promised to be there earlier. The teacher just looked at me sternly and said, "I hope so!"

This move took me by surprise. I was too arrogant going in and did not do my homework on the Swiss ways. If you move to a different culture, even if are a seasoned expat, do your homework and find out what is expected of you. Don't ever be arrogant. I needed that scolding I guess.

—Allison Ochs Social Worker M.S.W. , Coach, Expat, Mother of three, Wife