Back in the U.S.

A couple of months ago, a manager for an engagement I had on my schedule for December reached out to me to discuss the project. Once on the phone, he quickly explained that the engagement would require me to go to the U.S. (ME: OK, cool, I’m from there!) …. more specifically that it would require me to go to D.C. (ME: Wow, really? That’s close to where I am from) …. but even more specifically, that the client is in a town outside of D.C. called … Springfield! (ME: Okay, now I was laughing because, REALLY?) How did the stars align that my client in Switzerland sent me to do work at their U.S. operation in an office 15 minutes from my childhood home where my Mom and Grandparents live? Pretty lucky!

Even luckier, the travel required that I make two trips to VA. Once for a week in early December and again in early January 2016. Given that I had already planned to come back to the States for the holidays, I managed to score a company-paid flight home and ended up booking a trip to stay in the U.S. from Dec 19 – Jan 15, 2016. Now, I am here in the U.S. for a total of four weeks (after the first trip for a week). I even managed to fit in a trip to California to spend New Year’s in Tahoe with Andrew’s family and a visit to San Francisco to see our old stomping grounds and friends. Things have been really but I’ll do a couple posts to keep up on what we’ve been doing. But first … I feel like doing some reflection, so bear with me.

It had been almost five months since Andrew and I boarded the plane to move to Switzerland on July 9. A few weeks ago, I boarded a plane to return to the U.S., excited to see friends and family and be back in my home country once more. It is great to be here, and there are a few things I have missed and been happy to have again…

  1. OMG I missed Target! Not only for the low prices, but especially for how many options we have in the aisles for household items such as trash bags, ziploc bags, and paper products. In CH we only have one or two options for each. At Target there was an AISLE for each. I understand that this is likely because there isn’t enough space in our urban grocery stores in CH, which is fair, but I loved returning to the options of suburban America!

2. I missed American food. The food in CH is really good and the grocery stores have plenty of good quality food options (don’t even get me started on bread and cheese), but it’s so nice to come home to what we have here in the U.S. I demanded to eat Mexican food my first day back, and was beyond excited to get a Chipotle burrito bowl for a work lunch. And sandwiches. I’m sorry Switzerland, your sandwiches are lacking substance in the middle! 

3. Operating hours for stores in the U.S. are so convenient. I went to the mall on a Sunday, which is impossible in CH (stores are all closed on Sundays). I went to a grocery store at 7:30 pm – also impossible in CH (the main grocery stores are never open that late in Lausanne). OH, and Trader Joe’s (<—- so much love)

4. It was a cool surprise to come home and find out that the U.S. has started to transition to using the credit card chip payment method – especially since we have become accustomed to using it in Europe. I’m sure this is familiar to you all. Some stores say “We use the chip!” You insert the credit card into a machine, but you still sign your name. It is my understanding that the chip improves the security of your personal information, but how come we aren’t using the PIN as well? It doesn’t make sense to me. Baby steps I guess. I didn’t experience this yet in the U.S., but in CH (and many other countries for that matter) servers process your restaurant bill payment directly at your table using a handheld credit card machine and you enter your PIN. Much faster! Something to look forward to in the U.S. some day. 

5. There is significantly less smoking in public in the U.S. – such a relief!

6. Things are cheaper in the U.S., which is no surprise, but most definitely welcome. One of my Swiss colleagues had asked me if I was going to take an empty suitcase to the U.S. to come back to Europe with all the cheap clothes just like they do, and now I understand what he meant. I am going to have some real trouble figuring out how to fit all my newly purchased goods in my luggage when I return to Switzerland in January!

Now, while a lot of the stuff above lists things I missed and was happy to have again, there are still things I miss about Switzerland and have come to appreciate. 

I love seeing the Alps in CH and I love our view of them from the apartment balcony or while I am on the train headed to Geneva for work. Virginia … you are majestic in your own way, but the Alps are a whole different ball game!

I sometimes miss the freedom of owning a car, but now that I have been back in Northern VA and experienced our lovely traffic – I remember how much I truly appreciate being able to use the train and public transit system in Switzerland. They’re clean, fast and so much more relaxing!

I came home and missed how the Swiss say “Bon appetit” before you eat. I know I have mentioned this in past posts, but I have come to love this small change in our etiquette. I think my friends and family can attest that I have tried to use it here in the U.S. and I honestly think this is something I will adopt even after we leave Switzerland some day. 

Back on December 10, as I checked in to my flight online to go back to CH from my first trip, I found myself  excited to return to Switzerland. While I have been very happy to be back in the U.S. with friends and family, I found myself missing Switzerland. For anyone else who has ever up and moved themselves to a new location, you would understand that it takes some time for that new place to become home and everything that word can mean. The tell-tale sign: to let it slip without intent to say the words “I am going back home” and to actually be referring to your new place of residence. When I was put on this engagement, I was a little apprehensive. I wondered if I would be so happy being back in the U.S., in a place familiar to me, that I may not want to go back to Switzerland (we’re being honest, here!) but I am happy to say that Switzerland now does feel like home. I love the U.S., and will be happy to return to it once our time in Switzerland is over, but Lausanne is my home right now. Where my things are. Where Andrew and I have a home together. It’s where the adventure lies, and where we are fortunate to have this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience living abroad. To travel to places we never expected to see, hike those Alps I mention so often, live among a foreign culture, learn a new language, eat new foods, and meet people from all over the world. I am excited to be able return to it and keep the adventure going.

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