We are excited to welcome Ruby Khurdi to our Expat Life Interview Series. From India to Rennaz, Switzerland, let’s read her expat experience.
Chilling at the peak of the mountain
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Originally from Lucknow, India.
Q: In which city and country are you living now? Did you move there alone or with a spouse/family?
A: Rennaz, Switzerland. I moved here after getting married as my husband was working here as an expat.
Q: How long have you lived there and how long are you planning to stay?
A: Initially we came here for 18 months, which further extended to another 18 months. It’s been 18 great years, and we are still here – happy and content!!
Q: Why did you move and what do you do?
A: We moved here as my husband Mr. Sunil Khurdi was working on a project for a short duration. I am a Professor in Swiss Private Business University teaching Human Resource Management, Marketing and Communication courses to Masters & Bachelors students.
Celebrating Holi, Festival of Colors in Switzerland
Q: Moving from India to Switzerland, what was your first impression?
A: Moving from a small town in India to Switzerland was a big cultural change!! I was in awe of this amazing country which is so beautifully depicted in our Bollywood movies… It was love at first sight!!
Q: What do you enjoy most about Switzerland? What were some of your favorite experiences in Switzerland?
A: Rennaz is a small village close to Montreux. I enjoy most weekend walks with my family by Lake Leman, which is very close to our home, the manicured gardens with lovely flowers, fresh air, friendly neighborhood and cycling in the forests.
Favorite Experience: During my first few weeks in Switzerland, I was very impressed that everyone knows my hubby on the streets of Vevey as almost every second person was greeting him – “Bonjour, Bonjour”. I was like “wow, you are so popular!” It was only after a month I realized that’s just a normal way of greeting on the streets… But that incident has become very special for us as I still joke about it with my husband.
Q: What do you miss most about home?
A: Home is where loved ones are. So yes, I miss my parents, close friends, cousins, fashionable Indian dresses and delicious food!!
Q: What has been the greatest aspect of your expat experience so far? What are the adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life there?
A: The initial few months were very difficult and challenging in a new country. The language was a major issue. Basic shopping was also difficult as looking for the items would take lots of time. Social life was almost none!
Coming from India, I was used to housemaids to help at home and manage kitchen work, a driver (since I did not know how to drive a car), and a large social circle of friends. As an expat in Switzerland where the cost of living is so high, I had to make lots of adjustments in my way of living. Though it was not easy, I am happy I did it all!! I started learning cooking with friends by following cookbooks, compensated with once a week house help, and took driving lessons from scratch (even my hubby admits I am a better driver than him!).
Q: How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country, in terms of cost of living, public transportation and healthcare system?
A: Quality of life is the best. Cost of living is expensive but every cent is worth it! Public transport is very safe and convenient for all age groups!
Q: What are the best things to do or places to visit in Switzerland?
A: Switzerland is an amazing country for both summer and winter activities. People can go hiking in the mountains, cycling in the forests, BBQs at picturesque locales, swimming, weekend at hot water spa, visiting museums, art galleries, Nestlé chocolate factory, Charlie Chaplin Museum, Cheese factory, theme parks, skiing, tobogganing, music festivals, concerts, fun boat rides, etc.
Enjoying yummy lunch at the beach
Meeting people and making friends
Q: Tell us about your typical day as an expat in Switzerland.
A: During my initial years in Switzerland as a newly married couple, the day began with breakfast with my husband before he left for work, going to the gym twice a week, walking by the lake to discover nature and making new friends, window shopping, following a cookbook for dinner in the evenings.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? Did you feel you fitted in culturally?
A: It was not easy making friends with the locals due to the language barrier, as not many people spoke English. I was struggling with French!! Since I am a very social person by nature, I had lots of expat friends – we would go for coffee meets or walk by the lake! I did face a big cultural shock in terms of food, drinking wine (I still don’t drink any alcohol), and also work culture. I really had to make lots of efforts to understand it and adapt accordingly… Gradually, I was able to overcome both. Now, I have lots of local friends and my kids have integrated very well as they go to a local school of our commune.
Favorite weekend activity: Lake-side walk
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or go through an agency?
A: Fortunately, I didn’t have a problem in getting the visa as my husband’s employer did that for us. It was pretty well-organized.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: There was a big difference in work culture. Since I am a professor teaching Masters and Bachelors program, I expected a bit of a physical distance between teacher and students, not very friendly or outgoing. But to my big cultural shock, in my first month of teaching at the private University, my students invited me to a local pub for drinks, offered me cigarettes during class break (which was a complete no-no for me)! Back home, our teachers are like demi-god! There is no difference of opinion. We literally respect and worship them!
Q: What are your tips or advice for anyone looking to live and work in Switzerland?
A: E-D-U-C-A-T-E yourself very well before going to any country as an expat. It will make your stay more interesting and memorable!!
Elaborate understanding about the Swiss culture.
Dedicate time to learn the local language – watch TV and listen to the local radio channel to get the grasp of the language.
Understand the local culture, the way of life and people.
Communicate with the locals as well as the expat community. Try to have a good balance between the two, it will make life easy…
Assurance for life – you are in the safest place with pure air, great community life, kids-friendly, value for money, job security, great education facilities for children…
Time management is the most important lesson for living in Swiss. You have to respect time, and people will automatically respect you…
Entertainment unlimited as Switzerland is centrally located, you are well connected to all European destinations! You can be in the UK, Italy, France, Germany, Amsterdam, Brussels, etc. in a short travel time. Heaven for both winter and summer activities – there is always something fun happening around here!!
Thank you, Ruby, for taking the time to be part of our Expat Life Interview Series! Ruby is a Professor in Swiss Private Business University teaching Human Resource Management, Marketing and Communication courses to Masters & Bachelors students. Some of her awards and recognition include Exceptional Women of Excellence 2017 Award by Women Economic Forum, Nominated Most Inspiring Female Entrepreneur 2017 by Swiss Entrepreneur Magazine, Competent Communicator Toastmaster, and Leadership & Cultural Training Specialist. Follow her website at rubykhurdi.wixsite.com/allmontreux, and connect with her on Facebook: ruby.khurdi, allmontreuxchapter, dancebollywoodRuby.
*All photos are the sole property of the author. They were provided and used with permission for this interview only. Any unauthorized use of these photos is prohibited.
The Expat Life Interview Series was created to know more about the country, not just from a traveler’s perspective. We hope to help others who are thinking of working abroad to know how it is to live and work with the locals. If you are living and working abroad even for only a few months or several years and would like to be featured on Wellington World Travels, please Contact Us so we can send you the questions and share your expat life experience.