Sunday, June 13, 2010

News from Hungary (with the Adventage of Hindsight)

It's been a while. My excuse is that I've just visited my home country for a while (and came back with an MA, not too bad is it?). And the experience made me think. On being an expat, on life in different countries. On Hungary and Switzerland. And I thought it was all worth a post.

Fist off, I have to tell you that I do not believe in Paradise on Earth. Of course I haven't seen all there is to see but I'm sure of this. No place is perfect, just as no person is. The important thing is to be able to live with the deficiencies and appreciate the advantages. Switzerland is no exception. Life is in no way easier here. But I do consider its disadvantages "cute" and I do like the things it offers.

That said, I recommend expat life to anyone not completely satisfied with their current location. It broadens the mind. A lot. Not only in the sense usually associated with traveling. It makes one more rational about the countries involved, about the whole world in fact. Being a tourist is nice enough and one can often imagine one's life in the country one visits, but actually doing it is a totally different thing.

Now that I've spent enough time in Switzerland for the pink fog to lift (fogs don't usually lift from Geneva), I can compare the two countries with the objectiveness of an anthropologist. Not that I ever believed it would be largely different anywhere (you're the same person anyway and if you're rude, for instance, don't expect to be treated differently in any country). I could definitely point out the downside of living in Switzerland, but for me its beauty makes up for everything. I can now, moreover, point out the advantages of living in Hungary, something I never thought I would be able to do. I'm not talking about things that are worse in other countries (like the manners of any national can easily surpass those of the people in the South of France -- offense guys, but you have some stuff to learn for sure!) but rather things that I don't think I'll ever find elsewhere.

First of all, my friends are in Hungary. This is a point that was very difficult for me to admit, but now I see that I do miss them (and my family) sorely. For beauty and fun are only really enjoyable if you can share them and although my future husband and I are having lots of fun in Switzerland, I keep thinking how one friend or another would love this or that.

Then there's the language. This is a sentimental issue, not one I often talk about. I love languages, I love English and French, they're all parts of me and I'd never be the same person without them. I consider English a second mother tongue for all the time I've spent using it and French is like the breeze on which my poetic side sets off floating. But I do miss Hungarian. For what we speak at home is now a weird mixture of the two, a lingua franca between our worlds and the many worlds that flourish in Geneva. It has become part of our identity, but I feel we're losing something of ourselves as well.

What's really difficult in Geneva is that you have to fight every step of the way, and where your rights and values were unquestionable in your home country, you are defined by totally different measures in Switzerland. Your degree might be invalid or you might have to repeat courses or take exams. Your perfect knowledge of a language might actually be taken granted rather than rewarded. Your mother tongue might not be acknowledged at all and if you were considered a speaker of 3 languages at home, here you speak only 2 or even 1. And, above all, you're often considered an immigrant. Note that 47% of Geneva's population is officially foreigner (which excludes tourists, illegal immigrants and the pending, like me), so it does not mean you're an outsider. But I do get that condescending smile too often to like it. (Maybe I shouldn't be pushing my French...)

On the other hand, I love it here. You know I do. I've rambled about it. This post is just a little nostalgic remembrance, so that I give justice to my home country and tell you the truth about expatriate life.

Thank you for reading!
I promise you more content next time! ;)
Have a nice day!
Lots of love from a decidedly tropic Geneva!

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