MY EXPERIENCE: WORKING AND LIVING IN SWITZERLAND
If someone had told me five years ago that I would get the opportunity to work in one of the best media agencies in Switzerland, I would not have believed it. I had never before been to anywhere outside Zambia and as a young university student, I did not think I would have the chance to travel to one of Europe’s most important economies for an internship in one of my favourite courses in school. My trip to Switzerland was rather nerve-wracking and scary for me as I did not know what to expect from the experience but I nevertheless remained hopeful.
Getting on the plane to Switzerland was interesting noticing that I and my Credit Suisse colleagues were among the few black people on the plane.
Unfortunately for me, I found myself sitting at the very back of the plane. Sitting next to the lavatory and having to eat my dinner right there as people went in and out one after the other with the constant flashing sound has got to be one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life. And having to sleep through that was even worse.
No sooner had i landed in Switzerland than began the culture shock with the freezing temperatures which were very different from what I have known my whole life. Switzerland and Zambia are indeed worlds apart from each other in terms of the Cuisine to ways of life to work culture and so on.
The first thing I noticed spending a day in Switzerland is how organized life is. From the transport system to home life. And it is all well-timed making it almost impossible to be late for anything unless one is a poor planner. It was indeed a refreshing change from my country where it could take one to two hours to move from one point to another in the same city.
Starting work at Mediaschneider was quite unnerving in the beginning. I was not sure if people would like me or whether they would be racist or judgmental towards me. With time of course, I learnt that everyone was in fact warm and eager to interact with me and get to know me and I never for once felt like the minority in the group being black and African. After having worked with everyone for more than two months, I have concluded that the agency has got to be the best place I could have ever hoped to do an internship.
Working in a Swiss environment has been very exciting. Seeing how dedicated and responsible everyone is to their work is quite impressive and unlike anything I have ever been exposed to. Efficiency and effectiveness are indeed the order of the day in the Swiss office. And all this is done with the utmost fun.
Another interesting thing is how comfortable and unrestrained people are towards each other in the work place regardless of seniority or rank. In Zambia, you are made aware of your bosses and you cannot call them by their name and can rarely chat freely with them. Your colleagues are also your friends and they lift your spirits up when you are down.
The internship for me has not only been an opportunity to learn about a different culture but most importantly, get vital knowledge and insight into the advertising industry. I have picked up skills and knowledge in different aspects of the media and these will help my future employment prospects in the industry. I have equally acquired the art of professionalism from my work colleagues and will implement it in my future work endeavors.
Apart from the skills, I have learnt how to be efficient and produce quality work as well as being on time and learning to communicate with your team to get work done. I have equally learnt how to enjoy and love what you do.
My thinking capacity has correspondingly been broadened as well as my know-how of the methods of work in another more-advanced part of the world. I intend to apply them in my future work in the Advertising industry. The industry in Zambia could benefit and learn a thing or two from me and me from them which would result in the betterment of its standards as I remain hopeful that my country could one day attain the standards we only hear about in other parts of the world.
Living in a Swiss home was similarly interesting. People are big on punctuality especially if they have invited you to a meal or a day out with them. It is pretty amazing also to see how courteous people are in the home, they are always apologizing and saying thank you for everything..
Another notable thing in the home is how chores are equally distributed amongst every one living there regardless of gender or age. At least this is how it was in the family I lived with which is a breath of fresh air from the “woman in the kitchen” stereotype common in Africa. Eating together is also pretty important in Switzerland with people sitting down with you even if they are not partaking of the meal.
Cuisine therefore is worth taking note of. The foods eaten here are far different from the Zambian food landscape where we mostly eat our staple food “Nshima” and rarely stray from it unless it is a special occasion or one is trying out something different.
It was likewise, a refreshing sight to notice that the streets are not laden with business people and those who are too lazy to work and choose to bother those who are earning an honest living for handouts.
One of my biggest shocks however is how expensive it is to live in Switzerland and I guess the fact that people get relatively good salaries is a plus but for an intern coming from a country where our currency compares poorly to the Swiss Franc, it becomes a lot of money to spend.
All in all, the internship has forever changed and impacted my life and career in the most positive way possible and as I go home, I take that with me. Living and working in Switzerland has also afforded me the opportunity to dispel typical African stereotypes as well as learn about European life.
In the next five years, I see myself as a successful advertising expert working in a vibrant media agency applying each and every thing I have learnt from the amazing and dynamic team at Mediaschneider.
It was indeed an immense pleasure to meet and work with everyone at the agency, learning from the team every day and supporting them on various work projects whilst representing my country and my University at the same time to which I truly hope I did justice.