Everyone has a story. My Swiss Story is a series that looks at lives in Switzerland.
This week we met Bill Harby, an American freelance writer and photographer living between Geneva and Neuchâtel. Married with three grown stepchildren, he has a third home in a forest on Hawaii’s biggest island, an erupting volcano.
What brought you to Switzerland?
Love. While backpacking through Switzerland, I met a girl at a café in her hometown of Neuchâtel. Then we lost track of each other for 32 years, until – thank you, internet! – we found each other again when I was living in Hawaii and she in Geneva. We visited each other in Hawaii and Switzerland, fell in love, got married and moved to Neuchâtel in 2009.
What’s something you love about life here?
Most of all, I love living in the middle of Europe, where it’s so easy to explore so many of the world’s great cultures. Also, the almost endless patience people in Romandie have with my fractured French. And, as an American who is aghast at politics in my home country, I admire the Swiss system of government, which promotes compromise and keeps demagogues at arm’s length.
What was your biggest challenge after arriving in Switzerland?
Finding a job. Not only was my French limited, but, at the age of 57, I was shocked to learn that it’s legal for potential employers to ask your age and openly discriminate against older applicants.
What do you miss most from your life before living in Switzerland?
Body-surfing in the ocean, then having an amazing inexpensive lunch of fresh seafood at a restaurant on the beach.
What’s a misconception you think people have about Switzerland?
That the stereotypes of the Swiss being almost painfully punctual and well organized couldn’t possibly be true. Because, for better and worse, they are.
What would you miss most if you left Switzerland?
Train travel. Traffic delays and finding city-centre parks aren’t fun. Relaxing, or writing, while on the move is so much better.
What’s next for Bill Harby?
A three-day train tour through the Swiss Alps. And continuing to study irregular verbs in French.