Everyone has a story. Our series, “My Swiss Story” looks at lives in Switzerland.
With a Japanese mother and Swiss father who met in England, it’s no surprise that Olivia Raths loves to travel with her husband (they met as children) and their young daughter. Just returning from a 7-week family adventure in San Francisco, the Hawaiian Islands and Miami, Raths – a part-time proofreader and journalist – answered our questions about life for a woman with wanderlust who’s always lived near Zürich.
What does it mean to you to be Swiss?
I feel privileged to live here. I love that we can say our opinions freely without being arrested or punished for it. I’m convinced that many Swiss who complain about their problems (like a three-minute train delay) should go abroad to appreciate what we have here at home.
What do you love most about your life here?
As a child, I hated hiking, but as we all know, we become like our parents, and now I love hiking in the rolling hills of the Zürcher Oberland and the Swiss mountains. And I love that we can do this independently, without going on a big tour with guides who must protect us. I remember when we wanted to hike on a volcano on the Philippine island of Mindanao. We needed a big entourage and a guide to protect us from the rebels.
If you could change one thing about life in Switzerland what would it be?
More rights for women, or, more precisely, that the existing rights are lived and not just said. It is still difficult for mothers to have a career. New mothers who do not necessarily want to go back to work full-time often can’t go back to their jobs after maternity leave because many employers only give them two choices: return full time or not at all. We also need paternity leave, or better, parent time (Elternzeit), so mothers and fathers can share the amount of paid time they spend with their children.
What aspects of Swiss culture might surprise foreigners?
That many Swiss are so reserved making it quite difficult to get to know us. I believe that many foreigners might feel kind of insulted when a Swiss person isn’t very friendly at first. How to break through? Honestly, I have no idea, except maybe patience. We’ve found that having our little daughter with us sometimes helps break the ice.
If you couldn’t live in Switzerland where would you like to live?
In Hawai‘i. We love the relaxed way of life, the warm climate, the sea, the lush vegetation and the Polynesian culture. We could also imagine living in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S., Oregon or Washington, because of the people’s open-mindedness, the good food (especially restaurants in old breweries!), and the great opportunities for outdoor activities. Also, the area has about the same latitude as Switzerland (47°N) and a similar climate, but the winters are shorter and the sea is much closer.
What would you miss most if you left Switzerland?
Crunchy, tasty bread! And our great public transportation system. But I would NOT miss our long winters. It would be nice if spring began on January 1st – at the latest.
Interview edited by Bill Harby