When I found out we were moving from the UK to Switzerland I cried hysterically. It wasn’t the most dignified action for Heathrow Airport, but I was horrified at the thought of having to leave my friends and my home in just six months’ time.
I spent the first 12 years of my life in a town called Maidstone in the south east of England and at the time of the move I had just completed my first year of secondary school and was learning to grapple with all the complications that would arise from adolescence.
I eventually came around to the idea we would be leaving, but I had to keep it a secret just one month before the end of the school year, something that was incredibly difficult. Once it became common knowledge, everyone was so kind to me – even people I wasn’t close to – and on the final day of school I wept again, inconsolably.
The Early Years as a Third Culture Kid
For the next six years I lived in Zug, Switzerland and attended an international school in the town. My previous school had more than a thousand pupils whereas my new one had around 150, no uniform and had students from around the world, fellow Third Culture Kids.
I initially warmed to the freedoms I was afforded in my new surroundings. The town was beautiful and safe, while the school encouraged personal responsibility. I made friends and the fact that my brother was also with me helped immensely, but that still don’t stop me from being homesick.
My reaction was to completely immerse myself in British culture, fearful of missing out on anything back home. I kept in touch with friends over the phone and MSN Messenger, listened to UK radio, read British news and watched UK television.
This was at the expense of assimilating with the local culture. I resented the idea of learning German and therefore didn’t make an effort and I didn’t participate in any clubs or activities outside my school. I learnt precious little about Switzerland as a country and felt a little isolated as a result.
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A New Home
As I grew older I became more attached to the country. The friends I had made there were now my closest and I fully appreciated the advantages of living in a place with a high quality of life.
I was heavily involved in the school community and started playing for a local rugby team, but I still didn’t feel as though I fully belonged. My German was still poor, and I was acutely aware I would return to the UK for university when I was 18.
But I was very happy, especially when I was travelling between the two countries – it really felt like I had two places I could call home.
When I started university, I was surprised at the extent of my homesickness. Like any other fresher, I missed my friends and family, but I also missed Switzerland greatly. It felt like a chapter in my life had concluded and that I was a foreigner in my country of origin.
It was déjà vu. The first time I returned to Switzerland was one of the most emotional trips of my life and it was only after Christmas that I really began to settle back in the UK. Again, I made friends for life during my three years of study, and I was happy in the knowledge I could travel between the UK and Switzerland whenever I wanted.
After university I spent the summer in Switzerland before returning to the UK. I wanted to break into the media and this meant London was the only place to do it given my lack of German. It was at this point I realised I could no longer enjoy the best of both worlds and would have to pick.
I still missed Switzerland, especially without the distraction of university study and social life, and frequently questioned the wisdom of choosing a career that would most likely mean I would never return. But after several years of living in London, I have started to settle once more, especially now that some of my friends from Zug have also moved to the city.
That’s not to say the impact of my experience has evaporated. I am much more confident when meeting new people for example, but the language barrier has had a lasting effect. I would never answer the phone for fear of being unable to understand the person on the other end of the line and even now it’s not a task I enjoy.
I also find I have much more in common with people who have had a similar experience and is one of the reasons why I am still close to so many people I became friends with in Switzerland. This has become less important over the years, but there is still a bond that can overcome time and distance.
It’s odd to think that I’ve now been living in the UK longer than the six years I lived in Switzerland and when my parents left the country in 2014 it felt as though a part of my life was closed off forever.
I regret not learning the language or integrating more closely, but I am grateful for the time I spent there and the friends I made.
Ironically, I now read as much as I can about Switzerland these days and am better informed than when I lived there. I try and return a couple of times a year and I immediately feel at home when I visit.
I miss the people more than the country these days. It’s difficult to meet a lot of friends because we live all over the world and as people’s parents move away, events which bring us together as a group are even more special.
But the biggest legacy? I support Switzerland in just about every sport going – so long as they’re not competing against England of course.
TCK Stories – Philip Andersson
My story begins when I was six months old. My father worked in Stockholm for a company called ABB who had chosen to relocate him to London. My parents knew that we were going to move to England before I was…
Philip Andersson – Life Coach
Philip Andersson is a life-coach who is currently studying to become a psychotherapist. He treats people suffering from depression, phobias and anxiety. Having been raised in Hong Kong and having lived in England and Japan as an adult, Philip also treats people who are overcome with feelings of displacement and rudderlessness associated with a global-nomad lifestyle such as Third Culture Kids, Cross Culture Kids, Migrants and Asylum Seekers.
What We Do!
Cross Culture Therapy offers 1-on-1 online therapy sessions to people suffering from depression, phobia, anxiety as well as to people who suffer from displacement issues associated with a globally nomadic lifestyle (i.e.Third Culture Kids – people who have grown up in a culture different to their parent’s passport culture – and Cross Culture Kids) Our sessions are conducted via Skype for a duration of 50-minutes and can be purchased in packs of 1-session, 3-sessions or 5-sessions. If you are interested in purchasing a session, click on the Book A Session tab on our menu or click here.