This is a special locals I love for several pretty good reasons. For one, we are inaugurating my first interview with someone living in Switzerland, and two, this person was kind enough to be a friend for a newbie just getting her feet wet in another country, yet again. Plus it’s the first version of this long-beloved series (to me) in 2021!
They say moving is one of the most stressful events in life.
I wouldn’t argue with that assessment, I might just say that add an ongoing pandemic to said event and you can go ahead and anticipate a whole new set of challenges. The fact that you need to stay away from people, avoid contact, can’t see your apartment in person before moving in, can’t experience local traditions, you know 2020/2021 norms.
Kristin is one of those people that I instantly connected with after one coffee and walk by the lake. If you haven’t guessed from GirlinZug instagram in Zug – you might think it mandatory to stare at Zugersee with awe and admiration at all times and yes, we are all possessed.
Thanks to her warm and friendly nature it made it easy to open up. We completely became those annoying people who chattered so long on said bench even the Zug swans got a little restless. Her blog, Swiss Family Travel, had become quite a resource for us but what was more noticable to me was the fact that this person was simply kind and generous.
Thus, she had to be my first “locals I love: the Swiss edition” and I look forward to continuing the trend both in Italy and our home here in Zug to give people a better understanding of what life is like abroad from a diverse collection of experiences. Enjoy!
Name: Kristin Reinhard
Nationality: Originally Australian, now also Swiss
Favorite drink: Espresso
Tell me a little bit about yourself Kristin, where did you grow up?
I grew up just north of the city of Brisbane in Australia, on a small peninsula where the sound of the ocean was never too far away. My early childhood was spent in old wooden halls perfecting my pointed toes and pilés to the sound of the piano, before changing my attention to the sport of netball. We were not a family who travelled or holidayed, so spent a lot of time at home, bike riding with my sister around the neighbourhood or begging my parents for another sleepover. I grew up a very picky eater, liking when dishes were kept plain and did my best to avoid eating my paternal Grandmother’s Sri Lankan cooking which is embarrassing for this obsessed foodie to now admit. Each year, the major highlight was choosing my birthday cake, a month-long dedicated process including paging through the Women’s Day Birthday Cake book and persuading my mother to bake it.
How did you end up in Switzerland ie: Canton Zug? Was it always your dream to live abroad?
I never dreamed of living abroad. I barely had dreams to go on holidays. All my young nineteen-year-old self knew, I needed time away from home to figure out, without all the noise, what my next life-step would be. I decided a gap year as an AuPair was my best option for a bit of perspective, and in June 2001, I stepped onto a plane heading for Switzerland (via Tokyo). Home for the next twelve months was in the hills behind the city of Basel with a Swiss/German Family and their two young children. However, my year-long stay turned permanent when after extending my stay by six months, I met a Swiss guy on the exact day I should have been flying home. We immediately started dating. I started learning german seriously, and eventually, we moved in together in a village just outside Zug, with my in-law family as our neighbours. Stepping on that plane 20 years ago changed my life’s trajectory, and I am now living a life I never dreamt of back on the beaches of Australia.
What are you up to here? Could be hobbies, work, passions or all of the above. And how did you get into it? Is it what you expected?
The biggest challenge I faced having never returned to Australia to finish off my studies was I never took a firm step onto any career ladder. With my limited German and a few failed attempts at distant learning, I threw myself into being a mother. But during those joyful but often monotonous days staying home with young children can bring, I discovered photography as a creative outlet. What started merely as documenting my own family, word of mouth got around, and my passion turned into a part-time job, where I photographed newborns and ex-pat families in and around Zug. As we added to our family, I searched for new challenges and decided to combine my love of photography with my newfound ability to pen a story: and so my blog Swiss Family Travel was born. I now divide my time between the blog, photography, and developing products to sell in my online store.
How is it working in this kind of career in Switzerland, do you find being here is an advantage or a disadvantage professionally?
Being in Switzerland has allowed me to have the freedom to stay at home with my kids and develop my photography passion without any financial pressure, thanks to my husband’s career. However, if I am honest, the language barrier, even though I speak fluently (writing is entirely another factor), and Switzerland’s unique education system has stopped me from following my photography education. If I were back in Australia, it would be as easy as applying with my portfolio to the local university. Here it is a little more complicated. Not only is there a language barrier, but I have the inflexibility of the swiss schooling system and children coming home for lunch to contend with, making this a challenge I have put off until my youngest is a little older.
Can you share some of the most popular blog posts or series on the blog? Has any feedback surprised you?
I never knew traffic jams like what happens in front of the Gotthard tunnel until I moved to Switzerland. And it seems that I am not the only one as one of my most popular blog posts are my seven tips for getting through the Gotthard Tunnel (Tip: read before you hit the road). My yearly round-up curating 16 places to visit in Switzerland is the most popular series, as well as any post on Swiss Food. Especially which cookies to bake at Christmas time and a recipe for the delicious Zopf bread.
You have three kids so I imagine juggling life and passions can be quite challenging and let’s be frank, social media doesn’t always help– do you have any top tips on work/life balance? Anything particular you’ve learned about yourself this year?
Just like every parent the world over, the juggling act of raising children while working is a tough one. But for me, it is all about accepting the stage of life and making it work best for our family. Right now, that means it makes the most sense that I stay home and try and build a business in between the lunches and the homework. But we won’t be in this stage forever, and we will continue to adapt as a family and find a solution that works for all of us. But working at home has its challenges, as many people now know, and knowing when to “turn-off” is the hardest for me. So this year, I have made it a priority to choose a year-long project with each child. On Mondays, I bake with my six-year-old, and we are turning our creations into a family cookbook. With my 13 year old we are making GoPro videos, and with my oldest, we are exploring the second-hand stores called Brockis around us.
How is it for your kids being part of two cultures? Do they enjoy being both Swiss/Australian and how do you guys connect with both countries?
Integrating two cultures into one family is no easy task, and making sure that we give each the space is important. We have an Australia flag flying above our Swiss apartment and cook both Swiss and Australian dishes. I listen to a daily podcast each morning from Australia, bringing the Aussie dialect right into our daily lives, and encourage the kids to join in traditional Swiss dancing and singing groups. The kids are proud of both their passports and enjoy their unique advantage in their school English class. But nothing was planned, our balance has grown authentically from mutual respect for both cultures.
Tell us about your camera and how you like to photograph?
I have a rule to stop and take a photo of whatever catches my eye, be that the dance between light and shadow, a pop of colour, or a scene developing in front of my eyes. This practice helps me to see better as a photographer and fuels my creativity. But it only requires one thing: that I carry any camera with me at all times. Sometimes that’s just my iPhone 11, most often I add in my Fuji xt3, and if I am on a photoshoot or willing to carry the weight, I will use my Canon 5d mark iv.
Any simple photography tips you’d like to offer our readers?
Keep your horizons straight, your primary light source behind or to the side of you and be patient, for any scene can turn into something remarkable with the right timing.
Let’s talk about Switzerland. You have lived here almost half of your life. What can you say are some of the biggest misconceptions about the country you’d like to personally debunk?
I actually passed my “half-way” point in June 2020, which I celebrated with a hike up from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen. 😉 But on to the biggest misconception: I think it would have to be something to do with how “unfriendly” the Swiss are. And while yes they are a more reserved culture than others, once you break through the hard outer shell, you will be rewarded with a rich friendship. After putting myself out there in the local community and making an effort to learn the language, I have been welcomed into kitchens for coffee on the way home from playgroup, gifted boxes of excess cherries to fill my freezers and welcomed into my in-law family as if I am one of them. It takes a time investment, but you will be rewarded
What are some places here that truly inspire you here that you could visit again and again?
I naively delegated the Bernese Oberland as a tourist trap for international visitors who don’t know any better and completely stayed clear for the first 18 years. But after spending a week in Lauterbrunnen, exploring mostly up around Mürren, I can admit I’ve changed my mind. For here, with the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau towering from across the valley, do you experience that unique feeling only the alps give – a sense of scale incomprehensibleto my Aussie mind. But it is not just me, even when travelling with my Swiss family, they too are snapping in awe as the train weaves its way up to Mürren. It never gets boring.
I have to ask. How has it been living here during the pandemic?
Living in Switzerland during the pandemic has been a mixed bag of feelings. On the one hand, I am enjoying our relatively relaxed life compared to other countries worldwide. Still, I can’t help feeling torn and a little worried, that things here are a little too relaxed, especially when keeping up with the news in other countries like Australia. Plus, it is an uncomfortable feeling not being able to just jump back on a plane home to Australia, something I have always taken for granted. This has now the longest we’ve gone without seeing my family back in Australia, going on three years, and the kids in particular and finding it tough.
Where would you like to see Swiss Family Travel in 5 years? Obviously, nothing has to be “set in stone” but in a dream world – how would you best like to write/work/sell your services?
I would love to see Swiss Family Travel turn into a seasonal magazine helping people settle into Switzerland. Together with a small team (that I could pay), we would bring Switzerland to life through our stories and photographs, to help people feel more at home. I would love to keep developing the online store too, selling my photographic prints of Switzerland scenes that have caught my eye, my mugs (with funny sayings), as well as developing my reclaimed wood photo stands.
Kristin’s Switzerland: name your favorite place to get bread, farm-fresh produce and a locally-made gift!
If I am not baking my own bread, I will pick up a Roggen (Rye)/Dinkle (Spelt) loaf from Chilestägli bakery in Arth. I buy my farm-fresh products online from the Buuregarten in Hünenberg or Farmy. I would head up to Something Different in Menzingen to grab a locally made gift, likely a cherry wood cutting board from a local woodworker.
To the person who has thought about moving to Switzerland for work, love, mountain life. What advice would you give?
Moving to Switzerland will not be all smooth sailing; there is a language to learn which varies widely from the local dialect. So learn the basic german (or french or Italian) before you come, this will make learning the dialect easier. Also, be prepared to put yourself out there and join a local Verein. Vereins are groups or clubs focused on a specific hobby, like singing, sport or dancing, and a list of Vereins near you can be found at your local town hall. Joining the local choir and then following that with the local village women’s club was my first step to integration and locals saying hello to me in the street. By taking the brave step, I showed locals I wanted to integrate and get to know them, and I may stick around too.
What can you do in Switzerland and nowhere else?
Only in Switzerland can kids (in most places) play outside till the sun sets, walk to school on their own and find their unique path to a future career. It is different and sometimes frustrating, but uniquely Swiss.
If you had to make up a tagline for Switzerland according to Kristin, what would it be?
Welcome to the Truman Show
Originally from Australia, Kristin Reinhard has fallen hard for Switzerland, and has called the land of chocolate and cheese home for over half of her life. She wears many hats including photographer, writer, shop owner, mother and food lover and combines them all over on her blog Swiss Family Travel and her photography site.
I came across your site and just fell in love with it. Its refreshing and upbeat. I have been considering a move to Italy and/or Switzerland for some time now. Places I have both visited in yrs past. Much has changed since my last visit, so I am doing my research to update myself. I look forward to your updates which bring a different perspective to daily life. Thanks..
I really appreciate the support Ivonne. If someone told me that I’d call two places home in 2020, I would have laughed out loud and said “you’re crazy” alas I wouldn’t want it any other way. However, I think it’s really wise to do a lot of research and get true perspectives before moving homes. Many people under anticipate how hard it really is to integrate and how they might miss their support group back home. Looking forward to sharing more stories in the near future.
Great read, thank you for sharing this interview! I’ve just moved to Zurich from the US and love hearing others’ experiences abroad, as well as following Girl in Florence/Zug on Instagram. Would love to meet you for a cup of coffee in Zug sometime, if you are ever interested!
Ciao Caroline, I’m so happy you liked it. We almost, almost moved to Zurich ourselves but I’m so happy it’s really close by train. I would be super happy to meet over coffee sometime. How has your adjustment been thus far?