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20 Years!

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Yesterday I celebrated 20 years in Switzerland!

It almost seems impossible that I can possibly have been here so long. I came here in 1991 with my Swiss fiancé (who I married a few years later). We had met while working as accountants for KPMG in San Francisco and at the end of our contracts decided to return to where he had grown up. Most of my adult life has been spent here and now when I go back to England where I started out, it seems different. It isn’t the county I grew up in anymore. Switzerland has become my home: a place I know and understand, a place full of good friends (both Swiss and foreign) and fun things to do. I think I’ve been enormousely lucky to have ended up here. And yes, I do often ask myself how a girl from a one-parent family in inner city Newcastle ended up here! Life really throws the unexpected at you sometimes!

In the last twenty years I guess I’ve done a lot:

  • Worked
  • Got married
  • Become a Swiss national
  • Bought and renovated a house
  • Raised three children – or at least I’m on the way…
  • Become fluent in two new languages
  • Made a radical career change
  • Started my own small business
  • Created a garden
  • Returned to competitive sport and run further than I ever had before
  • Started a playgroup and a PTA
  • Been church warden, church treasurer, church flower fairy and done a zillion other jobs in my Church
  • Perfected my skiing technique
  • Broken bones, had cancer surgery, almost bled to death….and survived!
  • Integrated into a different society
  • Buried a lot of family members
  • Turned down lots of chances to live in London or New York
  • Been happy


In many ways an ordinary life – just in a location that I hadn’t contemplated. I really can’t imagine living anywhere else. This is my home now and I guess I’m a stayer. So the adventure carries on! I’m so lucky to have landed somewhere I love.



12 Responses to “20 Years!”

  1. Vreni Says:

    Congratulation to your anniversary! A lot has happed in the last 20 years, but you are happy and strong. Good for you. All best wishes for many, many more happy years. Vreni x

  2. jane Says:

    Congratulations, Helen! And yes, you are lucky to be able to stay in the place you love. It is beautiful!

  3. MelD Says:

    Well done Helen!
    Integrating in Switzerland is not easy at the best of times and when life is going on, perhaps even less so. Yet it is a great achievement up with all those other things you’ve done in the last 20 years, and loyalty pays, right?!
    Appreciation is another gift that you’ve bestowed on yourself, it makes all the difference.
    I hope the next 20 work out just as well 😉

  4. Julie Says:

    What an amazing, blessed list! I’m sure I’m not the first person to ever tell you that you should write a book. I know you are writing a book, but one about your life would be fascinating! So glad I happened upon your blog, Helen….

  5. CarlaHR Says:

    Congratulations on the first twenty and for all the things that you have fitted into those two decades – who knows what the next ones will bring – a finished marathon, book and many quilts and socks. Your integration into your chosen country is to be admired – so many people immigrate to new countries but are not willing to leave the old behind.

  6. diane stanley Says:

    ah…Switzerland, one of my favorite places on Earth. Such beautiful vistas! Thanks for a lovely post.

  7. Lucette Says:

    You have certainly packed a lot into those twenty years Helen. I first visited Switzerland when I was seven to see my uncle and aunt and that visit still holds happy memories. All the best for the next 20 years.

  8. Annabella Says:

    What a lovely post and gorgeous photo. Congratulations on 20 years in your `new` home and all that you have accomplished. Yes, I ask myself how a girl from a single family in the Midlands ended up in North Africa….

  9. Susan Says:

    Beautiful post. I am caught between two worlds now because I have been back in the UK for ten years now (I lived here before I met John in Canada – oh the joys of dual citizenship) but we want to return to Canada. There are things we miss, and then we go there and there are so many things we miss about the UK. And I also wanted to mention – my mum grew up in Gosforth! She lives in West Monkseaton now. We go there two or three times a year. Can’t beat a sunny day on Longsands at Tynemouth!

  10. Linds Says:

    The last one means the most – you are happy! My sister has been in Switzerland for nearly 22 years now. Amazing.

  11. Lisa Says:

    What a wonderful post! Living in Switzerland for 20 years sounds just fantastic (although possibly my pipe dream to go to Switzerland and live on the side of a hill like Heidi isn’t entirely realistic!)

    I know what you mean about Britain changing … some things for the better, e.g. service in shops has definitely improved (when I was young we were made to feel that shops were doing us such a great favour just by allowing us through their doors!) … and some things worse – I’m sure general manners just aren’t as good (as evidenced the several times I rode into work on the Tube at 34+ weeks pregnant and didn’t get offered a seat!)

    What a wonderful set of achievements for you – here’s to 20 happy years more!

  12. Stephanie Says:

    Congratulations – here’s to the next twenty years. What an eventful time you’ve had in Switzerland so far. I hope there’ll be fewer traumas in the coming years. But look at your amazing achievements – fluent in two new languages, setting up a business, bringing up little human beings, starting clubs and all the church work – you’re awesome, Helen!