Check out page 18 🙂 Thank you!
Becoming Swiss – if your partner is a foreigner in the country, too – is far from child’s play. Other than the obvious prerequisites of having a clean criminal record, financially sound background with all dues and taxes paid, insurances in order, etc.; you need to be truly integrated – linguistically and socially. And you need to let that reflect in your behaviour in all ways as possible; be it by immaculately separating your garbage or wishing your neighbours ‘gruezi’, etc.
If you really want the Swiss passport with all your heart and for the right reasons, the journey gets easier as you automatically and seamlessly integrate and ingratiate yourself into your society.
But back to the basics first: If you’ve lived in Switzerland for a period of time (usually 12 years for non-EU and non-Americans, such as yours truly), you can visit your ‘gemeindehaus’ and express your desire to be Swiss. They will then enlist the documents you need to assimilate to begin the process.
Be ready to pay at every level for each document and the tests that follow.
Different cantons, different rules
There are other conditions. For one, each canton has a different set of rules. And within the canton, each ‘gemeinde’ has an additional set of independent criteria. So we were in for a rude shock when we were told to wait another 4 years since our particular ‘gemeinde’ needed us to have lived there not for 2, but for 6 years; irrespective whether or not we had fulfilled the country’s law of having been in Switzerland for 12 years already.
However, rules change within cantons. So within the next 2 years (instead of 4), we were called to apply for the citizenship.
The process described below is not a national standard. The tests are now in the process of being standardised though.
Weeks after collating and sending in your documents to the cantonal migration department, the ‘gemeinde’ will inform you whether the application and documents has met the prerequisites or if any other information needs to be supplied. Once the formality is complete and everything is in order according to the canton, the ‘gemeinde’ will inform you about the once a week, 6-week-long ‘Gesellschaft’ lessons that are held at the district headquarters. You can also get your dossier with all the information for self-study; but, in my view, the course makes it easier.
In addition to testing your knowledge on ‘Gesellschaft’ which is a crash course on themes including history, geography, democracy and federalism, rights and duties, social security and health issues, the work and education system as well as the local religions followed and holidays, you also have a separate test on language skills. So train well in advance!
The ‘Gesellschaft’ examination that lasted an hour and 45 minutes with a 14 pages of multiple choice and other questions in clearly demarcated sections: Country, canton, gemeinde.
It wasn’t a cakewalk.
A week hence, I appeared for another long language exam followed by a 30-minute interview in German and Swiss German.
The politicians step in
If all goes well, and you pass all exams with a minimum of 50%, you and your partner will be invited by the ‘Gemeinderat’ for a personal interview; in a way to get to know why you want to be Swiss, how integrated you feel. Treat it like an emotional test where your motives, lifestyle, the ‘at-home-here’ feelings are rated.
The media steps in
Your intent to become Swiss and the recommendations of the eight municipal politicians are then published in the local newspaper, with the announcement that the residents of the areas are now welcome to vote for or against your citizenship at the next ‘Gemeindeversammlung’/village meeting.
On the day of the meeting, it’s best for you and your family to be visible and present for it is much appreciated by the residents to see you there in person as they raise their hands for or against you. You may be asked to step out of the meeting during the voting process in certain cases. There may be questions or discussions; but the sailing can be smooth.
And once all goes well, you are announced as a citizen of the village, canton and country. Congratulations are in order.
Now commences the payment of additional bills and the wait for your call to go in for your biometrics and finally the Swiss passport.
A seemingly long process, I believe it is a good one to ensure integration at the political, social and emotional levels. If you have your heart on the right side and want to make this country ‘home’ – however taxing the process may appear to be, you will feel secure and valued at the end of it.
(Original article – later published in Mothering Matters.)
In a rush. On the move. But here’s a little something I’d like to share.
Thank you Continnect!
A journalist, a copy-editor and the ex-Chief-Editor of Swiss News, Aradhna Sethi harboured a dream of writing a book at least once in her life. Well, she has made her dream a reality with The Entrepreneur’s Wife. The book is a combination of fiction and excerpts from her life as the wife of her entrepreneur husband, Anil Sethi. Anil as she says is the “sole and soul cause” of her debut book.
Aradhna was born in Chandigarh and lived in many metro cities like Bangalore, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Mumbai because of her father’s Indian Oil Corporation job, and so she grew up adapting to various cultures very smoothly. Post a journalism course from XIC, came the most difficult aspect- getting a job in a publication she loved the most- Copy Editor at Femina. “I still remember standing at the TOI entrance, shivering in my shoes, wondering why this prestigious institution would hire a rookie like me! Pretty unsure of myself, I walked into Pradeep Guha’s office. The interview was great and at the end of it he said that I would be sent a work contract in a week. I stepped out in total disbelief. This was it! I was going to work at India’s top media headquarters at the time. And that was the start of my career with Femina, which was then led by Sathya Saran as Editor,” Aradhna recalls.
I was a little taken aback when I realized that despite being a first world country, women still are paid a lower salary than their male counterparts for the same job
In less than five years though she found herself to be marrying her dream man, and moving to Europe. A short stint as financial journalist for a portal followed, and then came the job at one of the few English publications in Switzerland, the tabloid Swiss News. “On reading Swiss News, I had felt the pulse of what was happening around me in the country I have made home for 9 months now. When I called them, the congratulatory message turned into an invitation for an interview for the job of co-editor. I joined Swiss News and was really happy at being back in my element of people and print,” she added. She was promoted to the post of chief editor within a few months. This made her the first below-30 Asian woman to be the editor of Switzerland’s national tabloid in English. “I felt blessed and grateful.”
About writing her first book, she said that she always wanted to do it but somehow could not. “Through those years, my roles of being a wife, a mum, a breadwinner, a small-time entrepreneur, a supportive partner took precedence over all else. Today, I have no regrets because, finally, it was just all of those roles, the turmoil, the learning and more that made me step out of a job and make time to follow my dream.”
About The Entrepreneur’s Wife
I’d say that for Start-up spouses and those who want to go into the business of entrepreneurship – “The Entrepreneur’s Wife” proves to be a survival guide. For those who are already on the roller coaster – this book will make you connect to the unspoken world of entrepreneurship – what I call ‘Behind the Scenes’ of it all.
A writer or a journalist
A writer! Yes, and that too despite the uncertainty of being read, the fear of being negatively reviewed or criticised. I’m done with my journalism days. It was fun while it lasted. But it’s time to move on.
Life is all about change. So, when the going gets tough, you’ve got to be tough and get going
The Swiss Tales
I’ve always been very open to new experiences and adapt and adopt easily. I guess that comes from the ‘nomadic’ life I lead as a child in India. It was just a lot of learning at one shot! From being single to being married. Learning a new language. From having a buzzing lifestyle in Bombay to settling in a quiet village of 4,000 people. The peace and quiet was too much to handle at times. It was all so different.
As a woman, I was a little taken aback when I realized that despite being a first world country,women still are paid a lower salary than their male counterparts foe the same job. And foreign women are paid even lower. Then there is this distinct unspoken but strongly felt divide between working mothers and non-working mums. You’ll read all about it in my book.
What was conspicuous by way of its absence was eve-teasing. Safety and the level of human respect are so high here. The dignity given to one and all is exemplary. No letches. No one trying to grab you or make a pass at you. You could wear what you want and carry it off with dignity. It’s all so refreshing.
Another refreshing change was that whether it’s marriage or work, a woman is an equal partner here. So it’s perfectly normal for her husband to cook up a meal for the family if she’s out for a meeting. There are no tags or insulting insinuations attached to roles of being a housewife or a househusband. Everything is normal and need-based.
I just felt that the women I’ve met here are more open and expressive individuals; they make time for themselves– and they are accepted that way.
No failures just lessons
I have come to believe that there are no failures as long as you learn from your mistakes. There are no low moments once you learn to feel deeply and let go.
But yes, we’re all human and all of us go through our highs and lows – however balanced our approach to life is. So when I hit my lows and feel like all has failed, I take a moment to count my blessings. I think my mother did a good job of instilling in me the fact that you’ve got to go on with no regrets as you can’t turn the clock back.
Life is all about change. So, when the going gets tough, you’ve got to be tough and get going. This is the only life you’ve got – and the one time that you have to live it up! So pop in a Swiss chocolate without the calorie guilt and get moving.
Favourite Genre in books
Depends on my mood and time available really… Romance to thrilling mysteries, classics to chik-lit. At the moment, I’m reading ‘Jane Eyre’ and Jonathan Livingston’s Seagull for the nth time. A few weeks ago it was ‘Lipstick Jungle’ and a PG Wodehouse. I also have started Jerry Pinto’s ‘Em and Hoom’ and Khushwant Singh.
What I do steer clear of is horror tales or anything that has a sad ending. My current favourite – ‘The Entrepreneur’s Wife’
Being an entrepreneur’s wife isn’t easy. I know there are many of you who’ve been there, done it, got the tag. But for me, my journey in Europe – in my home away from home – provided me with the impetus to finally sit down and pen my debut book. Alternatively, I might have just imploded without ever making my dream of being an author come true.
Everything – from my marital status, to my country and continent of residence, the languages spoken and not spoken; and even my job profile was new to me. Had I not seen the futility of some of my misdirected anger, my impatience and explosive nature, things might have turned rather unpleasant. Had I not adhered to my strong belief that change is the only constant; and seen humour in my situation, I might have lost my marbles – completely. Had I not written this book and turned author – I would have regretted losing the opportunity to make my dream come true.
“The Entrepreneur’s wife – A Survival Guide” goes to prove that, if being an entrepreneur is difficult, being a start-up wife is a task not many can stick through – which is also perhaps why so many marriages fall apart or end up turning psychologists and marriage counsellors into multi-millionaires. Yes, at one point, I had very seriously thought of becoming a trained Life Coach, specialising in dealing with entrepreneurial families. I googled schools where such courses taught were of value and recognition within Europe. That done successfully, my idea was shot down only because it cost a heavy amount – the weight of which my purse strings would not have been able to tolerate at that point.
But back to the book. Why the tagline of “A Survival Guide”? Well, as I started to key in the chapters, I found myself forming little takeaways and comments. I italicised them for my own references and began following this pattern. Later through editing and re-reading stages, I decided to keep my own learning and call this novel a survival guide as that’s what it finally shaped into.
As you go through the pages, you will realise that this book will enable start-up couples to understand each other better. Of course, as you live together and go through situations, you lean along the way. But you learn in retrospect of it all – provided you make it together till the end. So this is an attempt to capture all the flavours of being an entrepreneur’s spouse and a small entrepreneur as well.
If you are a reader who is an entrepreneur or the spouse of one, all you need to remember through this journey is that nothing – nothing at all is run of the mill or ‘normal’ in the true sense of the word in a start-up family.
If you want to go into the business of entrepreneurship, here’s a word of advice. Read this ‘survival guide’. Read it over. Make an informed decision to stick with your chosen life of uncertainties tinged with significant downs before the ups.
And finally, if you’re already on the roller coaster – this book will make you connect to the unspoken world of entrepreneurship – what I call ‘Behind the Scenes’ of it all. You will connect, laugh, cry and laugh till you cry!
So take your time, check out the highs and lows of the start-up life, peppered with a touch of exaggeration and a dash of good humour. You will see it all: Despair. Guilt. Explosions. Roles within roles. The good times. Tests of patience and commitment. Peace. Practicality. And much more.
Enjoy the highs when they come in and roll with the blows.
Prepare yourself for the roller-coaster tale of love, life, and beyond.
And the reason for my long silence is 2-fold!
One is the fact that I went for a Vipassana course – hence the lingerings of “nobel silence”.A story that will be coming soon – and not on a serious note!
The second reason is the publishing of my book – my debut book!
I am on a merry-go-round of excitement, joy, bliss, nervous tension and so much more! I can’t believe my dream has actually and finally come true.
Available in E-book format, the hard copy of “The Entrepreneur’s Wife” will be released on Amazon end of May.
So, watch out! And please do get your e-copy and put in your much-valued star-ratings on amazon.com
Throw your mind back to those growing up years. Your first unaccompanied walk back home from the park; the first time you attended a birthday party without your parents; the first time you drove a bike and a car. Your first crush. Each step took you towards that much-coveted title of ‘adulthood’. That sense of independence was all simply so refreshing, so empowering, so liberating.
Flash forward to parenthood.
There’s always some dilemma plaguing life! When you are tiny, you want to grow up. After all the growing up, you want to look younger – and you crave your childhood again. Then you turn into parents – and if you’re lucky – you grab that chance to live your second childhood through the eyes and experiences of and with your children. So parenting turns out to be a ton of fun (of course with oodles of responsibility – but we can leave that aside for now).
And what happens when your own kids follow in your footsteps – to be more ‘mum-like’ or ‘dad-like’ – take on responsibility – and get more independent?
At first, you cheer them on. You are happy. Thrilled to bits. And then, you pat yourself on the back for the good job done.
Last week, we returned from our ski vacation. My immediate concern was to unpack, set up home again, vacuum and – needless to say get back to cooking regular healthy meals. No – cooking is something I like. What I dislike is the chore of deciding what to cook. That close to kills me! So – when my kids decided they would cook dinner for a few days – I welcomed the idea.
I asked then how I could help with the cutting, chopping, slicing, dicing, preparing the meat or veggie. They –in their sweetest way- led me out of the kitchen and told me to “go and write” as they would ask me if they were unsure of something. With a promise from them to not burn or cut or hurt themselves and mess up the kitchen, I stepped out. In 10 minutes, I was called in to marinate the chicken. I was surprised that my 9 and 11 year old were planning a real chicken and veggies meal!
What came up in the next hour was a total joy. The two lead my husband and me into the dining area. The table was set with candles, neatly placed crockery and cutlery, paper napkins. Remarkably and artistically done. My daughter announced –“the starters” and dished out a mixed salad of chopped strawberries, apples and cheese cubes! Enough for all 4 of us. Next up was “the main course” as introduced by my son. He brought in Greek salad with well-cooked chicken – and everything that goes with it. Scrumptious! And then – it was “dessert time”. A plate of cookies was brought out with fresh coffee.
Impressed. Proud. Joyful. What a way to celebrate life!
I thought this was it! I was glad for the one-time relief from a “what should I cook decision”. But the feat was repeated the next day, too. This time with starters comprising a mix of fruits on a skewer stick and a main course of pan cooked sausages and steamed veggies. Again – the settings for a candlelit dinner had been created. Okaaaay… so another day without that irritating thought of thinking what to cook… Cool!
Day three, dinner consisted of the veggie and meat stuffed puff-pastry rolls baked to a delicious crisp, followed by a dessert of vanilla yogurt on a mix of berries! Oh. What fun!
Suddenly, coming face to face with certain surprises leave you with a terribly mixed emotion – one of awe, joy and immense pain. That’s what happened when kids took over a mum’s role.
I felt lost. Did they not need me any more? I was happy to see them have fun and be independent – but I felt short-changed in a way. This was all happening too soon! Was I this independent at 9 and 11? By no means! No – life back then was much slower. Different. But perhaps, when I at age 10, cooked my first omelette for my grandfather – for which I have a burn mark that I can still show – my mother might have felt the same way. Perhaps, I was in this rush to grow up. Perhaps, in ways more than one, my mother had gone through the same ycle of emotions….
Perhaps, it was time to slow down. Take stock. Take charge of the fact that life happens. And lucky are the few of us who can live in the moment, enjoy it, and release it with no regrets – knowing there’s no turning back…
I am who I am. Situations shaped me. Circumstances honed me. Perceptions created the ‘me’ that I am… or perhaps… could be?
I was born to a lovely couple – always smiling, spreading joy, generous to the core. Honour and respect were of prime importance. Financial status was a pale cousin. The dictates of the Bhagavad Gita, the rituals of prayers and festivities, the ‘havanas’ and the ‘satsangs’ were part of my growing up years. As was getting armed with an education, aiming to excelling at all educational and co-curricular activities.
Family was the core of existence. And by family, I include my maternal and paternal grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and the extended family. We were all brought up to love and respect each other – irrespective of any individual or independent differences. That was set in stone.
Those were the constants I grew up with.
Then there was this other constant – that of change
Every three to four years, we were transferred to a new city. This spelt a new beginning. New school. New friends. New teachers. New impressions. Old was out and the new took me in its fold. It was fun! It was like shedding off the old skin and emerging like a beautiful butterfly with each move! But, as I grew up, I often wondered what my friends thought about me. For, I was always a touch shy. I wanted to know – but was no good at deciphering! And by the time I had opened enough, it was time to move again.
Mystery – that wasn’t me
I wasn’t shrouded with mystery, but my mind was – for there was no way of knowing about how I was truly perceived. Until… I got this email from a friend in response to one of the stories I had written (“Good Grief”). I had written it years after my mother passed away in 2003 – leaving the entire family shaken, devastated, uprooted…
This friend wrote, and I quote:
“I don’t think anyone who has not gone through the pain & agony of bereavement can ever even begin to comprehend what it feels like to lose a loved one. So I don’t think I will ever be able to say I understand how you feel.
However, what I will say is that it makes me proud to have known a woman like you.
My memories of you have always been of that cheerful, fun loving, effervescent girl, who was like a breath of fresh air in the otherwise muted lot that most of us were. You always radiated warmth and friendliness that drew many of us to you, and made us admire you, love you, and cherish you for who you are.
Many of us saw you as part of a different world, where everything was pink, and beautiful, and cheerful. Somewhere, I guess I also lost sight of the fact that deep inside, you too were just another girl, a mortal like the rest of us, who could also feel pain when pinched.
It took me a long time to see you for who you really are. And maybe, just maybe, I am able to see you now for who you are: a lovely woman, who has not lost any of the warmth and affection that defined her. I see a loving wife, a grateful daughter, and a doting mother. And above all that, I see a strong and independent, yet loving and caring woman, who still makes me proud of having known her.”
All I can say to this friend is – Thank you!
I was a reflection of your perception – back then. And I am but a perception of your reflection now.
This is life! The ‘then and now’ can never be separated, perceptions can change – but the basis remains constant. And though perceptions quite often are divorced of reflecting reality; sometimes they are nothing but mere mirrors of reality.
There’s no way of finding out whether you are who you are – or who you seem to be! The reality I guess lies in the merge of the two realms.
Heavy, huh? Not quite 😉 Think it over again!
Post the festivities, we’ve slid smoothly into 2016; wishing each other over get-togethers, phone calls, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Snapchat – you name it…
I’m all in for social media – trust me! How does it make a difference if I were to remember your birthday by having the date in my head or by receiving a social media prompt or an alarm on my smart phone? The idea is to convey my best to you. Chances are – if it weren’t for reminder beeps and alerts – I’d forget your special days – minutes before the day starts!
But that’s not what I’m getting into. I believe in moving ahead with the times – although I admit that I am a bit of a laggard.
So here’s the thing: sing-a-sing-along time has come and gone with Christmas.
Bake-bake-a couple of cookies-n-cakes – the churn-up-goodies marathon has also ended.
The first week of 2016 has lead to another mantra – think, think along.
I didn’t think of thinking – it just happened. I didn’t sit in a place and say, “I’m going to think now”. It happened pretty much on an auto-mode while carrying out the daily chores, working along everyday schedules, entertaining friends and family – and the usual. You know, how thoughts reel and roll… But strangely enough, unlike before, I gave thought to these rolling thoughts – again automatically and effortlessly.
I seem to be more clued into myself at the moment. I guess it was partly due to the blast from the past.
One of my closest childhood friends was over with her family. We got talking about school; our personalities back then, our evolution into wives and mothers. How we had changed, and yet how constant we had remained. I saw myself again as a 13 year old. I saw myself now. The two Me(s) weren’t exactly mirror images – but I guess the basic DNA of my personality had remained largely unshattered. So had hers. And that was a good thing! There was a child-like note of joy through her visit. We connected again as grown-ups without having lost our unique qualities as kids.
We had certainly walked out passage of time with grace. She went back home. We busied ourselves in our life with the knowledge that whenever we meet, we would pick up where we left of. This bond was too strong to be hampered by time and space. I share the same bond with a handful of others – for that – I thank my lucky stars.
I am, in some way. overjoyed with this realisation.
Thoughts – from the past and present – continued to traverse my mind, springing some surprises in their wake. Glimpses of the tumultuous times in my life came forth.
Uncanny as it was, a day before my mother’s ‘angel-isation’ (the day she transcended beyond her physical form), I happened to read a tweet from a young lady who was lost post her mum’s demise. I went on to read her blog. Her emotions were close to mine. Fortunately, I had been by my mother’s side when she made her move, while this girl was on her way, but couldn’t get there on time. Instead of grief or pain – I stepped back to say a brief “Thank God I was there with, and hopefully for, mama”. I was quite surprised at this transformed outlook, one day before I end up feeling low, sad and very short-changed on maternal presence!
Whether happy or melancholic, the memories and experiences I was currently having left me feeling grateful – as though I had suddenly ascended into a spiritual realm of perfection. I guess this is what people mean when they say you should be balanced and unattached in life.
Thoughts came and went. Reality reared its head – sometimes a beautiful one, and occasionally an ugly one. But that’s life, right?
I guess the birthday/wedding anniversary/ Christmas time contemplation that the old wise soul in me had unintentionally walked into, had lead me into a timeless mode. It wasn’t as though I had been thrown into a time machine. It was all here and now. And it felt good.
For once, I didn’t scurry about looking for paper to create my resolution list or make a mental note of what to do and not to do in 2016.
This year, there were no resolutions – neither to make, nor break.
No hopes – for that leaves space for doubt.
No must dos – for that adds an undesired focus on what not to do
No must-haves – for that adds pressure on how to usurp the must-haves.
No perceptions – for that would make me judgmental.
No beliefs – for it hurts when belief shatters.
This conclusion of thoughts at the end of 2015 was even strange and alien to me!
We know ourselves well enough to pre-empt all our ways – or so we believe. Yet – we remain strangers to ourselves!
So this seems to be my year to BE. Just be me – and know me – at least for now!
That wasn’t always so…. A new me, with the view to BE.