As a complete stranger to the language, culture, and way of life in Switzerland, I am trying to do pretty much anything I can to integrate into the mainstream so that I can grow and understand how life works on this spot of the planet. While it is nothing new, each new town has a fair degree of stress that goes with each change.
This is my first time I am what I would consider an immigrant, as I am not packing up road cases every few days or week and moving to a new city or country. This appears how much have the expat world or diplomatic core works – you take your home country with you to the new country you are moving to. It is very rare when I see a reverse integration happening, unless the cases of exile, or refugee status where those moving to a new land have to completely just integrate, as if moving to a spot on the moon.
These thoughts have me think back to a time when I really thought about jumping off my labs roof in Charlotte, NC wondering how I had gone from a small epicenter for technology and seemed to be surrounded by nerds, geeks and dorks and to a city that seemed diametrically opposed - where people discussed where they could get the best muffins from a bakeshop. They didn’t discuss race, religion, politics of a differing opinion, or much of anything else. I remember sitting in a coffee shop for many weeks, alone with my laptop working away each morning trying to, or hoping someone to come up and say hello and chat about whatever.
One day I sat next to a man who looked familiar to me. He owned the NFL team in town. For whatever reason, I knew enough that some people just don’t want to be bothered in coffee shops. He would sit in the corner, everyone left him alone, and so I did too. (Who knows, maybe he wanted someone to chat with too?) The gentleman got up, looked at my computer screen and me typing away like a fiend on some idea and created some small talk for a few moments.
After he left. People from three different tables came up and introduced themselves.
“You know Jerry?”
I must confess, I really had no idea whom he guy was, but I was at the end of my rope with the politeness factor in Charlotte, so I blurted out, “yeah, I have known him for a while.”
I was suddenly invited to join other tables to have coffee and talk about…muffins.