Swiss Life Book

Life in Switzerland.
The not-made-for-TV version.

In 2006, American Chantal Panozzo moved to a spa town near Zurich ready for a glamorous life as an expatriate. She would eat chocolate. She would climb mountains. And she would order cheese in four languages.

Instead, she lived a life more in tune with reality than fantasy. Contrary to popular American belief, Switzerland isn’t just a setting in a storybook called Heidi. It’s a real place where someone with a master’s degree in communications can’t make a phone call, where you can be hired in one language and fired in another, and where small talk doesn’t exist—but phrases like Aufenthaltskategorien von Drittstaatsangehörigen do.

Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known is a collection of both published and new essays in which Chantal discovers that no matter how hard she wills her geraniums to cascade properly, she will never be a glamorous American expatriate—or Swiss.

Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known

By Chantal Panozzo

Published May 7, 2014

Distributed in part by Bergli Books (Basel, Switzerland)

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20 thoughts on “Swiss Life Book”

  1. Hi there, I was just told about your book by a US colleague (we both work in Zurich though) this morning and I will buy it on Amazon now as reference material. I am releasing a fantasy adventure book (in DE + FR in June, with EN to follow next year) set in a parallel Switzerland targeted at young adults and their parents alike, where the heroes are (profoundly) swiss and gently poke fun at what being Swiss is about. My question: are you self-published? If not, who are you working with? I find it extremelly difficult with publishers here, way too small and conservative… Anyway, keep up the good work and have a great day! Chris

  2. Dear Chantal,

    being an expat in Switzerland, I must read this book.

    Can you advise on its availability – online shop/price?

    Thank you and I look forward to having an amusing time reading it.


  3. Hi Chantal
    I can’t wait to read your book. I had a go on an Alphorn last summer and was enchanted but also wondered if taking it up might be a way to break down some barriers. Then there’s
    the queuing (or lack of) thing – still not used to that – my children have had to develop sharp elbows or would never be able to get off the tram in the morning!
    Good to know it’s not just me!

  4. Hi Chantal.

    So interesting to come across your article. I too lived in Switzerland for a decade and wrote a book that was distributed by Bergli (Culture Smart!:Switzerland) I’m in Toronto now and have been back here for five years. My eldest daughter was one when we moved there and my youngest was born there. In many ways, I’m grateful for the childhood they had there and try to hang on to some of the values. On the other hand, I’m glad they escaped the gymi system and are thriving in Canadian schools. Wish we could have a coffee and gab about this. It’s not often I find someone who gets it. Tschüss! Kendall

    1. I’m also from Toronto and live in Switzerland since 20 years. i raised my children bi-cultural and glad it worked. some Swiss people do accept Cdns and our way of thinking!

  5. Dear Chantal,

    Moved to Basel 8 months ago and still attempting to touch base with “The Swiss Way of Life”. Your writing was at times humorous, touching, poignant and so identifiable in many ways! I loved the ending most of all. Especially since you didn’t attempt to tie up everything with neat little corners! Keep in writing please, as we need someone to tell us, “it’s ok” ! :)

  6. Hi Chantal. We moved to Basel the same year you came to Switzerland. it sounds like our experience is similar to yours except we’re older (my wife and I), have more kids (four) and are still here with no plans to return to the US anytime soon. I really enjoyed your piece, “Living in Switzerland ruined me for America and its lousy work culture”. It has become the link I send friends in the US when they ask me when we’re returning. They ask and I send the link. No explanation necessary. Anyway, thanks for providing this nice little tool. I’m getting your book (e-version) as I’m sure that will be worthwhile as well.

  7. While browsing the bookstore I happened to find “Swiss Life” and bought it. Instead of going back to work, I started reading a couple of chapters, laughing out loud. So poignant! Since I did the reverse by moving from Heidi Land to America without any English knowledge, I know exactly what you went through! The main difference must be that in America, everybody asks ” Where you from, you got an accent”. followed by, I’m part Irish, Italian and German. Nobody seems to be just American. Being Swiss, I need more precise answers and usually inquire as to which part is Irish, Italian or German, which in most cases ends the conversation. I look forward to reading the rest of the book, and probably recognizing friends and family members!!
    Ciao from Texas!

  8. Hi Chantal,

    I am in East Switzerland in a really small town about 100Km from Zurich. I enjoyed reading your article “Living in Switzerland ruined me for America….” I agree on most of what you said, however I do not agree on a few things and was interested to know if you were employed by a company in Switzerland before you moved from the US?

  9. Hello Chantal

    I’m an undergrad student in my senior year thinking of going to Zurich University of Applied Sciences for an engineering masters. Can you tell me what the educational environment is like there ? Also would I have an option to work as a student coming from US?

  10. Read your Vox piece, “Living in Switzerland ruined America for me”, it’s great and so relatable! Thank you for writing. I lived in Germany for a few years and almost all aspects your described are what I experienced. Will look into getting your book. I’m curious about your experience once your return to live in America. What’s the follow-up? Whenever I return to America, I do lament about those aspects I miss after having lived in a different country but I also can’t help but notice how wonderfully creative and ingenious America and the people tend to be. And I just love that, it enriches life so much. Can that individually driven spirit be found in the same way in Europe, I wonder?

  11. Hi Chantal,

    I much enjoyed your article on Swiss Life- I have to get the book!
    I lived for 17 years in Zurich and made the mistake of returning to the US where I had worked only briefly. I was shocked to find that I was expected to work 20 hours of unpaid overtime a week, next to no holiday, no rights as an employee for redress, no “notice” time- I could be fired at anytime for no reason and with zero job security. To top it all off, my salary was much less than in Switzerland, the taxes much higher and the overall quality of life markedly lower.

    And the Americans considered this to be normal!

    Your article describes exactly what I tried to tell American friends in the US: That they were being badly taken advantage of by the US employment system. None would believe it, as of course “America is the best place in the world”…

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by Chantal Panozzo