Saturday, 18 March 2017

La vie en Suisse- how I'm finding Basel so far!


Hello from Switzerland. Yes, I am once again in a different country. I thought I'd give you all a quick update on how I'm enjoying life in Basel. As you know, 2 weeks ago I moved here to start my new job as Graphic designer at Tally Weijl.....here is a borderline cringey photo of me enjoying my new office:

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I realise I didn't write a blog post in between Ghana and Switzerland and now I wish I had, not only is it a great way of keeping my friends and family in the loop of whats going on in my life, it also helps me understand my thoughts a bit more.

Before arriving here I was quite nervous, not about starting the job or moving countries(this I am starting to get used to)...I was nervous about how I would feel about working in commercial retail after having a taste of working for a fairtrade company. Ghana was definitely one of the benchmark moments in my life, I found it very hard to leave. There are some moments in life where you feel completely content, as though you are, at that moment, exactly where you are meant to be- this is how I felt throughout my 6 weeks in Ghana. Being able to do the job I love while empowering entrepreneurial women and supporting local businesses provides a level of job satisfaction that commercial retail can never fulfill. Despite being a relatively brief visit I am determined to go back to Ghana(this time I will be armed with a working camera) and forge stronger links with the people I met there, the friends I made and the small business owners I spoke to. I don't know how this will link into my hopes to one day start an ethical business but stepping outside of my 'safe' little commercial retail bubble into ethical fashion was definitely the first step towards this. 

Below are just a few of my favourite photos from the last few weeks in Ghana. 

Just a few of the things I miss from Ghana: batik printing, the amount women can carry on their heads, colourful boats, Herb Afrik spot crawls, Beach weekends, limitless coconuts to devour.

Before moving to Basel I returned to the UK for a week and in this time I was constantly asked if I was excited for my new job and for my 'new life' in Basel..... 'no' was the answer....the answer I wasn't meant to give and the answer people weren't prepared to acknowledge.I know it's not something I should broadcast on my blog, especially in case it gets read by current/future employers, but I pride myself on being transparent and honest when I write. It's not that I wasn't overjoyed that I had been given the position and the opportunity to move to Switzerland- I was/am.....and it wasn't that I didn't want to move to Basel- I love experiencing and living in different cities.... I just felt under prepared.I hadn't had chance to process what was happening to me. 

SO.....with all of this playing on my mind before the move you can imagine how I approached my first week at work, almost with a sense of trepidation. Now I am 2 weeks in and I actually think I'm really going to enjoy working here! The job is extremely fast paced, but a lot more creative than my previous role at C&A. I am now working on a fast turnaround which is highly trend driven and reactive to current fads meaning that I have to be constantly producing new proposals and graphics. In my first week I was definitely thrown in at the deep end and, after having been out of commercial retail for a few months, I felt like I was drowning in the deep end. I had the classic creative block problem where your thoughts go a little bit like this....


Now, at the end of my second working week, I am feeling a lot more comfortable and in control of the situation. I've figured out what my job role is and what is expected of me(I am now in charge of placement graphics on t-shirts and sweaters- very exciting for me as I have never been in charge of anything before) and I've had chance to make some pretty cool artworks already.

So that's enough about the work side....how about the actual city of Basel!? WELL...I arrived at an odd time of year where Basel has several days of carnival called 'fasnacht'. It involves people dressing up in masks, mainly creepy looking ones, and parading the streets both day and night playing pips and drums and throwing colourful confetti at people. A very odd experience for someone who has only been in Basel for one night.

Please note that none of the photos in this collage are mine, they were all *borrowed* from instagram.
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Me post confetti ambush.

In my first week I didn't really get to see any of Basel- I literally went from home to work to the supermarket next to work then back home again. This probably helps to explain why I felt a little overwhelmed and unsettled in my first few days. Normally when I have moved to work in other countries/cities I have a weekend or a few days to better acquaint myself with the city before starting work. Here I arrived late Sunday evening and started work on Monday morning, so when my new colleagues were asking me if I liked Basel so far my answer was "I don't know yet, I haven't seen any of it!"

One of the tricky things that can really get your head in a spin when you move to a new city is adapting to the small cultural/social differences of a place. Everywhere has unspoken social etiquette and, once again, upon arrival in Switzerland I realised I didn't know the unwritten rules. They really should consider providing every newcomer with a manual of what to do/not to do in social situations. In my first few days, my processing days, I actually became so overwhelmed by everything that I nearly cried in the supermarket- yes I am aware that this is rather pathetic. A supermarket trip shouldn't be a particularly emotional event BUT walking into a supermarket on your first day in a new country, realising you can't actually communicate with anyone, you don't have enough money to afford groceries (as everything is so expensive in Switzerland), the thing you wanted to buy isn't there, you can't read the ingredients of any of the alternatives and you can't use google translate because you don't have any internet access....you can see how that situation almost ended in tears. Apologies for the tiring length of that sentence, maybe it helps to demonstrate how exhausting my brain is!Anyway....how did I avoid having an emotional breakdown in the supermarket you ask....?...I bought a bottle of red wine(the cheapest I could find with the highest alcohol percentage) and I went home and cried there instead. 

That doesn't mean I'm sad/unhappy by the way, on the contrary I actually really like it here. Unfortunately I'm not very good at processing information so there's usually a backlog for my mind to deal with....in this case my brain decided to process quitting my job in Belgium, going to Ghana, getting a new job and moving to Switzerland all at once. Now my mini breakdown seems completely understandable doesn't it!? :)

One of the biggest hurdles I have had to deal with so far is apartment hunting. I am quickly learning that Switzerland is not at all like the UK. In England we have idioms like "first up, best dressed" and "the early bird catches the worm" basically meaning that getting there first will give you an advantage...apparently this does not apply to the Swiss housing market. I found my perfect dream flat here and I arrived 15 MINUTES EARLY(anyone who knows me will understand this is a miraculous feat for me) thinking that if I arrived before everyone else and told them I wanted the apartment they would sign it over to me.....oh how naive I was/am. You have to apply for accommodation here in a similar way to applying for a job-you view the house,then you fill out an application,then you have to be shortlisted,.then you have to be chosen. I JUST WANT A HOME!!!!! Anyway, regardless of me not actually getting my 'perfect' apartment I thought I'd still share the photos with you.

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 It was up in the attic of the house with exposed wooden beams and white painted brickwork and had beautiful wooden floorboards and was just oh so beautifully bohemian. I would have felt very at home here...something about living at the top of the house makes me feel extremely safe....alas....it was obviously not meant to be mine and I am really hoping I find another even more 'perfect for me' place soon. Ideally I wanted to have found my new home before I return to the UK next week but that's not looking too likely. Although I have two apartment viewings next week so my fingers are firmly crossed. Here are the other two I will be looking at:

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This one looks beautiful from the outside and is really close to the river but there weren't any other photos of it online  other than the photo of the stairwell.....this one is my lucky dip apartment.
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This one is a bit more modern than what I would normally go for but I love the wooden parquet flooring and the double window corner.

As you can tell from my choices I love a good wooden floor. I have a little checklist I made of what I'm looking for in an apartment and I don't really want to deviate from it, particularly as my apartment in Brussels was so lovely and homely, now I don't want to settle for anything less.

Just in case anyone reading this happens to work in the Swiss property market in Basel here's a few sample images from my 'ideal house' pinterest board(https://uk.pinterest.com/beckyloisburns/)to give you a solid idea of what I'm looking for ;)

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My dreamy house inspiration.

I can imagine nothing worse than living in a super modern, shiny, square/rectangular roomed, laminated floored apartment......sadly Basel has a lot more of this type of building than the old, wooden, soft, quirky look I'm searching for. I can be swayed on some of my desirable criteria but I cannot live in an apartment that has no character!

One of the major things I have noticed about myself when moving countries for work is that, if I don't establish a home in the first few weeks of being there, I feel restless and temporary and find it difficult to settle. I don't know if this is an emotional response but I can't properly start to love a city until I feel a sense of permanence. 

At the moment I am living in a shared apartment owned by the company, the apartment is nice enough and my room is quite large but I feel as though I am back at university again. I am one of those oddly extroverted introvert types and I really need my own space. As lovely as it is that the company have provided accommodation to ease the pressure of flat hunting, I don't think I will feel settled for as long as I am living in shared accommodation.  The people I am sharing with seem lovely, I hardly see them throughout the week as we are all at work and then at the weekends they are all either going to visit their partners back in Italy(they're all Italian) or having their partners come and visit them here. I miss being able to roam around my own home scantily clad without the fear of someone witnessing it. I miss being able to listen to loud music while I'm cooking. Above all I miss the sense of being at home in my surroundings.

In other news- Basel is a really beautiful city, the Altstadt ('old town') in particular. It has such quaint historical buildings, some of them were built as long ago as the 1400s. As a bit of a history geek this really excites me. I took a few photos walking around Basel last weekend, here are a few from the old town and along the River Rhine where everyone seems to hang out enjoying drinks and picnics in the sun.

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I ventured away from the Aldstadt to three country point where you can stand on the border of Switzerland, France and Germany- technically meaning that you are in 3 places at once. 

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I also came across a really alternative side to Basel on the Kleinbasel side of the river towards the industrial section that looked like it would be a really cool pop up bar area in the summer months. Everything there was a bit shut down but I took some photos of the amazing colourful graffiti they hvae there.

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A small sample of the street art in the Kleinbasel area.
So that is my experience so far. Two weeks in and I'm warming to my new city quite nicely, I only wish I had secured a new home. Tomorrow I will venture out for a walk along the Rhine and see what I stumble accross.

I have a few more meaty article posts in the pipeline at the moment and I am also working on a belated Premiere Visions Spring/Summer 2018 trend report that I will hopefully have finished within the next week.

Ciao for now x





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