Amalia González, hotel administratorFriday, January 6, 2017
For The Herald
Lives: Zurich, Switzerland
Born: Buenos Aires
Education: Hotelery at Cencap
Occupation: Hotel administrator
Last book read: Noticias de un secuestro
Last film watched: La chica del tren
Can’t live without: My Fatima virgin
While she moved to Peru for professional reasons, hotel administrator Amalia González recently upped Latin American sticks and moved to central Europe for a different reason: love. Now residing in Zurich, Amalia is adapting to the Swiss way of life.
Amalia says: “I worked in Lima for two years at Swissotel and had a great time there; I made lots of friends and worked well. But, while I was living in Peru, I fell in love with an Argentine who was working on a project and has lived in Zurich for several years. Basically, work took me to Peru but love has brought me to Switzerland.”
By the book
While the hotel administrator had visited Europe, moving to the world’s most neutral country has presented various cultural differences.
She says: “I’d been to France and Spain but never to Switzerland and it can be tricky, there are big differences in comparison with the rest of Europe. Zurich is a small city — 450,000 people — and the lifestyle is relaxed in comparison with Buenos Aires or Lima.
“Activities start early as the Swiss get up at dawn because of daylight hours. It gets dark early in winter and in summer people go straight to the lake after work. There’s always something going on — you can go to France for dinner or go to the supermarket in Germany.
“Nowhere is perfect, though, and Switzerland has its pros and its cons. I do think there are places that are made for one. Peru wasn’t for me but — as I’m quite structured — Switzerland works better. Life is done by the book here and everything is scheduled, from work meetings to social meetings. We receive invites to birthday parties in three months’ time that come with a start and finish! It’s respected, too.
“There are lots of noise rules and you certainly can’t drink and drive — it’s against the law and you can lose your licence for life if you’re caught with a beer in you.
“As it’s a well-located country where people earn high salaries, they travel a lot, to London for theatre or to New York for shopping. In Peru we’d go out for a drink after work and people opened their doors to you. But that doesn’t happen so much here. But, if you ask for directions, the Swiss will help you, even replying in three or four languages. They are very polite and nice.”
The porteña transplant lives in Oerlikon, a central neighbourhood located close to the financial centre.
“I live a block from one railway station, 10 minutes from the main one and 13 minutes by tram to the lake — I can go anywhere. Oerlikon is a migrant neighbourhood, which makes me feel at home: one in four Zurich residents is foreign and I have lots of Jewish, Muslim, Latin, Spanish and Croatian neighbours. I know our English and Croatian neighbours but just to say hello to.
“The Swiss can be a bit anti migration and aren’t very open minded; everything is fine up to a certain point for them.
“There aren’t many tall here buildings and while we live in an apartment block, it’s only three storeys high. The financial centre might have a 12-storey tower block.”
As for hobbies, Amalia goes to the gym and enjoys cooking.
“I’ve come from very high standards in Peru with regards to food but here I can find a way to cook what I like, with the ingredients I want.
“Going out for dinner is expensive plus there aren't many great restaurants. It’s easy to spend US$200 a head on an average risotto with a beer so people get together at home for fondue or we’ll do a parrillada with Latin American friends. We can get great cheese and wine from all over the world and though we live in an apartment, no one’s place is smaller than 80m2 so we all live and entertain comfortably.”
As for friends, Amalia mixes with an array of expats from all over the world.
“Most of my friends are Mexicans, Spaniards, Israelis and Colombians who work for multinationals. Some were transferred like my boyfriend, while others came here and started off working in call centres but have worked their way up to top jobs.”
Given its relatively diminutive size, Amalia has already travelled around parts of Switzerland.
She says: “I loved Lucerne, it’s charming. It’s like the Swiss Cariló, with narrow roads, though it’s a ski centre. There wasn't any snow when I went but it was lovely anyway. There are cabins up the mountain and isn’t as expensive as you’d think; skiing isn’t an elite sport because everyone does it every weekend.
“I also loved Basel. It’s a small city and not far out of town, people have their own cows and you buy fresh eggs from neighbours. It’s very Swiss to sell things in the street and not have a cashier.”
Besides her friends and family in Buenos Aires, Amalia misses Argentine healthcare.
“It’s very expensive (here) and not as great in other countries so I’ve kept my medical plan. Right now I feel quite unpatriotic to be honest, unless I hear a tango or a Spinetta song, then I feel nostalgic. When I lived in Peru, I’d miss public transport as there’s no subway or good train services. I’d even miss storms!
“I also miss pizza from Corrientes Avenue, which I can’t find anywhere else, and devour kilos of ice-cream when I visit. Silly things but when you don’t have them, you value them.”
Though she’s only been in Zurich two months, she was already a punctuality match for the Swiss.
“I always arrive seven minutes early. But I have had to learn how to cross roads with the lights like the Swiss do so I don’t get fined! I now recycle and have to remember not to use the vacuum cleaner on Sundays.”