A Kid’s Life : Switzerland

5 Jun

I’m really excited to have a new interview for my A Kid’s Life series on the blog today.  Over the last  months I’ve been busy looking for interesting families from around the world and I’ve found a few great ones that I’ll be interviewing in the coming weeks.  I was recently reading back through the previous interviews from Italy, Japan, America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, The Philippines, Colombia, Germany, Belgium, France and The Netherlands and I still love to hear what family life is like in all these countries and cultures.  Learning about all the little differences in our daily lives is fascinating and I’ve discovered that my kids absolutely love reading these interviews as well. They get a huge kick out of learning things like a baby’s first food in Japan (fish paste!), that school starts really early in Colombia and The Philippines (7:30am), the fact you can learn Chinese as a 2nd or 3rd language in Tasmania and that kids in Germany only go to school for half days (they thought that one was quite unfair).

Today we’ll be hearing from a family living in Switzerland.  I met the super dynamic Elisa at The Hive blogging conference a few weeks back and I immediately Ioved her energy and positive personality.  I just wish I’d met her at the beginning of the week-end and not 5 minutes before I was leaving to catch my plane!  Elisa lives with her family in Zurich, Switzerland and has a great blog called Globetrotting In Heels where she writes all about fashion, travel and much more (she’s really funny!).  I loved her candid interview and am now craving a good Swiss roesti and raclette dinner.

So, let’s hear what family life is like in Switzerland…

What country do you live in?

We currently live in Zurich, Switzerland.

Are you and your husband the same nationality?
No, my husband is Swiss, I’m Italian. Ok, technically I should probably say yes, since I am a naturalized Swiss citizen and now have a Swiss passport, but really, it’s purely a burocratic thing. I’m no more Swiss now than I was a few years ago – but don’t tell the Immigration Office, ok? 😉

Do you both work? Or does someone stay at home?
Right now my husband Sascha works and I mostly do the mom thing, do some volunteer work and the occasional freelance assignment. I’ve also recently gone back to school, so I am studying for an international diploma.

How many languages are spoken in your house? What one(s)?
Three: Italian, German (mostly of the Swiss variety) and English.

How many kids do you have? What are their ages?
I have two girls: Sarah is 13 and Stella is 7.


At what age do kids start school in your country?
Kids start school at 7 but both my daughters started at 6. When they are ready they are ready. I never would have pushed if they weren’t but when kids aren’t challenged they get bored, and when they get bored they get in trouble! Best to avoid that by keeping a child occupied and give him enough new things to keep him/her interested and engaged.

Click to continue reading all about family life in Switzerland!

During the school year what time do your kids usually wake up?
7.20 am or so.

What do your kids typically eat for breakfast?
Usually a smoothie, but sometimes just some buttered toast and ovomaltine.

What time does school start? What time does it finish? What is the weekly school schedule?
I think public school starts around 8 and ends around 12, and then 2-4pm again. My girls attend a small private school in Zurich where kids learn at their own pace and do a lot of practical and visual activities, and the schedule there is Monday-Friday, 9 am – 4 pm. Wednesday afternoons are free in all Swiss schools – sort of a mid-week break I guess.

Do your kids learn a second/third language at school? From what age?
Yes, French and English, I think from third grade on.

Do your kids eat lunch at school or home? 
At school, except on Wednesdays which is a half-day.

Do your kids do any after-school activities?
Sarah takes guitar lessons and we have been trying to find a dance class for Stella that doesn’t clash with her school hours.


What time do you eat dinner? What’s are some typical Swiss meals/dishes?
We eat dinner early, around 6.30 pm – it’s a Swiss thing.
The Swiss think they eat really healthy. And I suppose that compared with the SAD, they do, as their food is largely unprocessed.  They do like to eat fresh food straight from the farmer, which is why there are so many farmers who have little huts that work as shops where they sell their produce, eggs and a few other things they make themselves, like maybe sausages and such. However, the Swiss diet also contains some really rich foods: lots of creamy sauces, both on salads and on pasta or meat dishes… sausages accompanied by roesti (the Swiss hashbrowns), and then of course let’s not forget cheese fondue and raclette (melted cheese served over potatoes.)
But I cannot eat all that stuff, my stomach rebels!  At home I make a bit of everything as we enjoy many different cuisines.  But I’d say that for the most part we eat Italian food or food with an Italian influence because that’s what I grew up with and what my husband loves (garlic and olive oil, is there anything better? And fresh herbs and vine-ripened tomatoes? YUM) 🙂


How much television/computer time do your kids have on a daily basis?
The girls are only allowed to use the computer or watch TV on days when they don’t have school, so on the weekend and during vacation. On those days, they are allowed 2 hours in total of computer or TV time.

What time do your kids go to bed?
Sarah goes to bed anywhere from 8.30 pm to 10 pm these days, but she generally does best when she goes to bed around 9 or no later than 9.30pm. Stella need to literally be taken to bed, she was never really excited to go to sleep, especially if anyone is staying up. It’s like she is afraid of missing out on something!

What are some typical family week-end activities?
We love taking minibreaks on longer weekends; but in normal circumstances, it depends on the weather. During the spring and summer we like to go to the zoo or go for short hikes or for walks around the Zurich lake. We also like to do day trips and explore other towns and areas a little. During the winter we go ice skating or Sascha takes the girls tobogganing when it snows (I am not a huge fan of snow), or we find indoor activities like small fairs and indoor flea markets and such.
Sarah is a huge fan of manga and anime, so we have been trying to find more events to attend that revolve around that; and we also often visit the manga store.

Or if we have had a stressful week, we stay home and play games like Monopoly (we have a Pixar version), Uno, and such; or sometimes we’ll go to one of the international newsstands for a browse and something to read, and then hit Starbucks (I know.)
Stella also really enjoys baking, and the whole family enjoys eating, so we do that fairly often (baking, I mean. Ok, eating, too.)


When do your kids have vacation from school?
In Switzerland kids have fives weeks of summer vacation, plus at least two weeks of vacation in every season: two weeks of Herbstferien (fall vacation) in October, two weeks for Christmas and New Year’s, two weeks Sportferien (sport vacation) in February, when people traditionally go away on skiing trips, and then easter is often combined with two weeks of Frühlingsferien (spring vacation) around April. Then there are a few days here and there, like the Ascension in May.

What do your kids do during the summer vacation?
Usually we go visit my parents in Sardinia for two weeks, and sometimes Sarah stays here another two weeks; the rest of the time we go to the pool, have picnics, spend the day by the lake. Sarah might also start going to camp beginning next year.

What are the typical “first foods” for a baby to eat in your country?
Oh gosh, I have no idea. I’ve always done things my own way when it comes to nutrition. Both girls started with fresh fruit, then moved on to cooked veggies, and then very slowly from there. I tried to make as much as possible from scratch.

8-summerMany thanks to Elisa and her beautiful family.  Check out Globetrotting in Heels to read more about their travels and adventures.

If you’d like to take a part in the A Kid’s Life series drop me a line at jillianinitaly@hotmail.com!


8 Responses to “A Kid’s Life : Switzerland”

  1. giova brusa June 5, 2013 at 16:15 #

    So nice to see and read about Elisa’s family life and beautiful kids!! And she has a teenager (I’m going to contact her for tips 😉

    • Jillian In Italy June 8, 2013 at 22:48 #

      Let me know what she says. I’ll need all the help I can get in a few years.

  2. Betty June 6, 2013 at 16:06 #

    Wow, only 5 weeks off for summer vacation! Compared to the 3 months the kids get in Italy it sounds so short! And I’ve tried that ovomaltine years ago and really liked it (what is it exactly?).

  3. Judith June 15, 2013 at 15:12 #

    I can’t say it often enough: really love this series! So nice to read more about Elisa’s life… young teenagers or kids (like Sarah in the picture) drinking coffee always amazes me. Coffee is so grown up 😀


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