“I worked as a language assistant in France and a teacher of foreign languages in Hong Kong and the UK for years before I came to Switzerland.
I knew the country to a certain extent, as I had worked here as a waiter almost 30 years ago. I even ended up doing an Extended Essay on Swiss German in high school, as I was fascinated by this language.
Today, by teaching my native tongue amongst other things, I am very proud to be able to present my home culture to my students and I love sharing anecdotes with them. Living abroad certainly makes you appreciate your home country more.
It has not always been easy here, as the people can be polite but reserved. Despite speaking fluent French, it is difficult to approach people. I am still getting used to the rules here after all this time; I miss being able to cross the road in London wherever and whenever without getting a fine!
I started playing the piano when I was 8, because my brother was playing it. It was a disaster! Dealing with the right and left hand was dreadful, and I definitely couldn't multi- task. However, when I was 12 my mum wanted me to be able to play 'Stranger on the Shore’ so… I started the clarinet! And here I am in Geneva, a few decades later, playing at the UN Orchestra.
I joined it six years ago and found it intimidating at first, as the level was so high and it was my first time in an orchestra. Nonetheless, I stuck it out and have managed to hold on for dear life and still be counted as one of the members. I love the music so much and also the challenge it represents.
I always say that languages come easily to me, and I teach them in an international school, but music doesn't. By being a member of the orchestra I am putting myself in my students' shoes. You are very exposed as a musician and also as a linguist, so for me it is a good exercise in empathy!
Sometimes, music can help communicate and sometimes…it does not! When I was in Hong Kong, I played in the school band, and a Chinese employee who had seen me play the clarinet -which she thought was a saxophone- asked me ‘how is your 'sexy fun' going?!'”
Photo credit: iom/amanda nero