Three years ago today, I moved to Switzerland.
Did I expatriate for good when I left the United States in 2019? As recently as last year, I was still entertaining the possibility of returning. I had a job with a toxic boss, and multiple people on the team were suffering from mental health issues because of her. I was readying myself to accept the possibility that if I couldn’t find a new job in Geneva, I’d have to leave Switzerland and repatriate to the States. I applied to a job in New York and was shortlisted for an interview.
Then, out of nowhere, I got a new job offer to stay in Geneva. So I did. I have now been in this role for one year, and I’m expected to stay until summer 2024.
At some point over the past year, I quietly and unceremoniously came to the decision that no, I don’t see myself living in the United States again. I love this country (and still file and pay taxes every year, by the way). I would very much like to come back and visit every other year or so, budget and time permitting. But I cannot see myself making a home in America anymore.
That realization came out of a realignment of my priorities in life. At this stage in my life, I no longer want to “hustle” and “climb the corporate ladder.” I do not want to work overtime, and I do not want to take on three different roles while being compensated for only one. I want a month of paid time off every year. I want unlimited sick leave. I want a fair, transparent organizational system where every person’s salary is calculated based on their education and years of experience. I want to choose whether to work from home or come into the office on any given day, and I want to have the freedom of chatting with coworkers over coffee without a micromanager breathing down my neck. If I ever have children, I want 14 weeks of paid parental leave.
In my personal life, I want to travel as much as possible. I want to be on a train every other weekend. I want to see museums, castles, old artifacts, and nature. I want to practice the different languages that I speak as well as learn new languages. I want to live somewhere that has fantastic waste management infrastructure. I want access to medical care without the risk of bankruptcy. I want to be able to walk everywhere, or easily jump on a bus or a tram. I want to have a three-hour Friday lunch outside a cafe or hike a vineyard with friends. I want freshly baked French bread, and flowers from the farmer’s market, and olive oil from Italy, and all kinds of dumb shit like that.
This was the life that I could not manage to have in the United States, because I worked for nonprofits and was saddled with student loan debt and was in precarious contract situations and was passed over for promotions and recognition despite being a great employee. It felt so demoralizing to be constantly circling the drain, financially speaking; I had grown up lower-middle-class in an Asian immigrant family in the deep south, and I had always thought that if I worked hard, pursued more degrees, and didn’t complain, I would be able to make it. I would achieve greater social mobility and get promoted and make more money and live in a nicer apartment and have a better life. But it didn’t happen for me. So I left.
All the silly little things I listed above — I have that now, in Switzerland. And I didn’t even have to hustle, or negotiate, or do anything to earn any of it. It just became my life, and I am amazed every day that this is my reality.
So there you have it, the truth: that I am, in some sense of the word, an economic migrant. My move in 2019 was motivated by selfish reasons: to make more money, to have nicer things, to have what I personally perceive to be a better life. And now that I have finally gotten to live this life, I can say unequivocally: yes, this is what I want.
I don’t know how many more years I will spend in Switzerland, but as of this moment, I am very happy to be here.