The First Day of School in Switzerland

Basel, Switzerland. Photo credit: Stan Tsvirko

Basel, Switzerland. Photo credit: Stan Tsvirko

“A boy called me a, a, a boobie!” my four-year-old son announced in disbelief. “How rude, mama," he complained after a momentary pause to adjust his enormous schoolbag onto his shoulders. "And the class sings the happy birthday song in German! German, mama! And another thing, one girl told me a country called Deutschland is the best in the world. Don’t they know Australia is the best?” he continued to ramble on the way to the tram after his first day of school in Basel.

My six-year-old daughter on the other hand had a great day. She loves school, always has. She only had one complaint, and that is that her German language teacher yelled at her for touching the art and craft equipment before it was time.

“I didn’t understand when she told us not to touch it in German and-” she paused to glare at her brother who interrupted her with another complaint about the birthday song in German. 

“It sounds funny, like a minion song!” he noted, still shocked.

And that pretty much sums up my children’s first day of school in Switzerland. But what my children didn’t know is that although I was keeping my cool on the exterior, I too was nervous, unsure and afraid. My internal monologue went a bit like this: What were we thinking pulling our children out of good schools back home and moving them to an entirely different country!? There were blatantly obvious differences from the get go. Firstly, in Switzerland, independence is encouraged, students as young as five are often seen on the tram alone, making their way to school in the morning. I tend to hover and worry, I'm a worrier. Secondly, children don’t wear school uniforms. I have to iron, my least favourite pass time, and wash more clothes. Thirdly, I can’t help with homework. Well, I can but it’s a long arduous process which involves me getting mad at Google Translate as I try to work out how to find a German letter that looks like the letter 'B' and a musical note combined.

And then I stop.

I breathe.

I remember that different is not wrong.

I channel the 'namaste' type being that I promised myself I will one day become and think about the positives. I like that my children's teachers force them to make eye contact as they bid them farewell at the end of the day, giving them a sense of confidence and empowerment. I like that my children spent the entire night sharing war stories about the language difficulties that each encountered in German class. I like that they will forever share this experience together, even if they are called a ‘boobie’, which we convinced our son is actually the German word for 'buddy'. 

Until next time boobies,

Nomad Naomi

My children's first day of school. My son is too angry to be photographed after the traumatic experience of being called a 'boobie'.

My children's first day of school. My son is too angry to be photographed after the traumatic experience of being called a 'boobie'.