This year I participated in the Great Interview Experiment conducted by Neil of Citizen of the Month, who started this a couple years ago as a “response to the hierarchies that were undermining the democratic nature of this modern form of personal expression” – blogging. The idea is to get bloggers to interview other bloggers, totally at random, to create a sense of community in the gigantic, ever-expanding blogging world. It’s a really cool idea and has been a great way to find and connect with other bloggers.
I was paired up with Elisa of The Unlikely Housewife, and since the interviews are conducted totally at random, I was surprised to see how much we have in common. Actually, that’s not true . . . I was surprised to see how much I would LIKE for us to have in common! She lives a life I see myself living – traveling, moving about, and all topped off with a healthy dose of fabulous fashions. Elisa moved to the States from Sardinia as a young adult, has lived in Los Angeles and New York, and has recently moved to Switzerland for the second time – all with two little girls in tow! All glorious confirmation that yes, it can be done. So here are my questions and here are her answers. I’m glad to have found her blog and look forward to following her new life in Switzerland. Thanks Elisa and Neil!
1.) You have had very mixed-emotions regarding your move to Switzerland. I hear it’s a very difficult nut of a country to crack. How have these past few months been? Are things getting any better?
The past few months have been a bit of a roller coaster. I have gone from being miserable about moving back and feeling claustrophobic to being happy to be here and enjoying my time, and back down, and back up again. In fact, that’s still kind of happening. It’s a long ride
2.) Like you, I love to travel and have goals to try living in cities all over the world. On paper, it sounds very romantic, but what are the realities of your nomadic lifestyle?
Like with anything, there are pluses and minuses. I have always loved traveling, seeing new places, experiencing life somewhere different. It’s a wonderful, exhilarating feeling to land somewhere new and in a way, start anew.
The hard part is that it’s tough to have long-distance relationships, with your family, your friends. I have friends all over the place, and sometimes it breaks my heart not be there to share special moment with them, or even just be able to meet for a casual cup of coffee any time I feel like it.
Things also get a bit harder with kids, because kids tend to thrive on routine and stability, and a change in school and neighborhood basically means obliterating their social scene as they know it – not to mention occasionally having to learn a new language, depending on where you move to. Some kids do better than others with moving and new things: I like to think that the fact that my daughters are used to having family in two different countries made them more open to a change of life and circumstances, and hopefully helped them deal with the change somewhat.
3.) What sparked your love of traveling? What prompted you to move to the States from Sardinia?
I don’t know what sparked it, I have always been this way: curious, adventurous. I was the butt of many jokes when I was younger, because I dreamed of leaving the island and traveling, and moving to the US on my own… When you live in a small town, in an island, the mentality is a little closed. People literally cannot see beyond the coast, it’s as if everything else beyond that stretch of sea is so theoretical that it might as well be a fairy tale. It just doesn’t exist in their mind.
So when I talked about moving away, becoming a translator and moving to the US, they found it cute, and laughable. Kind of like a little boy talks about becoming an astronaut; but there are real astronauts too, aren’t there?
4.) Have you ever lived or traveled somewhere that truly felt like “home”? Do you have plans to “settle” at any point?
I have always struggled with the concept of “home” a bit, no place ever felt like I belonged there more than anywhere else in the world. That is, until the last place I lived in, in Westchester County, just outside of New York City; that’s the place that felt more like home than any other place before. I had it all there: friends, speaking my favorite language, the chance to explore new places and enjoy some of the things I love most, like musicals, live events; and access to things that are important to me, like holistic practitioners, special foods/supplements, and of course, fashion.
Of course it wasn’t perfect — nothing really is. But it was pretty damn close.
As for settling, that’s a scary thought for me. It’s scary because I cannot imagine living in one place for the rest of my life, and it’s scarier still because they way things are now, it looks like that place would be Switzerland. As lovely as it is here, with the gorgeous sights, and the great health/public services… there is a personal, emotional factor lacking here for me. People always say New Yorkers are grumpy, and British people are stiff and conservative… believe me, they are not. Not compared to here.
One thing that helps me is that Switzerland is smack-dab in the middle of Europe, so at least I have easy access to other places, when I need a break
5.) I’m Mexican-American and I think Latin American culture has many similarities to your Italian culture. You’re married to a Swiss man and I’ve been with my German for several years. Our two sensibilities sometimes clash, but often compliment each other well. How does it play out in your house?
I think different isn’t always good, but in this case it just might work for the best. When you find someone who has traits that you wish you had more of, someone who complements your personality, there is something special about that. I love that Sascha is level-headed and he has this calming influence on me, even without saying anything. He’s just much more chilled, while I tend to be more of a hot head, more passionate, more emotional, and frankly, more of a drama queen At the same time, he loves (most of the time, at least!) that life with me is never boring, that there are no uncomfortable silences, that I am not afraid to put things into words and be honest and open about stuff, that I say it like it is.
And I certainly couldn’t be married to another me, I would go crazy
6.) You have two gorgeous daughters, but I wouldn’t consider you a “mommyblogger”. I like that your blog is distinctly “you”. Is this on purpose?
Yes and no. I didn’t “plan” my blog to be different because I don’t want to be called a mommy blogger or anything, I know I have a percentage of mommy blogger there I just talk about things that I want to talk about. Things that are fun, things that are on my mind. My daughters and fashion/shopping are usually the top two topics in my head
So then what happened was that the blog became sort of a hybrid, part humor blog, part mommy blog, part fashion blog, and also a bunch of nonsense just for fun
7.) You’ve now experienced parenting in both the US and Europe. What are the biggest differences in attitudes regarding child-rearing? Do you prefer one over the other?
Hmmm… this is an interesting question. I think there are good points and bad points in both. It’s difficult to place parents in the US in one group, because it’s such a large place and the culture varies greatly from one place to the other; so I can only judge what I have experienced.
In Switzerland, children are treated like small adults. They go to school alone from a very young age, and they are generally trusted to resolve conflicts on their own at school, at the playground, etc. If two kids are fighting over a toy in the playground, the parents will generally not intervene. I have had many times when one of my daughter was pushed or hit by another child and I had to intervene because the parents didn’t. Being an Italian mom, I don’t like that. I guess from a Swiss point of view my daughters are somewhat sheltered, because my oldest never goes to school alone, never took the tram or train alone, and isn’t allowed to do so even with friends unless there is an adult present. She is also not allowed to ride her bike on the street.
I don’t think I am overprotective, when she goes out to play I don’t watch her like a hawk, and she is allowed to go to other people’s houses and stuff.
On the other hand, Swiss children tend to eat a lot less junk food than the average child in the US. Sure, there are McDonald’s here too, and you can find sugary cereal on the supermarket aisles. But people tend to focus on whole foods when they cook and eat here, and there are a lot more whole-grain and mixed-grain breads than packaged Wonderbread-type stuff in grocery stores, and Swiss kids routinely eat veggies and salad with their meals. And dessert isn’t an everyday thing for most people, it’s a special treat, on a Sunday or during a celebratory lunch or dinner.
Also, there is less of a focus on “stuff” here. Less consumerism. I think kids grow up enjoying more the activities connected to the various holidays, and less expecting a mountain of presents.
And TV. A lot less TV watching here. Most people only have one TV at home. I like that.
8.) As a new New Yorker, what would you advise I take full advantage of while living in the city? What do you find yourself missing most?
I love being called a New Yorker, but it makes me feel like a poser. Because the rule of thumb is, you are a New Yorker after you have lived in the city for 10 years. (I didn’t make that rule, just the messenger.)
New Yorker or not, I absolutely adore New York and I think it’s the greatest city on Earth. I wrote a post about it before I left, and I still feel that way. I miss so much about it: there is always so much to do in New York, so much to see. Central Park is the greatest place ever, because it’s so many thing: a place to go running or walking, a place to take a peaceful walk, a place to have a picnic and take the kids to the zoo, a place to see great performers (street and pros), a place to enjoy fantastic shows (Shakespeare in the Park, NY Philharmonic concerts, etc), a place to attend events of many different kinds, a place to take gorgeous photos.
New York is the perfect place for fashion and shopping, because of NY Fashion Week and all the fantastic stores and ever-growing indie designer industry, and of course because just watching New Yorkers is inspiring, for fashion is truly alive in NYC; the perfect place for a date or a girls’ night out, because of all the fabulous restaurants, clubs, bars, and the fantastic Broadway and off-Broadway shows; the perfect place for people watching; the perfect place for so much.
Some of my favorite things to do in New York are fairly simple, really: go to a Broadway show, go to Central Park, take a ride on the Staten Island ferry and enjoy the view of Manhattan from the water, and the islands, and the Statue of Liberty. The Holiday shopping windows are a must-see, too, although Fifth gets pretty congested around the holidays so it’s not exactly a relaxing walk
9.) Ok, now some fun stuff. Favorites: book, movie, and piece of art. Go!
Favorite books: Bridget Jones’ Diary, the Mission earth decalogy.
Favorite movie: Grease
Favorite piece of art: The Gioconda by Leonardo Da Vinci, no doubt
10.) I love that you woke up before dawn for Jimmy Choo at H&M! What are your two most favorite pairs of shoes: the pair that you find yourself living in day to day and the pair that you feel like a goddess in?
Ok, let’s see… the pair I find the most comfortable and basically live in: my Tory Burch flats. The pair if feel like a goddess in… I haven’t found yet But my favorites are probably my black peep-toes: there is something elegant and timelessly sexy about a pair of black peep-toe pumps. These are murder on heels but make your feel look lovely!
Thanks Elisa, this was fun!