‘Everything is a little bit more relaxed’

Florian Lüthi only became an expatriate this year after moving to the Netherlands, where he hopes to gain new experience working as a nurse. Aged 30, he is still getting used to Dutch directness.  

This content was published on September 16, 2018 - 11:00 (The interview was conducted in writing.) Why did you leave Switzerland? 

Florian Lüthi: I left Switzerland at the beginning of April 2018. I wanted to gain new experience in my job as a nurse, and do my master’s degree abroad. I decided to take this step for those reasons and because my mother has relatives in the Netherlands.

The points of view stated in this article, especially about the host country and its politics, are the interviewee’s points of view and are not necessarily in line with’s position.

End of insertion Was it a one-way journey, or do you intend to return to Switzerland one day? 

F.L.: So far it is a one-way journey. It was first and foremost a question of gaining experience. But I didn’t know if what I was hoping for would work, or if I would perhaps find something else. Conversations with friends and family made it clear that I can always go home. What is your work at the moment? 

F.L.: At the moment I am working as a sales assistant in a supermarket. This is temporary, as I first need to register in the Netherlands to work as a nurse. But generally, citizens of the EU, the European Economic Area and Switzerland are allowed to work in the Netherlands without restrictions. 

As soon as I get registered, then I can work full-time in nursing again. It is the profession that I find most enriching personally. If this all goes well, and no administrative hurdles pop up, I should be able to do this from October. Where do you live at the moment and how is the lifestyle and cuisine there? 

F.L.: At the moment I am living in Almere in the province of Flevoland. It is the newest Dutch province. Almere is about 40 minutes by train from Utrecht or Amsterdam, so very conveniently situated. But the main reason I am in Almere is my relatives. It was possible to stay with them for a while here.

I miss the city vibe in Almere. Before I emigrated, I lived in Zurich, so there is a stark contrast. Almere is a bit village-like, despite its 200,000 residents. So I am sure I will move on somewhere else.

Dutch cuisine contains elements from all over the world. Real Dutch food are things like “patat,” “pannenkoeken” or meals consisting of peas and/or potatoes. I find it expensive to eat as a vegetarian because vegetables are not exactly cheap. What do you find more appealing about the Netherlands compared to Switzerland? 

F.L.: It is both an advantage and a disadvantage that the Dutch are more direct - they don’t mince their words. In some ways, I find this great, but I am not used to this in daily encounters. 

Proximity to the North Sea is an additional attraction to let your thoughts wander: “uitwaaien” J (the Dutch word for “to clear your mind”). How does Switzerland seem to you from a distance? 

F.L.: I still think Switzerland is a great country, with lots of nature and a high standard of living. But I am more aware now of what Switzerland is missing out on because of its special status in terms of having a voice in shaping Europe. Do you sometimes feel like a foreigner or are you well integrated?                                                                                                

F.L.: I feel well integrated, but I do feel very strongly that I am not yet where I want to be in terms of where I live and my career. That will doubtless continue to occupy me. What cultural differences are the most problematic for you? 

F.L. It is the little things that still give me some trouble. The speed with which the Dutch switch to the informal “you,” for example, or the way they congratulate you on the birthday of a relative or a friend of a friend or relative. What do you most like about your daily life? 

F.L.: I like the daily confrontation with Europe in the politics and media. There is more awareness, and not just in terms of the EU. There is also a more open approach to new situations. Everything is a little bit more relaxed, in my view. Do you participate in Swiss elections and referendums? 

F.L.: Yes, I still always vote by post. I find that very important. After all, I am Swiss and my life is constantly affected in one way or another by the decisions made there. What do you most miss about Switzerland? 

F.L.: My friends and family. Mainly because my social circle here is still small, and I am not as busy with leisure activities like politics, socialising and sport etc. as I have been in the past.

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