I landed in Zurich on Thursday at 5pm, super jet lagged and tired after a long trip from San Francisco. I hopped on a cab to learn from an amused taxi driver that Italy got kicked out of the World Cup (whatever) while, half asleep, we headed over to my temporary accommodation to get my keys. Check-in went quite smoothly, and then, thinking that if I laid down for a nap I would wake up the next day, I went out to discover my new hometown - or at least my new neighbourhood, Kreis 4. I had plenty of maps, but still I found myself walking randomly and staring at the names of the various "platz" and "strasse" that I couldn't even pronounce (I wish I could, but right now that's what it is - just a wish).
The sun was still up in the sky at 8pm, and as I was walking, all sorts of weird thoughts started popping in my head, mainly regarding the re-adjustment to Europe. Some of my random thoughts were as follows: I won't be driving regularly, nobody will put my groceries in the bag, I won't have my country music radio station on at all times, and no more trips to Safeway at 3am coming back from the club in San Francisco because I was craving orange juice (yes, I did that once and it was awesome!). At the same time, these random thoughts made room for more pleasant ones: good coffee Italian style, church bells ringing, people getting excited about soccer, family very close by and in the same time zone. The best thought was that finally people I don't know are going to talk to me just for the pleasure of striking a conversation. In the SF Bay Area, I found that people don't talk to strangers, they just don't. If they do, something is wrong with them, or so I was told. Normal people use chat rooms, Google each other, sign up for online dating services. While I have nothing against people who do, I personally could never digest this concept and I certainly never tried any of the above. If there is anything wrong with the Bay Area, which I otherwise adore completely and consider my beloved adoptive home, it would be the lack of spontaneity in meeting people.
So I was happily walking towards nowhere, when I suddenly felt really hungry and entered into the first place that looked good, sat down, and ate a great salad with a beer. The owner was Italian, and so we started talking, and then the conversation continued with the people at the table next to mine. Surprisingly, I found out that one of the people works for my company, and knew all about me and the fact that I was coming! Small world, huh? I love this place already.
After sleeping for 10 hours, today I woke up energized and walked some more, passing by the office - which is really close to my temporary place. Then I went grocery shopping (and for the records, I stared at my unpacked groceries for 30 seconds before remembering that yes, "thou shalt bag your own groceries") and headed towards my local Kreisburo (some sort of city hall, but for the specific area of the city where you live) to register with the authorities. I should mention that I got lost a couple of times and ended up walking way more kilometers (bye bye miles!) than necessary, but with the help of my 10,000 maps and mostly of a friendly cyclist who walked me there, I got to the office. There I found an awesome and enthusiastic fellow worker who was really excited that I chose to move to Zurich, knew my hometown in Italy and liked it, and most of all explained to me all I needed to know about registrations and work permit, immigration matters, etc. He even gave me the train schedule for the whole country should I wish to visit other places - and for when I take the train down to Lugano at the border so my parents can pick me up.
I love people here: everyone goes out of their way to be helpful, and they smile a lot. I also managed to get a Swiss cell phone number with a seller who did not speak much English (nor Italian, nor French, nor Spanish), so the whole scene was pretty comical - I talked with my hands a lot, but somehow we managed to survive until her coworker, whose grandparents are from Minnesota, came to the rescue.
I would say the first day went well and was really productive. If anything, I am worried about finding a permanent place soon, and maybe I am a little disoriented with hearing German 24/7. I wish I knew the language so I could talk to people more - considering that I talk a lot, perhaps not knowing the language is a good thing!
As a final thought, in case you are wondering - yes, I am up at these ungodly hours blogging because I am jet lagged. Big time.