How can I settle in Australia

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She met her life partner while traveling and now runs a hostel with him in the Australian outback. The 32-year-old Swiss Abroad Miriam Neuenschwander views her host country very critically.

This content was published on December 23, 2019 - 2:00 p.m.
swissinfo.ch (the interview was conducted in writing)

swissinfo.ch When and why did you leave Switzerland?

Miriam Neuenschwander: In September 2016 I went on a trip and met my current partner, Sebastian, on the way - very cliché. Although he is German, he has lived in Australia for over ten years and runs a small hostel in Alice Springsexternal link.

The views expressed in this article, including on the host country, are exclusively those of the person portrayed and do not have to coincide with the position of swissinfo.ch.

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After a few months of long-distance and close relationships and a period of reflection at home, I took the risk in October 2017 and emigrated to Australia. True to the motto "There's nothing to lose, only experience to gain".

swissinfo.ch: Was it a trip without a return or are you planning to return to Switzerland one day?

M.N .: I live as well as I can at the moment. Whether I will ever settle completely in Switzerland again or stay forever in Australia or another country is therefore in the stars 😊 ...

In any case, I will come "home" every now and then to spend time with family and friends and to recharge my batteries.

swissinfo.ch: What work do you do? How's it going?

M.N .: A few years ago, my partner bought a backpackers, "Alice’s Secret Traveller’s Inn", in Alice Springs and has since turned it into a small, colorful and friendly oasis for travelers from all over the world.

When I moved here, I wasn't allowed to work at first. In order to learn something new and not just sit around all day, I started helping and later gradually got into management. Meanwhile we officially close the shop together.

Although tourism is going through ups and downs here, things are going pretty well for us. Because our hostel is relatively small, "family run" and not a "party place", we attract guests from different age groups, which contributes to a peaceful and beautiful atmosphere in the hostel.

I enjoy working in the hostel, I hardly miss my original job as a school curative pedagogue. On the contrary - I am grateful to be able to expand my professional repertoire here in such an uncomplicated way. Something that is not so easily possible in Switzerland - papers and expensive further training are given far too much weight.

Swissinfo.ch: do you have hobbies?

I also help out four times a week as a "volunteer" in "The Kangaroo Sanctuary". I work in the "rescue center", where I mainly take care of the youngest - kangaroo babies who have lost their mothers. Many kangaroos are caught by cars on the highways and abandoned; the little one, well protected in the female's pouch, often survives the accident. With a little luck someone will look it up, it will be found and delivered to us.

We do our best to raise the "joeys" so that they can hop back into the wild again later. The job fulfills me - working with animals is balm for heart and soul. It doesn't matter to me whether I make money or not.

swissinfo.ch: Where do you currently live?

M.N .: Seb and I live in Alice Springs, in the middle of the red heart of Australia. With around 28,000 inhabitants, it is the largest "city" in the Australian outback and, due to its location, is the most important supply center for the surrounding regions.

Many tourists also use "The Alice" as a starting point to visit Uluru, also known as "Ayer's Rock", or the West MacDonnell Ranges and to get in touch with Aborigines, the indigenous people of Australia.

Most of the people who live here have a kind of love-hate relationship with the place. It is therefore said that Alice Springs is surrounded by some kind of magic - you come as a visitor or to earn money for a few years and then get stuck in the spider's web. Even if you manage to break free from their clutches, you are forced to keep coming back.

swissinfo.ch: How is life in Alice Springs?

M.N .: The city and life here are shaped by contradictions and extremes. The climate is harsh and often relentless, but the outback casts a spell over you. The endless expanse, the intense colors, the starry sky, the incredibly sophisticated tricks of nature that make survival possible for plants and animals, and the humility that grips you as soon as you leave the city and surrender to the conditions can be insane Exercise fascination.

Unfortunately, here too, people, especially white immigrants, have thrown a lot out of balance. At the moment, for example, there is a major drought, and every single raindrop is a real gift.

The population of Alice Springs is mixed, a lot is possible here that would never work elsewhere, the social cohesion is enormous, you could almost speak of a commitment. Yet in the end everyone does their own thing.

Unfortunately, narrow-mindedness, racism and discrimination are also the order of the day here. It is deeply shocking to observe the massive problems that have arisen from the country's colonial past to this day. To this day, profound injuries, differences, intolerance and ignorance shape the relationship between the indigenous population and the immigrants and their government. In Alice Springs all of this becomes very evident.

Swissinfo.ch: what is more attractive in Australia than in Switzerland?

M.N .: The vastness and the weather. The sun shines almost every day in Alice Springs - so I don't have to worry about winter depression. I also like the humor and the lightness of many Australians. They don't always take things that seriously, there is not so much whining, and they also like to laugh at themselves.

Swissinfo.ch: what do you think of Switzerland from a distance?

M.N .: Switzerland is a small country whose population has managed to use discipline, diligence and democracy to create an incredible oasis with an incredibly high standard of living. A little paradise.

From a distance, however, I often have to smile because the Swiss just don't know how good they are. You always have to take everything so terribly seriously, and if you are not overworked you have to justify yourself because "he's got it good". A little more "no worries, mate", a little more humility, tolerance and broad thinking would not harm the country.

swissinfo.ch: Do you sometimes feel like a stranger or are you well integrated?

M.N .: In the beginning it was very difficult for me to set up a social network. On the one hand it had to do with the fact that we live and work in the hostel and that I almost only deal with travelers. On the other hand, most of them have a steady clique and are only very open to new friendships.

For me, emigrating was an emotional ascent and descent. There was the exciting but also a little frightening new, and at the same time it was a matter of saying goodbye to the old, letting go and finding new ways to maintain and live important relationships at a distance. It takes time for that to level off.

swissinfo.ch: Which cultural differences are the most difficult for you?

M.N .: The Australian non-commitment and the resulting superficiality. It's a tightrope walk - on the one hand I find it beneficial that not everything is taken so terribly important here, on the other hand the unreliability and inaccuracy that sometimes result is a challenge for me.

On the other hand, I miss good food and the good standard of service that we have in Switzerland! Burger and steak with french fries and a pudgy salad and possibly a chicken snitzel (yes, that's how you write it here ...) are, along with bacon and eggs for breakfast, the highest of emotions.

Last but not least, it annoys me how Australians deal with nature. This beautiful, unique continent is exploited every day and increasingly ruined - although a global problem, I find it a shame that a so-called "progressive and enlightened" country like Australia does not manage to take on a pioneering role in a positive sense.

swissinfo.ch: What do you enjoy most about your everyday life abroad?

M.N .: The abundance and beauty of nature, the time with "my" kangaroos, the feeling of freedom, and that so much is possible if you have the courage to jump off the cliff and get involved in the unknown.

Swissinfo.ch: do you take part in Swiss elections and votes?

M.N .: Yes, I vote via e-voting, which I think is great! It is important to me to stay politically informed and active, even if I do not currently live in Switzerland.

Unfortunately, e-voting is not yet possible in the national elections, which makes participation difficult. Getting the voting envelope to arrive in Switzerland on time is a challenge, and if you live in Alice Springs, it's also quite expensive.

Swissinfo.ch: what do you miss most about Switzerland?

M.N .: Family, friends, good food, YB, the Aare and skiing 😊.

As a Swiss citizen, do you also live abroad? Tag your pictures on Instagram with #WeAreSwissAbroadExterner Link.

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