By CHANTAL PANOZZO
I moved to Switzerland so my husband could advance his career. Overnight, I went from a 28-year-old American career woman to a Swiss Hausfrau.
Hausfrau. The term scared me, and the hundreds of women pushing baby carriages, sitting at cafes smoking, and buying groceries on a weekday did nothing to help my fears.
Many married women do not work in Switzerland. Swiss society does all it can to keep it this way. Stores are open only until 6 p.m. Children come home from school at lunchtime. Childcare isn’t readily available (or affordable). To be a career woman in Switzerland, better to be like my 75-year-old Swiss neighbor: never married, no kids.
I finally got a job in Zurich. Young 17-year-old Swiss girls were our secretaries while most of the women in upper-level positions were foreigners.
“But Switzerland is so progressive,” say my American visitors. True, when it comes to the environment and transportation. Women’s rights are a different story.
Women didn’t vote in Switzerland until 1971 (and in some states, not until the ’90s.)
When I lost my job and requested to become self-employed, a Swiss employment advisor said, “Does your husband approve? You’re 31 and could have a child soon.”
To an American, the treatment of women in Switzerland is often unbelievable.
But then again, in German, “Frau” means both “woman” and “wife”, implying you can’t be a woman without being a wife.
What local term now applies to you, and encapsulates your place in a new society? How does it fit?
Freelance writer Chantal Panozzo blogs about Switzerland at One Big Yodel and about freelancing abroad at Writer Abroad.