Waking up Hausfrau: the secret of the Swiss

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in career,community,family,identity,origin,self-image

Frau Chantal by Brian Opyd

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?

Chantal Panozzo+++++
Freelance writer Chantal Panozzo blogs about Switzerland at One Big Yodel and about freelancing abroad at Writer Abroad.
+++++

  • Jsasdf

    Mann in German also means Man and Husband…implying you can’t be a man without being a husband. Works both ways.

  • Hellene

    I have to agree with you.  I work in multinational company in HR and I can see from the Abrechnungen that most of the wifes of the employees do not work. I guess Swiss women have a very bad education as well. Myself I am half swiss & mexican. But even my friends and relatives female in Mexico are better qualify and have better education than womem here. Most of the womem here just have an 2 or 3 years Ausbildung. When they get married I can tell you from my swiss friends female they DO NOT want to work. I just tell you 1000 excuses..this and this and that..
    Just think about it,,.. why a company wants to hire  a women who has two children 10 & 7 have not worked in the last 10 years and just have a stupid Ausbildung of 3 years while there are womem from eastern europe,  latinamerica, Uk  & Germany that are more more qualify and have children as well a but have always worked (at least 50 %) just to keep them busy & Update.

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  • http://twitter.com/rosedeniz rosedeniz

    I think it does change as time goes on – now I'm the one who nudges my Turkish neighbor and jokes, “look, a yabanci!”. Self-referential humor in this case goes a long way, making me realized I've crossed some sort of threshold that I don't take offense at 'yabanci' or 'yenge' (which I agree with Anastasia and Catherine, really rubbed me the wrong way for a long time). I used to tell my husband's family to not call me yenge – it sounded so old. I would disagree that it is only about relation by marriage – our corner shop keeper calls me 'yenge' because he knows my husband and it asserts that I have a respected position. For him to call me merely 'abla' (sister) would be presume I'm a passerby.

  • http://www.writerabroad.com/ Chantal

    Hi Judith,

    I wish I knew. One of the women I interviewed also wanted to be anonymous, like it was shameful for her to stand up for her rights. I don’t pretend to understand it, I just try to help by exposing the issues.

    Plus, if a married man’s wife works in Switzerland, they get a tax penalty of around 8%. Just another way to keep those women in the kitchen…

  • http://www.writerabroad.com/ Chantal

    Hi Judith,

    I wish I knew. One of the women I interviewed also wanted to be anonymous, like it was shameful for her to stand up for her rights. I don’t pretend to understand it, I just try to help by exposing the issues.

    Plus, if a married man’s wife works in Switzerland, they get a tax penalty of around 8%. Just another way to keep those women in the kitchen…

  • http://www.dutchessabroad.com Judith van Praag

    This has become such an interesting discussion not in the last place because I’m reminded of my feminist mother. She had not wanted to get married nor have children, but upon returning from a business trip to Switzerland in the late 1940s she was suddenly willing to marry my father. Perhaps the situation for career women in CH at the time, or more likely non-existence thereof, made her realize she could make marriage work in the Netherlands as long as she could check all points on her equality requirements list.

    None of the above comments clarifies why Swiss women are so compliant. Twenty-two years to march in a holiday parade? What is in the water?

  • Anonymous

    This has become such an interesting discussion not in the last place because I’m reminded of my feminist mother. She had not wanted to get married nor have children, but upon returning from a business trip to Switzerland in the late 1940s she was suddenly willing to marry my father. Perhaps the situation for career women in CH at the time, or more likely non-existence thereof, made her realize she could make marriage work in the Netherlands as long as she could check all points on her equality requirements list.

    None of the above comments clarifies why Swiss women are so compliant. Twenty-two years to march in a holiday parade? What is in the water?

  • http://www.writerabroad.com/ Chantal

    Hi Matt,

    Yes, I know a few couples in Switzerland that don’t marry for that reason. If both spouses work, you get penalized tax-wise…

  • http://www.writerabroad.com/ Chantal

    Hi Matt,

    Yes, I know a few couples in Switzerland that don’t marry for that reason. If both spouses work, you get penalized tax-wise…

  • Matt

    Great story. I would also add that not-working wife saves about 8% from taxes in Switzerland. As a single man, I contemplated fixing a fake marriage at times.

  • Matt

    Great story. I would also add that not-working wife saves about 8% from taxes in Switzerland. As a single man, I contemplated fixing a fake marriage at times.

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  • Devi

    I live in French-speaking Switzerland – I moved here from a career in London nine years ago. I wasn’t an expat – I met a Swiss man whilst taking a year off travelling and decided to resign from my job in London in order to find one here instead of moving to the Zürich branch of my employer. The Swiss man is now my husband (and I am now dual nationality British-Swiss).

    I have ended up working in the Swiss branch of a major multinational, where parttime working is not frowned upon. Since the birth of my son in 2008, I have had no trouble working 60%, which enables me to keep my career moving and spend time with him. The last two years I still got the top performance rating in my company, it’s not a boast but an indication that you can work part-time and not be penalised for it.

    Yes, childcare is difficult to find and expensive. Yes, the tax system is unfair to married couples with a double income. Yes, the shops are not always open late (usually there are one or two nights late night opening and online grocery shopping is available too). At this stage (I am now 37) however, I think I would be further along in my career had I stayed in London, but I wouldn’t be seeing my son very much. I feel that I have been able to take advantage of society’s attitude towards mothers here to achieve a better work-life balance.

    Of course, maybe I feel differently as I have roots here – Swiss husband, half-Swiss child and Swiss myself (the reason I wanted my naturalisation was so I could vote), fluent French speaker. I see myself as pretty well integrated into Swiss life. And all my anecdotal evidence points to the fact that in the Swiss German part it’s harder. But at least in the Swiss-French part life isn’t so bad.

    • http://www.writerabroad.com/ Chantal

      Hi Devi,

      Great to hear about your experiences. I do think Switzerland is fantastic in that it allows part-time work for many careers. This is also true in the Swiss German part. It’s nice to hear you have found a good balance.

  • Devi

    I live in French-speaking Switzerland – I moved here from a career in London nine years ago. I wasn’t an expat – I met a Swiss man whilst taking a year off travelling and decided to resign from my job in London in order to find one here instead of moving to the Zürich branch of my employer. The Swiss man is now my husband (and I am now dual nationality British-Swiss).

    I have ended up working in the Swiss branch of a major multinational, where parttime working is not frowned upon. Since the birth of my son in 2008, I have had no trouble working 60%, which enables me to keep my career moving and spend time with him. The last two years I still got the top performance rating in my company, it’s not a boast but an indication that you can work part-time and not be penalised for it.

    Yes, childcare is difficult to find and expensive. Yes, the tax system is unfair to married couples with a double income. Yes, the shops are not always open late (usually there are one or two nights late night opening and online grocery shopping is available too). At this stage (I am now 37) however, I think I would be further along in my career had I stayed in London, but I wouldn’t be seeing my son very much. I feel that I have been able to take advantage of society’s attitude towards mothers here to achieve a better work-life balance.

    Of course, maybe I feel differently as I have roots here – Swiss husband, half-Swiss child and Swiss myself (the reason I wanted my naturalisation was so I could vote), fluent French speaker. I see myself as pretty well integrated into Swiss life. And all my anecdotal evidence points to the fact that in the Swiss German part it’s harder. But at least in the Swiss-French part life isn’t so bad.

    • http://www.writerabroad.com/ Chantal

      Hi Devi,

      Great to hear about your experiences. I do think Switzerland is fantastic in that it allows part-time work for many careers. This is also true in the Swiss German part. It’s nice to hear you have found a good balance.

  • http://www.Sezin.org Sezin

    This is an interesting post, especially since my experience of living in Geneva, Switzerland offered me a very different perspective. Maybe this is because of the difference between the French and German-speaking areas of Suisse, but in Geneva I knew a great deal of young and older women who had families, worked and encouraged their daughters to do the same. Geneva is right on the French border as well and maybe some of that liberal French ethic seeped into their culture.

    What I found most difficult about being in Geneva was how difficult it was as a foreigner without a Masters degree or PhD to get a job. The population in Geneve and the surrounding areas was so overly educated, this was to fill jobs at the UN, WHO, World Bank, CERN, etc., that it became really difficult to get an entry-level position anywhere even with great skills.
    .-= Sezin’s latest blog ..What’s In A Name? =-.

    • http://www.writerabroad.com/ Chantal

      Hi Sezin,

      Glad to hear you had a better experience in Geneva. I do think Geneva is in its own world as far as the rest of Switzerland goes. French women are much more progressive in general and Geneva is such an international city. It’s probably crazy to even compare it to the small Swiss German-speaking town that I live in. The Swiss themselves admit there is a great divide between the German and French speaking sections.

      • http://www.Sezin.org Sezin

        I wouldn’t necessarily say my experience was better since I couldn’t find a paying job there either, but the reasoning behind it was totally different. :-) Here’s hoping the expat+HAREM can help you find a place outside of your physical location.
        .-= Sezin’s latest blog ..Wild Things Make My Heart Sing =-.

  • http://www.Sezin.org Sezin

    This is an interesting post, especially since my experience of living in Geneva, Switzerland offered me a very different perspective. Maybe this is because of the difference between the French and German-speaking areas of Suisse, but in Geneva I knew a great deal of young and older women who had families, worked and encouraged their daughters to do the same. Geneva is right on the French border as well and maybe some of that liberal French ethic seeped into their culture.

    What I found most difficult about being in Geneva was how difficult it was as a foreigner without a Masters degree or PhD to get a job. The population in Geneve and the surrounding areas was so overly educated, this was to fill jobs at the UN, WHO, World Bank, CERN, etc., that it became really difficult to get an entry-level position anywhere even with great skills.
    .-= Sezin’s latest blog ..What’s In A Name? =-.

    • http://www.writerabroad.com/ Chantal

      Hi Sezin,

      Glad to hear you had a better experience in Geneva. I do think Geneva is in its own world as far as the rest of Switzerland goes. French women are much more progressive in general and Geneva is such an international city. It’s probably crazy to even compare it to the small Swiss German-speaking town that I live in. The Swiss themselves admit there is a great divide between the German and French speaking sections.

      • http://www.Sezin.org Sezin

        I wouldn’t necessarily say my experience was better since I couldn’t find a paying job there either, but the reasoning behind it was totally different. :-) Here’s hoping the expat+HAREM can help you find a place outside of your physical location.
        .-= Sezin’s latest blog ..Wild Things Make My Heart Sing =-.

  • http://avagabonde.blogspot.com/ Vagabonde

    That is an enlightening post about Switzerland. In France, the poor Swiss are always at the receiving end of jokes – I don’t really know why. But comedians will start a joke : “There were two Swiss….” Swiss are said to be slow, with no sense of humor, ultra clean, racist and intolerant of other religions – I am sure this is not true but that is the way they are thought of in some European countries. Their country is beautiful, I have been there twice on holidays, but it’s not a place to go for a party. One of my best friends is Swiss, but she is an expat and lives in the US – she said it was hard to live there so she left. It’s a great place to visit though, with great cheese and chocolate.

  • http://avagabonde.blogspot.com/ Vagabonde

    That is an enlightening post about Switzerland. In France, the poor Swiss are always at the receiving end of jokes – I don’t really know why. But comedians will start a joke : “There were two Swiss….” Swiss are said to be slow, with no sense of humor, ultra clean, racist and intolerant of other religions – I am sure this is not true but that is the way they are thought of in some European countries. Their country is beautiful, I have been there twice on holidays, but it’s not a place to go for a party. One of my best friends is Swiss, but she is an expat and lives in the US – she said it was hard to live there so she left. It’s a great place to visit though, with great cheese and chocolate.

  • scary azeri

    I live in a commuter village near London, and most of the mothers do not return to work.

    Shops close by 6pm, not to mention dry cleaners! :)
    A full time nanny around here is about 28k ( GBP not dollars!) p/a. Do your math. I reckon you need to be on at least 80-100k p/a to make it worth leaving your kids to someone else for a whole week. Because, by the time you pay tax, by the time you commute…No point. I have spent 4 years trying to find the perfect balance, and I am still working on it. :)

  • scary azeri

    I live in a commuter village near London, and most of the mothers do not return to work.

    Shops close by 6pm, not to mention dry cleaners! :)
    A full time nanny around here is about 28k ( GBP not dollars!) p/a. Do your math. I reckon you need to be on at least 80-100k p/a to make it worth leaving your kids to someone else for a whole week. Because, by the time you pay tax, by the time you commute…No point. I have spent 4 years trying to find the perfect balance, and I am still working on it. :)

  • http://www.writerabroad.com/ Chantal

    Sarah, wow, really interesting about the age thing. I was actually thinking about that today because in Switzerland you must put your birthday on your resume and I wonder if it’s harder for women who are in their early thirties to find a job because employers assume (like my unemployment advisor) that you’ll have a baby soon and will be useless after that.

    • http://www.eclectopedia.com Sarah

      Chantal, that was the way it still was in the US when I was in my 20′s. For my mother’s generation it was worse since, at least in the area we lived when I started school, it was out of the question for middle-class women to work– or study, for that matter. I think for awhile she was in close to a clinical depression. Fortunately we moved to Ann Arbor when I was 10 and she was able to start back to University. I’ve rarely seen anyone so happy!
      .-= Sarah’s latest blog ..Ada and I =-.

  • http://www.writerabroad.com/ Chantal

    Sarah, wow, really interesting about the age thing. I was actually thinking about that today because in Switzerland you must put your birthday on your resume and I wonder if it’s harder for women who are in their early thirties to find a job because employers assume (like my unemployment advisor) that you’ll have a baby soon and will be useless after that.

    • http://www.eclectopedia.com Sarah

      Chantal, that was the way it still was in the US when I was in my 20′s. For my mother’s generation it was worse since, at least in the area we lived when I started school, it was out of the question for middle-class women to work– or study, for that matter. I think for awhile she was in close to a clinical depression. Fortunately we moved to Ann Arbor when I was 10 and she was able to start back to University. I’ve rarely seen anyone so happy!
      .-= Sarah’s latest blog ..Ada and I =-.

  • http://www.eclectopedia.com Sarah

    For me, in Prague, the word I find most disconcerting has nothing to do with being a woman or a foreigner– it is ‘starší’ — older. As in too old, at 57, to be considered competent to do anything worthwhile. As in being dismissed, with a wave of the hand and indulgent contempt by some 23 year-old hiring manager because, as one of them told me, “I can’t imagine my mother being able to do a job like the one I do.”

    I knew about this before I returned a few years ago. One of the things that astonished me the most in 1990 when I moved here was the way people my age– in their late 30′s — lamented that the Revolution had come “too late” for them. “It will be good for our children,” they’d say, “but I’m too old to take advantage of it.”

    Somehow, though, I thought that this line of thinking wouldn’t apply to me. I’m quite fluent in Czech, fairly experienced with computers. Why would anyone dismiss me on account of my age?

    The only ‘upside’ of this is that at last I have something in common with my Czech women contemporaries. The expectations of women in our two cultures being, in some ways, diametrically opposed, we have, with the exception of a few very close friends, kept a wary distance from one another. Now that we all find ourselves tossed on the scrapheap together we finally have something to talk about.
    .-= Sarah’s latest blog ..Ada and I =-.

  • http://www.eclectopedia.com Sarah

    For me, in Prague, the word I find most disconcerting has nothing to do with being a woman or a foreigner– it is ‘starší’ — older. As in too old, at 57, to be considered competent to do anything worthwhile. As in being dismissed, with a wave of the hand and indulgent contempt by some 23 year-old hiring manager because, as one of them told me, “I can’t imagine my mother being able to do a job like the one I do.”

    I knew about this before I returned a few years ago. One of the things that astonished me the most in 1990 when I moved here was the way people my age– in their late 30′s — lamented that the Revolution had come “too late” for them. “It will be good for our children,” they’d say, “but I’m too old to take advantage of it.”

    Somehow, though, I thought that this line of thinking wouldn’t apply to me. I’m quite fluent in Czech, fairly experienced with computers. Why would anyone dismiss me on account of my age?

    The only ‘upside’ of this is that at last I have something in common with my Czech women contemporaries. The expectations of women in our two cultures being, in some ways, diametrically opposed, we have, with the exception of a few very close friends, kept a wary distance from one another. Now that we all find ourselves tossed on the scrapheap together we finally have something to talk about.
    .-= Sarah’s latest blog ..Ada and I =-.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/theskaiangates Catherine

    It’s all about choice. And when that choice is limited for whatever reason, it hurts. More so when the reason is bureaucratic and unfair.

    I am a hausfrau. And while I know my husband and family appreciate the work that I do, I’m not sure society does. The vast majority of my Turkish female peers, work outside the home. Since my youngest has gone to preschool, I’m constantly asked when I will work (as if I didn’t already). As a yabanci, the expectation that I will work is even stronger.
    .-= Catherine’s latest blog ..Busy, Busy, Spring, Spring =-.

    • http://anastasiaashman.wordpress.com/about/ Anastasia

      True, it’s just as frustrating to be *expected* to do something as it is to be *prevented* from doing something. Hope you’ll write about this for us here, Catherine!

      It’s also true housework/homemaking/household engineering is not valued by society as it should be. That can extend to people who work at home in other capacities, which you also do. I have always known you as a writer, and now you’ve started a language-editing business. That probably makes it doubly annoying to be asked when you’re going to start working!

      My first newspaper interview in Turkey I was described as a housewife, the reporter understanding that from my description of “working at home”. I am definitely a homebody, but I spend the majority of my day in my home-office not doing housework. Frankly, I’ve had a home-office since I was a kid so it seems very normal to me but many people cannot understand what I do all day.

  • http://www.skaiangates.com Yazarc

    It’s all about choice. And when that choice is limited for whatever reason, it hurts. More so when the reason is bureaucratic and unfair.

    I am a hausfrau. And while I know my husband and family appreciate the work that I do, I’m not sure society does. The vast majority of my Turkish female peers, work outside the home. Since my youngest has gone to preschool, I’m constantly asked when I will work (as if I didn’t already). As a yabanci, the expectation that I will work is even stronger.
    .-= Catherine’s latest blog ..Busy, Busy, Spring, Spring =-.

    • http://www.expatharem.com/identity-messages/ Anastasia

      True, it’s just as frustrating to be *expected* to do something as it is to be *prevented* from doing something. Hope you’ll write about this for us here, Catherine!

      It’s also true housework/homemaking/household engineering is not valued by society as it should be. That can extend to people who work at home in other capacities, which you also do. I have always known you as a writer, and now you’ve started a language-editing business. That probably makes it doubly annoying to be asked when you’re going to start working!

      My first newspaper interview in Turkey I was described as a housewife, the reporter understanding that from my description of “working at home”. I am definitely a homebody, but I spend the majority of my day in my home-office not doing housework. Frankly, I’ve had a home-office since I was a kid so it seems very normal to me but many people cannot understand what I do all day.

  • Dubraska

    Is this real????
    Are you talking about europeans alienating women in such a way?????
    I can believe all this. It´s beyond me…
    I´m having a huge culture shock.
    I live in Spain, born in Venezuela and married in the US. I can believe this is happening in the heart of Europe itself!!!!!

    • http://www.dutchessabroad.com Judith van Praag

      Geographically Switzerland may be in the heart of Europe, from my (Dutch) point of view it’s always been the land of the Milka® chocolate bar —that is, the picture (perfect image) on the cover of the bar. Perfectly manicured meadows with grazing cows, pretty and unreal, conventional and backward in its ways.

  • Dubraska

    Is this real????
    Are you talking about europeans alienating women in such a way?????
    I can believe all this. It´s beyond me…
    I´m having a huge culture shock.
    I live in Spain, born in Venezuela and married in the US. I can believe this is happening in the heart of Europe itself!!!!!

    • Anonymous

      Geographically Switzerland may be in the heart of Europe, from my (Dutch) point of view it’s always been the land of the Milka® chocolate bar —that is, the picture (perfect image) on the cover of the bar. Perfectly manicured meadows with grazing cows, pretty and unreal, conventional and backward in its ways.

  • http://www.writerabroad.com/ Chantal

    I also believe there is some freedom that foreign women enjoy that Swiss women don’t. I try to take advantage of this :-)

    Look, Switzerland is a beautiful country and can be a wonderful place to live. But I think a Swiss woman I interviewed for an article recently said it best, “Women in Switzerland are equal before the law, but still not in life.” And that’s too bad. Because Switzerland is really close to being perfect on so many other levels.

    However, I do think things are changing slowly. Key word, slowly–As in it took a Zurich women’s group 22 years to obtain equal rights in something as seemingly insignificant as a holiday parade. They will finally march as equals in 2011. (http://www.swissnews.ch/index.php?id=202)

    • http://anastasiaashman.wordpress.com/about/ Anastasia

      Thanks for that “Sechs-ism” link, Chantal…wow, it seems the women who get to join the march in 2011 will be ‘guests’ without any guarantee of marching again.

  • http://www.writerabroad.com/ Chantal

    I also believe there is some freedom that foreign women enjoy that Swiss women don’t. I try to take advantage of this :-)

    Look, Switzerland is a beautiful country and can be a wonderful place to live. But I think a Swiss woman I interviewed for an article recently said it best, “Women in Switzerland are equal before the law, but still not in life.” And that’s too bad. Because Switzerland is really close to being perfect on so many other levels.

    However, I do think things are changing slowly. Key word, slowly–As in it took a Zurich women’s group 22 years to obtain equal rights in something as seemingly insignificant as a holiday parade. They will finally march as equals in 2011. (http://www.swissnews.ch/index.php?id=202)

    • http://www.expatharem.com/identity-messages/ Anastasia

      Thanks for that “Sechs-ism” link, Chantal…wow, it seems the women who get to join the march in 2011 will be ‘guests’ without any guarantee of marching again.

  • Kelly Hevel

    Ditto. What Barbara said. She took the words right out of my mouth. It took about 1 second to come up with which local term applies to me here in Turkey. And while I agree that “yabanci” is freeing, it also limits your ability to truly have “your place in a new society” here in Turkey. You are always, at all times, “other”.

    I wonder if that is true no matter how much time passes?

  • Kelly Hevel

    Ditto. What Barbara said. She took the words right out of my mouth. It took about 1 second to come up with which local term applies to me here in Turkey. And while I agree that “yabanci” is freeing, it also limits your ability to truly have “your place in a new society” here in Turkey. You are always, at all times, “other”.

    I wonder if that is true no matter how much time passes?

  • http://www.turkishmuse.com/ Barbara Isenberg

    I’m an American expat in Izmir, Turkey and a very common word used to describe foreigners here is “yabanci.” But while the word yabanci is often used to mean foreigner, the word also has a myriad of other meanings: alien, stranger, exotic, outsider, unfamiliar. I find that the word describes me perfectly as someone who does not fit in with local society here. As such, I find I have a lot of leeway and a lot more freedom than my Turkish counterparts. A lot of what I do, for example, if deemed strange or unfamiliar, is simply chalked up to the fact that I am a foreigner. It is incredibly liberating! Because I am a foreigner, a lot of Turks simply don’t expect me to follow the status quo. Things that seem so simple to me — like drinking coffee with my breakfast instead of tea — are just plan weird to some Turks. Sometimes I wonder to myself what all I could get away with…..

    • http://anastasiaashman.wordpress.com/about/ Anastasia

      @Barbara and Kelly In Turkey another term I don’t relish — “yenge”. It means a woman attached by marriage, not a blood relation. It also sounds a lot like “yengeç” which means crab. So whenever I hear it I think of a crabby woman who’s somehow not-fullblooded in her membership!

      You’re right, yabancı gives us some leeway, but I find that people who actually know me wouldn’t use that word, it’s far too general.

      In Malaysia I was sometimes called “ang moh” or red-hair, which is also used to describe a kind of monkey, and a red-haired devil. You can see how that description for Europeans might come about…but it never felt appropriate to me, especially coming from a politically correct place where we were trained not to use racial epithets.

      • http://www.bazaarbayar.etsy.com Catherine Bayar

        You’ve all three taken the two Turkish descriptives that popped into my head when I read Chantal’s question: definitely “yabanci” and “yenge”. The former I’ve very grudgingly come to accept, and do agree with Barbara’s sense of liberation by never truly being expected to behave like a Turkish woman. And understand Kelly’s feeling that we will always be outsiders – that’s true. But then, I’d say that how Turks assess who is Turkish is quite different than how Americans would determine who is American.

        The latter word, yenge, is the only name most of my husband’s family would know me by – I’ve repeatedly tried to become Ketri Yenge (if I must be a yenge at all!) but to no avail. Blood connections run very deep in Turkish/Kurdish communities, and honorifics must be used to not be rude, so I suppose it’s better than being called “Ma’am”!
        .-= Catherine Bayar’s latest blog ..Wool Prayer Rug =-.

  • http://www.turkishmuse.com/ Barbara Isenberg

    I’m an American expat in Izmir, Turkey and a very common word used to describe foreigners here is “yabanci.” But while the word yabanci is often used to mean foreigner, the word also has a myriad of other meanings: alien, stranger, exotic, outsider, unfamiliar. I find that the word describes me perfectly as someone who does not fit in with local society here. As such, I find I have a lot of leeway and a lot more freedom than my Turkish counterparts. A lot of what I do, for example, if deemed strange or unfamiliar, is simply chalked up to the fact that I am a foreigner. It is incredibly liberating! Because I am a foreigner, a lot of Turks simply don’t expect me to follow the status quo. Things that seem so simple to me — like drinking coffee with my breakfast instead of tea — are just plan weird to some Turks. Sometimes I wonder to myself what all I could get away with…..

    • http://www.expatharem.com/identity-messages/ Anastasia

      @Barbara and Kelly In Turkey another term I don’t relish — “yenge”. It means a woman attached by marriage, not a blood relation. It also sounds a lot like “yengeç” which means crab. So whenever I hear it I think of a crabby woman who’s somehow not-fullblooded in her membership!

      You’re right, yabancı gives us some leeway, but I find that people who actually know me wouldn’t use that word, it’s far too general.

      In Malaysia I was sometimes called “ang moh” or red-hair, which is also used to describe a kind of monkey, and a red-haired devil. You can see how that description for Europeans might come about…but it never felt appropriate to me, especially coming from a politically correct place where we were trained not to use racial epithets.

      • http://www.bazaarbayar.blogspot.com Catherine Bayar

        You’ve all three taken the two Turkish descriptives that popped into my head when I read Chantal’s question: definitely “yabanci” and “yenge”. The former I’ve very grudgingly come to accept, and do agree with Barbara’s sense of liberation by never truly being expected to behave like a Turkish woman. And understand Kelly’s feeling that we will always be outsiders – that’s true. But then, I’d say that how Turks assess who is Turkish is quite different than how Americans would determine who is American.

        The latter word, yenge, is the only name most of my husband’s family would know me by – I’ve repeatedly tried to become Ketri Yenge (if I must be a yenge at all!) but to no avail. Blood connections run very deep in Turkish/Kurdish communities, and honorifics must be used to not be rude, so I suppose it’s better than being called “Ma’am”!
        .-= Catherine Bayar’s latest blog ..Wool Prayer Rug =-.

  • http://www.shefaly-yogendra.com Shefaly

    Being a foreigner in CH sucks; being a woman who doesn’t have a blue chip job that relocates her sucks more. When I went there I was a Geshaeftsfuehrerin. In my time there I met only one woman who was my professional peer and she was German. My most major roadblocks were not Swiss men. When I turned up for meetings, the secretaries would ask “Aber wo ist der Geshaeftsfuehrer?” and I’d say: “Ich bin die Geshaeftsfuehrerin, bitte” to see that incredulity in their eyes…

    An American friend moved there with her Swiss husband and faced a series of ignominies. To practise with her clinical psychologist licence she had to prove her PhD was equal to a Swiss Master’s. Huh! She hired a lawyer, got her licence and started practising. She saw many forced-to-be-Hausfrauen whose options and careers were curtailed by the weird rules. Some at the brink of suicide.

    Don’t get me wrong. If one can find one’s place in the country it is great. It is beautiful and the croissants and chocolate are to die for. But hey something’s got to compensate for the second-class life women have there, non?

    So sorry to hear of your experience. I reviewed David Hampshire’s book Living And Working in Switzerland on Amazon UK. You know what I said: take this book but leave your spouse at home. Sadly you will understand why I said that.
    .-= Shefaly’s latest blog ..The raison d’être of a business/ Google and political reform =-.

  • http://www.shefaly-yogendra.com Shefaly

    Being a foreigner in CH sucks; being a woman who doesn’t have a blue chip job that relocates her sucks more. When I went there I was a Geshaeftsfuehrerin. In my time there I met only one woman who was my professional peer and she was German. My most major roadblocks were not Swiss men. When I turned up for meetings, the secretaries would ask “Aber wo ist der Geshaeftsfuehrer?” and I’d say: “Ich bin die Geshaeftsfuehrerin, bitte” to see that incredulity in their eyes…

    An American friend moved there with her Swiss husband and faced a series of ignominies. To practise with her clinical psychologist licence she had to prove her PhD was equal to a Swiss Master’s. Huh! She hired a lawyer, got her licence and started practising. She saw many forced-to-be-Hausfrauen whose options and careers were curtailed by the weird rules. Some at the brink of suicide.

    Don’t get me wrong. If one can find one’s place in the country it is great. It is beautiful and the croissants and chocolate are to die for. But hey something’s got to compensate for the second-class life women have there, non?

    So sorry to hear of your experience. I reviewed David Hampshire’s book Living And Working in Switzerland on Amazon UK. You know what I said: take this book but leave your spouse at home. Sadly you will understand why I said that.
    .-= Shefaly’s latest blog ..The raison d’être of a business/ Google and political reform =-.

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