So, let me introduce you to my best friend in the whole wide world. Her name is Jin Millea (nee Glover). She lives in Switzerland (which is awesome and terrible all at the same time). She also happens to be my daughters God Aunt (you know , the one that shows her how to dress fashionably, table manners a la Swiss, and which wine pairs with which meal).
We first met something like 14 or 15 years ago when we were both working at a bar in Wasaga Beach during the summer as a way to pay for our University studies. When we met we just clicked. She was the only one at our interview session for the job wearing heels and carrying a very fashionable purse. I liked this immediately. But obviously I realized that she was far more than just her Euro-inspired fashion. You know those people that just GET you? Jin is just that person for me. I can call her with whatever irrational ridiculous sentiment that I am having and she will listen, laugh at me but then also help me see the logic where it's lacking. She's kinda my filter and moral compass all in one.
I am so lucky that she took the time to participate in my gratitude project because she and her husband are in the middle of designing, building and opening a bar and grill in Langenthal, Switzerland.
If someone were to meet you at a dinner party for the first time and asked you about your life in the last ten years how would you describe it?
I would laugh, inhale and exhale deeply. Where to begin? Very intense but also easy, full of new but yet so familiar period of strengthened bonds while letting go of less meaningful ones, also letting go of bonds that may have been meaningful but didn’t support my character, my inner fire or sought to “calm” it for that matter.
I've had ups and downs. The highest of highs and the hardest of challenges. I married my first my love and most trusted friend, someone I never thought I would end up with again despite knowing how much I always cared for and favoured him. I lost all of my grandparents, losing Grosi has been the biggest heartbreak I’ve ever experienced.
Although I've always been a big family person I’ve realized even more how important , and immortal, loved ones really are and how much they are to be cherished.
I’ve been high on love and life and knocked down, knocked flat, even run over by things I couldn’t control or things I was too stubborn to realize or change.
There's been a rediscovery of who I am? Or a realization of who I have become? Not sure which but it's been a natural evolution, but somehow magical, as if predetermined
What are your best qualities and what are the things about yourself that you find yourself wanting to “work” on?
My best qualities : hmmm my loyalty and commitment to those I love, caring, good at bringing people together to have fun, I suppose I’m fairly resilient ( at least after rereading my answers to the first questions haha)
What needs work: patience, learning to be less demanding of myself, learning to forgive myself if I don’t meet all expectations at once, my temper.
You live in Switzerland but grew up in Canada, can you share some cultural or societal differences that you’ve observed or had to adapt to?
Haha. In many ways Canadians and Swiss are very similar but very different. They compliment each other very well and usually enjoy each others’ culture very much.
Culturally the Swiss are more discreet, introverted, reserved than Canadians. They can be a bit held back or shy at first, making it difficult to make friends quickly, but once you have them, they are extremely loyal and friends for life.
Culturally Canadians are known for their openness, friendliness and extroverted characters. They hold back much less than the Swiss, making it easy to make new friends in Canada, but unclear as to who will evolve into a forever friend.
Societal differences: Canadians love XXL – whether it be houses, meals, machinery, autos etc and the Swiss are quite opposite, favouring instead quality and ingenuity. The Swiss are super-efficient and organized, and this comes directly from how society is organized at all levels. Your township is your first check in, who then communicate with the Canton and then onto the Federal level. Canadian bureaucracy could definitely improve on this end.
The education system in Switzerland is also very different. School children are already organized from the 6th grade into the direction of study (ie. Trade schools or university). Only about 30% of school children here go directly to university after completing their mandatory schooling, while the majority head into excellently designed apprentice programmes (pretty much anything you would do in trades or college in Canada is completed via apprenticeship in Switzerland – this is a combo of schooling and practical application with a trade master). Further specialization/continued education and training programmes are huge here and the reason, in my view, for the famed Swiss quality. As you can probably tell, the whole system here is quite structured and begins at an early age – this has an effect on the way that people live their lives.
Punctuality – while Canadians are generally punctual (weather permitting), even they stare wide-eyed at how serious the Swiss take it. If the train schedule says 14:59, you better be on that train by 14:58 – because it is leaving at exactly 14:59 (and not a minute earlier, because people have planned down to the minute).
What the Swiss love about Canadian society is what they perceive to be a very spontaneous, relaxed and open culture. It is common for a Canadian to spontaneously invite someone over, host them for the night, feed them etc. The Swiss need to have this planned because they would feel they are not adequately prepared (especially with food, the Swiss tend to shop every day or every second day for their ingredients).
Both are very proud and patriotic and often noted for being ‘over polite’. Both have a slight neighbour complex, both are multilingual.
Canadians are strong in making newcomers and new Canadians feel welcome. The values that define Canadians can be easily adopted by newcomers, there really aren’t that many strict cultural aspects a newcomer must adopt to feel (or be seen as) Canadian. In Switzerland this definitely does not work as smoothly. Aside from all of the rules and regulations a newcomer must learn (and there are thousands of written and unwritten rules of conduct), the Swissness goes far beyond core values – it includes very much your day to day activity, the foods you eat, the holidays you celebrate and so on. Canadians are strong in celebrating diversity whereas the Swiss expect integration and adoption of their culture in many, many more aspects.
Canadians are also much louder and can start a party much quicker. There is less shame in Canadian society about letting loose than there is in here Switzerland. And if one lets loose here by accident, there’s usually a degree of embarrassment or shame felt about it later. Not serious, but definitely not comfortable with it.
Can you think of a time or times in your life when you have had to dig deep to find gratitude?
Indeed, While undergoing fertility treatment, most notably in vitro-fertilisation (IVF), I really struggled with the side-effects from the hormones – and quite honestly the whole bloody process. The hormones literally changed the way my brain was behaving and I was beginning to experience very dark and depressive thoughts and moods. I was honestly hardly grateful for anything during the process other than the support (and tolerance) I received from my partner and the support I received from friends close and far. I forced myself to feel gratitude for living in a country that had this medical technology available and legal. I forced myself to feel gratitude for living in a country that values me as person beyond just my gender and requirement to bear children. It was a very difficult time to find gratitude but forcing myself and practicing gratitude out loud did help a little. Shortly after, I was also informed that I would lose my job, a career I had worked very hard on and for over the last seven years, but really had grown miserable with. While anger and resentment were my first reaction, I slowly came to look at it as a sort of blessing as I noticed that I felt much lighter knowing there was an end in sight to the place. It also sent me down a new path, towards an opportunity and career in something that I am very, very passionate about. At the moment, as bizarre at it sounds to me know, I am grateful for exactly how it all unfolded, including the IVF process, because I am happy and motivated to live for myself right now.
What is your version of a gratitude attitude?
Never forget how fucking lucky you are. I tell myself this every time I get down. Sure, I have had rough times, but I have all of the tools, resources and privilege to overcome these. I remind myself that I was not able to pick where I was born, how healthy I was born, which citizenships I would receive, which family I would have, how much love I would receive from those that I love…and when I remind myself of these things, I overflow with gratitude.