It was my job that brought me and my family to Birmingham 18 months ago. I was offered a position at UAB and from one day to the next, Birmingham became our new hometown. To be honest, we didn’t really know much about the South, so moving here was a bit of a culture shock. To give you a little bit of background: I’m from Switzerland (a tiny country in the heart of Europe), and my husband is from the Philadelphia area.
Over the past year, we have come to love and appreciate many things in this city. We love your winters (which could almost count as summers in Switzerland…). But boy, are your summers hot! Tough times for this mountain girl who is used to winters with lots of snow and ice. Our family absolutely loves the food scene, we enjoy the many opportunities the city offers for kids, and we have found a great community of friends who have become our support network in lieu of family. I still don’t pick up on Southern social clues and stumble over Southern slang (remember, English is not my native language). I often have to ask what people mean or apologize for my directness, but hey, I’m getting there. I enjoy the friendliness of the people here and their interest in my person and my work.
We’ve loved getting to know the town, which despite being foreign has in some ways a familiar feel, at least for me. The tightknittedness of the community is something I grew up with in Switzerland where everything is very local. I appreciate the investment many people here make in their own communities and in making Birmingham a better place. My husband says that “Birmingham is rough around the edges,” which reminds him of his hometown in Philadelphia. We are excited to continue our journey to become Birmininghamians!
I always knew I wanted kids, and I am grateful to be the mother of my two boys (born in 2011 and 2013). As we all know, motherhood is both rewarding and challenging, and in many ways, a very personal experience. I grew so much when I became a mother, and my priorities in life are much more focused now because of my family. My husband and I spent a lot of time figuring out what family model works for us, especially because we both work full time and our extended family lives far away from us (mine is in Switzerland, and my husband’s in the Philadelphia area and in Maine). And as I don’t have to tell you, the requirements, desires, and needs of all members of our family keep changing fast, especially the kids’ during their first couple of years of life. I think we have found a good way that works for us, and I’m incredibly happy to be able to combine motherhood with an interesting and rewarding career.
I’ve probably already given you some clues on what my contributions to this blog will focus on. I will definitely talk about being a full-time working mom, about raising kids far away from family, and our journey to getting to know this place. I will also write about some intercultural perspectives (did you know that using your baby car seat in the stroller is a cultural thing?) and some of the struggles of raising kids in a cultural and linguistic environment that was and continues to be somewhat foreign to me. I often feel like I’m learning American customs, expectations, and educational requirements along with my kids because I didn’t have similar experiences growing up abroad. Because of my work (I’m the director of the UAB Institute for Human Rights) and because I can’t help myself, I will also raise some social issues relating to my work, motherhood, and Birmingham and discuss how to make the world a better place for our kids.