22.04.2020 – Stories & Specials

‘My eyes were opened in Berlin’

Photos: Julia Cebreros

In her blog Hoi Berlin, Claudia Jucker writes about family matters, new discoveries and life in the big city. She spent three years in Berlin with her husband and two daughters. Now she has come back to Zurich. She tells us why – and which city she likes best.

Zurich to Berlin and back. Two cities that are both dear to you. But which one do you love the most?

Today, if I had to choose between Zurich or Berlin, I’d go for Zurich. My roots are here, my friends, family and the values that I want for my children. Berlin is close to my heart and is definitely a city where I want to spend a lot of time, but without the pressures of daily life in Berlin. It’s where my little girl was born. It’s a place full of personal stories, lasting memories, deep friendships, ups and downs, boundless freedom and joy, frustration and loneliness, new discoveries, never-ending streets, biting winds, dark days, stinking subway shafts, dancing the night away, delicious food from all over the world and the weirdest encounters.

So, around three years ago, you packed up the family and the cat and headed north to Prenzlauer Berg. How did that come about?

My husband was offered a job. We didn’t have much time to decide whether to take it or not. I had just found out I was pregnant with our second child and it was pretty much now or never. We’d been thinking about Berlin for a while anyway, so it was the perfect fit. We quickly packed up all our stuff, along with the cat, our daughter Maus, and Mips still in my tummy, and found ourselves in the Winskiez area of beautiful Prenzlauer Berg.

‘It was pretty much now or never.’

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Did you think it was just a temporary move?

No. When we left we didn’t know how long we would stay there. It was tough for some of our family. They couldn’t understand why we wanted to leave this perfect world to go to Berlin. They thought it was OK for students, but not when you have kids. But we thought it was ideal for us. I had the feeling Berlin would be the perfect city to live in with a toddler and a baby.

But it wasn’t?

My eyes were opened a little. Everyone tells you that Berlin is a totally cool, easy place to live – especially with children. You see all the hip, laid-back parents pushing their prams around the neighbourhood and drinking latte on every corner. But it’s not like that. Or should I say: not always. I underestimated it, despite the fact that I had lived in Berlin with a child once before. I spent four months there with Maus when I was awarded a studio grant.

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‘Today, I’d go for Zurich.’

Did you start to have your doubts?

No. Funnily enough, no. I blamed the situation more than the city. And Berlin has so many wonderful aspects.

Such as?

In summer the city has a real holiday feel. The days are long, it’s really lively, everywhere people are smiling, eating ice cream on street corners, and kids are doing chalk drawings on the pavement. Life moves outdoors and the city catches up on everything it missed during the dark days of winter. It was also good that I was off work for a year on maternity leave. I was able to enjoy Mips in a completely different, more conscious way and had more time to spend with both my children. It was a real luxury that I’d like to see in Switzerland too. My husband also took two months’ parental leave, like many others in his office.

How did the children like Berlin?

Maus found it hard at first. She doesn’t like change. For the first year she would only speak Swiss German. After a year, when she felt safe, she switched to High German overnight. It was perfect High German, much better than I could ever speak! From the moment she felt comfortable, she was really happy. And Mips always likes it when there’s a lot going on. She loves being out in a crowd.

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Were the kids so happy that they found it hard to move back?

Yes. Maus still says she wants to go back to Berlin because that’s where her friends and her favourite school are. And Mips was also very attached to her friends at kindergarten.

Do you feel guilty about it?

No, because I think they will reap the benefits in the long term. And also because they now have strong ties to Berlin. We visit regularly and keep in touch with everyone.

‘As her mum, I sometimes feel sorry for her.’

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How was it when you got back to Zurich?

It dawned on Maus that she had to go a new school with new children. I felt really sorry for her and wouldn’t have wanted to be in her shoes. She is very loyal and sends regular letters to her friends in Berlin. She does it off her own bat. She knows all her friends’ addresses by heart and knows she has to put a 1.50-franc stamp on the envelopes. Unfortunately, not as many are writing back as she hoped. But we can’t control that. As her mum, I sometimes feel sorry for her – she tries really hard and pours her heart into her letters and drawings. But maybe it’s all part of saying goodbye.

Looking back, would you do it again?

I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It was a great experience for all of us, including in terms of what we have brought back to Switzerland and the fact that we take a different view of the country and life here. We feel more appreciative and are more aware of the amazing life we have here.

Do you see Zurich with fresh eyes now?

Yes. I’m enjoying it very much. I have seen and discovered so many new things. I’m like a little kid. I think Zurich has changed a lot. It has so much to offer. For a long time I thought: Berlin is so cool, it’s THE city. But now that I’m back, I realise how great Zurich actually is. And I’ve fallen in love with my city all over again.

Partnership

This interview originally appeared on Tadah. The online magazine for parents doesn’t only write about work/life balance, it also lives it – Tadah also runs a coworking space with childcare in Zurich.