6 1/2 years ago I was working in Scotland, not enjoying the cold, the constant rain or the Glaswegians. My wife had been contacted by the British head of her department about a possible job in Bradford, and she had asked if I had any objections to her attending an interview there since we would have to consider finding work for myself down there.
It didn’t amount to much, the interview went well, but Bradford wasn’t the most dynamic town to live in, so we passed on it. Two months later, the global head of finding things out phoned my wife, explained that he had a position similar to the one in Bradford, and asked if she would be interested. This position was in the companies global Headquarters in Basel, Switzerland.
My wife calls to tell me this, and between our laughter we decide that it would be worth following this up, a trip to Switzerland at someone else’s expense isn’t to be passed up. I agree to rework my CV in the hope there might be something that I can do over there and we wait. One week later, I’m contacted by a German guy asking if I would also be interested in attending a couple of interviews for a development position. At the time I’m trying my best not to let anything slip at work, so I have to sneak out infrequently to make phone calls to Switzerland and try to organise things as best I can.
Two weeks later, we both have interviews scheduled in the Global Headquarters. On the day we have to leave, I phone my work to pretend I have a cold and then we head to the airport. By the time we arrive in Switzerland, I actually have a cold, and spend the evening there feeling terrible, but one of the guys who will interview me assures me he has something that will help in the morning.
The following morning, we depart for the HQ, not really knowing where we are, but we meet the representatives and my interviewer gives me a pill of some kind, informing me that I’ll feel a lot better soon enough. I have no idea what was in it, but obviously working for a pharmaceutical company has it’s advantages. Whatever I had seemed speedlike to me, but it sorted out my cold almost instantly. The interviews went well, I coasted along slightly out of my head, but getting on well with the various people I met, including a large Jabba-esque man who I thought was going to eat me. My experience and opinions of various obscure programming languages seemed to be appreciated, and by the end of the day we departed for home. Mission accomplished, we had travelled to Switzerland and back.
The following week, we’re still waiting on feedback, and by now we both assume that things weren’t going to happen. Switzerland has a limited number of foreign nationals that companies can employ as the government wants Swiss people to fill the positions where possible. If a Swiss can’t do it, then a foreigner can be employed for that position.
I was that foreigner, the interviewer contacted me to state that there was a position for me if I wanted it, and my wife was also about to be made an offer. If there was ever a point in time where I expected my jaw to drop, this was it.
This was July 2000, and we were asked if we would be willing to start on the 1st of October. It was time to sell the yellow house that we lived in, so we started advertising it. I received a phonecall at work to inform me that a viewer wanted to come and see it that afternoon, so I had to speak with my boss to arrange the afternoon off. When I went to speak to him, I said that I needed the time off to prepare the house as we were trying to sell it. “Fine, ” he said, “do you have another place lined up?”. “Yes, ” I replied, “a flat in Switzerland.”. Surprisingly, the house sale went quickly and smoothly, our second viewers were happy with what they saw and put in an offer the following day.
We were a few weeks away from leaving the UK to go to a country where we don’t speak the language. To further compound matters, the locals speak a near impenetrable dialect that doesn’t even resemble the official language. I started smoking again.
I still didn’t really believe this was happening, and until I saw a work permit with my name on it, I wasn’t convinced. Then the work permit arrived. All systems were go. A removal van arrived from Germany to collect our belongings and store them until we had somewhere to put them. I was kind of disconcerted to look out of the window to see a mulleted fellow sitting on the back of the truck playing a guitar, but you know, I wasn’t European and as far as I knew that was a feature of a days hard labour. I arranged with my brother to look after our cats until we could get them shipped over.
The day finally arrived when we had to leave. We spent the night before in one of the local pubs drinking anything and everything with our friends, trying to postpone the inevitable with copious amounts of alcohol. To this day I don’t remember the flights very well, I was still drunk from the night before and the high altitude combined with the drink leaves me feeling a bit spaced out. The last hurdle was to find our accommodation and contact the Hausfrau for keys, and she didn’t speak any Hoch Deutsch or English, but I think she must have been told to wait on some idiot auslander phoning her, as she was waiting on our arrival by taxi.
It was at this point where we wonder “What the fuck have we done?”.