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“I’ve loved Rivella ever since I was a child”

Eva Bajer is the creative director of Startbahnwest, a Zurich-based advertising agency. A job brought the 37-year-old German to Switzerland in 2010. In an interview, she tells us what her favourite places are, how she sees her fellow countrymen from her new perspective, and why she wants to stay in Switzerland. A recording.

31 January 2013, text: Crafft, photos: Jürg Waldmeier

“It was sheer coincidence that I came to Switzerland. The Startbahnwest agency was looking for a fill-in for three months. And I thought that I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. I fell in love with Zurich right away, and I swam across Lake Zurich alongside hundreds of other people in the Seeüberquerung only two weeks after my arrival. I had only known Switzerland from my school breaks: we always went to Lake Lucerne or went skiing in Valais. And I’ve loved drinking Rivella, the Swiss soft drink, ever since I was a child, which is a bit unusual for Germans.

I was born in Prague; my mom is Czech, my dad is a Sudeten German. By the time I was five years old, my parents had had enough of communism. They wanted to eat bananas and oranges and travel the world. We moved to Mainz, Germany where I went to high school and majored in media design. Later on, I worked for ZDF, a German TV channel, where I was responsible for channel promotion – which means information boards, moving images or the opening credits for a detective series.

Zurich: slow-paced urban way of life

In 2004, I landed as a graphic designer in the Berlin advertising scene. During this time, I had absolutely no private life, I rarely came home before 10 at night. Berlin was a non-stop party. Hype at every corner, everyone’s incredibly creative. Over time, I began to get burnt out. I started yearning for a more down-home way of life. The offer from Zurich came right in the nick of time. Fortunately, the three months turned into a permanent job as the creative director.

It surprises me how I didn’t notice, until I was in Switzerland, what Germans are like and that some of the clichés aren’t far off the mark. Your typical German will show up and say: “Here I am!” The Swiss are more reserved. I personally really appreciate their courtesy. The Swiss keep a greater distance, also physically. You’ll notice this when you ride a street car. When you’re in Berlin, you can feel the person behind you breathing on your neck.

But that doesn’t mean Zurich isn’t chic and innovative. It’s rather a slow-paced urban way of life, not as over-the-top and frenzied as in Berlin. I have no desire to return to Germany. I’m planning my future in Zurich.

Switzerland: reading between the lines

My favourite place is the Limmat river. I love jumping into the water near the Werdinsel island. In the summertime, I go swimming every day, or I jog home along the Limmat. I’m right at home in the water: I was born not far from the Vltava, then I lived on the Rhine, I completed an internship by the Thames and worked near the Spree. And now I work right next to the Limmat. On the weekends, I often hike the mountains or go climbing or snowboarding. Pretty soon, I will definitely have to go on a snowshoe hike. Every day here feels like a vacation.

The only thing I’m having to get used to here in Switzerland is that some things are said indirectly in a roundabout way. You have to learn to read between the lines if you want to know what’s actually meant. But I’ve never experienced any anti-German sentiment. My boyfriend – he’s from Spain but grew up in Switzerland – thinks I might just not have noticed because, as a German, I lack the ability to recognise it in all its subtlety...”

Eva Bajer is a Helvetia customer.

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