If you ask any of the Edinburgh locals what the food is like in the famous Harry Potter café, you will most likely be met with a bewildered look as if to say, "Why on earth would I ever go there?" I would be much more likely to point you in the direction of The Caffeine Drip or Loudons.
The same applies to Parisians visiting La Durée (which I have to admit remained a firm favourite of mine, despite living like a local) and anyone who lives in the Canton of Zurich, but not the actual city, knowing the latest bars on the scene. To a certain extent, it does make sense to stick to places you know you like, but Raygrodskis will still be there next week if the new bar isn’t your style.
We spend our whole lives booking time off work, planning holidays and researching our chosen destinations. But what about the city we call "home"? Not home in the nostalgic sense, home in the "I live here right now" sense. Why do many of us choose to live somewhere that we are desperate to escape from?
Why should the locals have to miss out on the hotspots to make way for tourists?
True, the best—or rather best known—restaurants and bars are often booked up by holidaymakers keen to cross them off their list, so the locals head somewhere quieter. In theory, it makes perfect sense; but why should the locals have to miss out on the hotspots to make way for tourists? Even in cities that aren’t necessarily tourist traps, there is always that one place that you vow to go to "one day"—yet never do.
Keeping the spirit of travel alive as an expat
Moving abroad is different to begin with because you have chosen to move there. You have looked up the top 10 bars and found the restaurant with "the best local cuisine" that you absolutely must try as soon as you land in the city. And then it’s been three months, you are fed up of everywhere being super busy all the time. Before you know it, you have become one of the locals with little or no knowledge of what is happening where they live.
To avoid this, I personally tend to live a sort of tourist-local hybrid life, in which I stick to the local cafés that I know have good coffee and free WiFi during the week, and go further afield on the weekend. I think this is the best way of still getting things done and also making the most of your surroundings.
I have to admit that this time round, I am spending a lot less time exploring other parts of Switzerland than I did when I studied here two years ago. After spending the majority of the week in my flat staring at my laptop screen, sometimes I just want to spend Saturday by Lake Zurich. After all, I did move there.
Making the most of your time abroad
The one thing I would encourage you to keep in mind during the planning stages of your move is that you are not going on an extended holiday—this is real life. You still need to do everything you did at home (housework, bills, exercise); you are just in a different country.
So how can you combine real life with living the dream? I find that having a pre-paid travel pass means that I am more inclined to travel when I have a free day. There are a lot of different options in Switzerland; the GA, for example, gives you unlimited travel across the country for a flat rate. Knowing that I have this in my purse makes me more likely to hop on a train to the mountains if I find myself free at the weekends because I don’t have to bother looking at ticket prices and consider whether I really want to visit that particular spot.
By all means, have your favourite haunts and go-to places—but don’t forget to explore and keep an eye out for newbies.Add this article to your reading list