Embracing the city

Expat zone

Embracing the city

It’s not always that you get to hear expatriates sharing their experience of having lived in old Bangalore.

Simone Schoch, who hails from Zurich in Switzerland, has lived in the city for a few years during the early 80s. “From 1982 to ’86, I lived in Indiranagar, which was almost on the outskirts of the city at that time. Bengaluru back then was like what Mysuru is right now — quiet and calm. The city has changed a great deal. A lot of greenery has been lost,” rues Simone.

Simone has been living in the city for three years now, having accompanied her husband Balz Strasser, CEO of swissnex India and Consul General of Switzerland in Bengaluru, on work. They have three children — Mario, Emil, Paula Schoch and live in Sadashivanagar.

Recollecting memories, Simone, who studied in Bengaluru from class one to four at Bangalore International School (then located on Nandidurga Road), says she vividly remembers driving to Cubbon Park and Vidhana Soudha. “My father was working with an NGO back then. We had a light blue Ambassador car and weekends were reserved for family outings. My sisters and I used to go horseriding to Cubbon Park,”  she says.

 Before moving to Bengaluru, Simone and Balz lived in Pala, near Kottayam in Kerala, for a while. “My PhD was based on rubber farmers and their livelihood. We rented a small place near Pala and all we had back then were our backpacks and some furniture,” recalls Balz.

The couple have fallen in love with Bengaluru over the years and have adapted to its ways quite well. They say that the culture of Bengaluru hasn’t changed much over the years but the quality of life has diminished a great deal. “I hope the government will do something to bring back the lost charm of the city. This place attracts people from all over the country and the authorities should do their bit to maintain Bengaluru’s tag of being a ‘garden city’. We feel that the city is getting hotter and dirtier by the day,” explains Simone.

The couple have managed to find their circle of friends here. “We use the weekends and holidays to explore the city and places around it. Every Christmas, our friends from Switzerland travel to Bengaluru because it is very cold there. Last year, we went to Kerala, Puducherry and the Agonda beach in Goa. We don’t miss a chance to travel,” says Balz. The family also goes for short bicycle rides near Hesaraghatta Lake on some weekends.
 
Asked whether they’ve adjusted to the culinary culture here and Balz says that they prefer fusion food but have experimented with the traditional Indian dishes as well.
“We have an Indian cook, so at home we always have a mix of Indian food and some of our traditional dishes. We don’t eat too much meat and prefer sticking to a
vegetarian diet. We also buy organic fruits, vegetables and other products and promote the purchase and growth of such produce among our friends and
family,” shares Balz.

They love to try the food at restaurants on 100ft Road in Indiranagar and find the menu at ‘Good Earth’ on Lavelle Road pretty enticing. “Our children like simple food and we too have taken a liking to Indian food like ‘dal’, rice and vegetable preparations,” says Simone.

About his experiments with Indian food, Balz recalls, “Once, we were on a vacation and landed in Munnar at around 7 pm. We were all so hungry that we stopped by
at a street food vendor and the five of us must have eaten at least 30 Kerala ‘parottas’ together. The food was hot, fresh and delicious. I always compare street food here to what we ate in Kerala but nothing here seems to match up to that taste,” says Balz. 

Balz travels across the country on work. His job description involves a lot of innovation, education and promoting academic collaborations between India and Switzerland. “A lot of people know that Switzerland is popular for chocolates and beautiful landscapes but little do they know that it is also one of the fastest growing educational hubs in the world. We would also like to explore opportunities to collaborate with startups here,” explains Balz. He says that Switzerland is not only a popular tourist destination but is also open to welcoming people to experience its work culture.

He finds the people in Bengaluru very open and receptive to learning about other cultures. “People here are eager to know more about Switzerland and ask a lot of questions and we are more than happy to answer them all,” says Balz with a smile.  
Simone uses her spare time rather productively. She is at present undergoing a training in craniosacral therapy and hopes to work in the field someday.

Till the time they are here, the family is happy to experience the culture of the city.

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