Online and connected: to make life in Switzerland a touch easier--to let off some steam and get the hang of living here and enjoying each moment--log on to one of the many discussion and information groups.

Author:Sethi, Aradhna

Foreigners in Switzerland do tend to feel slightly alienated for a while, what with new culture, new languages, and new ways of doing things that used to be routine. Coming to grips with the reality of being in a country where everything is in near-perfect order makes you want to be just that much more organised--and perfect--to fit in.

You discover your knowledge of the local lingo is not enough. And then, there is that nagging desire to be with people who are more like you. Needless to say, the challenge is not just integrating into the system, but finding your way in terms of interests and hobbies. Difficult though it can be, Swiss News looks at a fun way to connect with Switzerland.

Click Away and Log On

With the computer keyboard at your fingertips and an Internet connection, all you need to do is log on to a search engine (for instance,, key in 'Expats in Switzerland' ... and VOILA! You have a list of sites to check out. To make things even simpler, check out the comprehensive (but inexhaustible) list we provide.

"These discussion groups or email groups are like a one-stop shop. You find whatever you want out there," says an Australian of Indian origin, Anu Nagashwaran, who moved to Zurich in February of last year. Arriving in Switzerland soon after her marriage, she found her new life fraught with challenges--shopping, finding entertainment in English, making a home. That's when the 24-year-old decided to go web sleuthing. She found a number of chat groups via the search engine and decided to register with a few.

Each of the groups have a home page, briefly introducing what the site is all about, how many members subscribe to it and how you could be a member.

"When you come here, you obviously have a lot of questions," says Anu. "Like where to go for the best course in German for beginners, where to find English movies and cable connections, libraries housing English books ... I just logged on to a few groups and sent out my questions. Within a matter of a few hours I had enough responses. Why, I even found our previous temporary accommodation this way!"

She also found groups meeting at Starbucks to practise speaking German, groups organising bowling and movie nights. Her social calendar began to fill as she made new acquaintances and friends. Today, Anu feels more at home, she says.

Membership, Privacy and Moderation

Membership in such groups is free. However, there are certain regulations to be followed and personal information to be given so that the group moderator can screen you for the membership.

Carmen Crenshaw-Hovey, the moderator and the initiator of many discussion and information groups--including, for example, expats-in-Switzerland, --updates the sites and sifts through potential member profiles to ensure that they are in the right group and discourage spam. She moderates exchanges, and says they can get quite heated.

"Recently with the elections in the...

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