Bernadette’s Take on
Lenny and Peter Jegerlehner from Schnottwil (Swiss Canton Solothurn)
There is room in tiny Switzerland, too, not only in Canada! Nature is what Lenny and Peter Jegerlehner (want to) see from their living room window, a rural area with the Chasseral mountains in the background. (All photos courtesy of L. and P. Jegerlehner)
Ask the Swiss what they like about Canada, and the first thing they say is: “The vast open space.”
Well, Peter and Lenny like that, too, but they found their rural retreat – surprise, surprise – in densely populated Switzerland. In a community of 1000 people, once a farmers’ village named Schnottwil where they enjoy peace and quiet.
“When we go for walks in the surroundings, we are often alone”, says Peter. When Lenny who is Canadian visits her home country, she often feels stressed by the traffic “and too much fast food”.
The people move slowly, she says, and that stresses her, too.
Peter met Lenny in 1977, at the age of 20, when he was working for the German company Leica in the Canadian town Midland in Ontario. She worked in the same company.
They fell in love and traveled in a van through Canada, on 800 dollars. “We were young and foolish then”, Peter jokes.
Two years later, the couple moved to Toronto where they both had a job at another Leica subsidiary. First they enjoyed the big-city-life. But Peter saw no career opportunities for him. “And you were homesick for Switzerland”, Lenny adds.
They struck a deal: Because Peter had spent six years in Canada, Lenny would spend six years in Switzerland.
Poor Lenny. This was 30 years ago. “It was very stiff and I struggled with how people were standoffisch”, she recalls. In the Swiss village where they lived, foreigners were not received with open arms. “At the beginning, I hated everything”, she admits.
But then, Schnottwil beckoned. Lenny who grew up on a farm, found an old farmhouse to rent there. And slowly, everything changed for the better. Lenny’s Swiss German had improved and she could communicate more easily.
Remember the deal between Peter and Lenny? Well, Peter did not want to live Canada anymore, thank you very much.
He was comfortable where he was.
And Lenny? She gave in. “I am a person who assimilates”, she says.
Fortunately, the longer she stayed in Switzerland (or Schnottwil, for that matter), the more she liked it. “After ten years, I would not have wanted to live in Canada anymore”, she says.
She likes the landscape around her and she now knows a lot of nice people.
There are still things that she cannot get used to, though. “When family members shake hands instead of embracing”, she says. “Or I have to be careful not to touch somebody spontaneously like we do in Canada while talking to people.”
And sometimes, she has to pay attention to what she says so that others don’t misunderstand her. (But her Swiss German is perfect, believe me!)
Lenny and Peter raise Field Rescue dogs, and that helped Lenny a lot to feel at home and get to know people she likes.
Peter appreciates the space you have in Canada but he says: “Everything is so far apart, and it takes you ages to get to places.”
Lenny says that in Canada, one has to live near a city to get a good job. From Schnottwil, the three cities of Biel, Solothurn and Berne are within a 20-minute-distance.
There are at least some things that are the same in Canada and in Switzerland. Guess what? It is white and wet and soft – unless it is an avalanche. And in that case, Lenny and her dog come to your rescue.
Peter also mentions the fact that, in Switzerland, they can live off one salary. “In Canada, generally both parents have to work to have enough income.”
Still, in Schnottwil, they do some things the Canadian way. With people, they are on a first-name-basis instantly. And when they have a party, they show their guests the fridge and tell them to help themselves. “We’re easy going”, Peter says. Because that is what he likes about Canadians: how friendly and helpful they are.
Yes, and that infamous deal – that is a thing of the past…
Here is the Can-Swiss Quiz with Lenny:
What gift do you bring home from Canada?
Maple syrup, relish, t-shirts
What gift do you bring back from Switzerland?
Chocolate – what else?
What product(s) do you miss most in Canada (or in Switzerland)?
In Canada: Aromat (condiment)
In Switzerland: junk food (a good juicy hamburger)
Which are the 3 qualities you cher-ish most in Swiss men or women?
Swiss men are dependable, out-going,
softies at heart
Which are the 3 qualities you cher-ish most in Canadian men or women?
Canadian men are sensitive, helpful, open-hearted
What triggered a culture shock for you in Switzerland (in one sentence, please)?
The distance people have to others, especially to foreigners, was very difficult to get used to.
Which Canadian or Swiss personality fascinates you?
I find all people are fascinating in one way or another. Upbringing and experiences make people the way they are and that is what makes each person special.
Have a look at Peter and Lenny’s website:
If you want to know about Swiss Field Rescue dogs, here is the link: