Bernadette’s Take on
Fabian Fabian, Zurich, Switzerland
The man who lives seven lives
There was nothing that Fabian Fabian (his real name!) and wife Brigitta Staehli did not try out in Canada: First, Fabian worked as a computer play-back artist in Vancouver’s film industry and earned a decent salary. Brigitta opened a charming Tea House in Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast.
They had emigrated to Canada in September 2001 and were eager to build a future in their new country together.
But things turned out differently. The film industry in Vancouver saw worse times, and Fabian (44) lost his job.
And the Tea House lost money, so they had to sell the business.
For a while, Brigitta worked for an import company. Then she got a job at a coffee shop. Both for minimum wage.
Meanwhile, Fabian worked as a computer technician and art director at a local newspaper.
He also was an Aikido instructor.
Then they moved to Vancouver and tried their luck there. Fabian took acting classes. It wasn’t to be.
They moved to Toronto. Fabian pursued his acting career and trained as a pilot. Brigitta worked in a tea room for little pay.
Eventually, after seven years, they packed it in and returned to Switzerland. They have lived there for over five years now.
Time for an UPC (Urgent Phone Call) to Fabian Fabian to find out how they are doing.
Fabian, why on earth did you go back to live in Switzerland after seven years in Canada?
For economic reasons. Acting did not work out. I could not get a good part in a movie. Flying airplanes did not turn out as being romantic as I thought. Neither did I feel like continuing as a martial arts instructor. In the end, Brigitta and I worked for minimum wage in Canada. That’s not fun. And I got a little homesick for Switzerland.
Homesick for Switzerland?
Yes, I missed the cultural variety in Switzerland. To go to a cinema that shows documentaries and other non-mainstream movies, for instance. I missed the old town squares and buildings. And hiking in the Swiss Alps, that kind of thing. I also missed traveling.
Couldn’t you travel in Canada?
It is way more costly to travel there. In Europe, everything is so close. Brigitta and I drive easily and for little money to France, Germany, Austria and Italy. I own together with my brother a small sailboat, which we took from Switzerland to the South of France to sail it in the Mediterranean Sea. In Switzerland, you can earn enough money in a relatively short time so that you can have more leisure time.
What do you work right now?
I am a certified Bikram yoga instructor. Brigitta is the marketing manager of the largest fashion outlet mall in the German part of Switzerland. I do also odd jobs for website design and some video work and photography. I don’t make a lot of money and Zurich is very expensive. Recently I paid 22 Swiss francs for a plate of pasta without salad or drinks. That is normal for food here. To keep costs down, we share an apartment with a roommate and don’t go out often. I buy cheap clothes maybe once a year. That leaves us money for traveling. In Canada, this would not be possible with low paid jobs.
So Europe is not as expensive as we think?
Some things are, like a cinema ticket costs almost 20 Swiss francs in Zurich. But you can travel to countries where costs of living are low.
Do you miss Canada sometimes?
For sure! I miss the friendly people. I am always thrilled when I meet Canadians in Europe. I also miss the nice summers on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia. But the Canadian winters are too dark and too wet and too cold for me. And I miss the freedom I had in Canada.
What do you mean by freedom?
The multicultural society that is so much more positive than in Switzerland. It is a warm, understanding togetherness in Canada. There is so much space and there are still great opportunities.
What advice would you give to Swiss who want to emigrate to Canada?
Don’t go to live in a place in Canada just because the landscape is beautiful. One can get very lonely and isolated in remote areas. Go there for holidays! One should live where the jobs are. In cities, one can earn good money but I came to hate cities because of the pollution, the noise, high prices, business and loneliness. And the job market is fiercely competitive. Personally I think, as an immigrant, it is better to be a self-employed person in Canada.
Will you ever go back to Canada?
I definitely leave that door open. Canada is still an important place for Brigitta and me. When I see Canadian movies like “Revolution” by director Rob Stewart, I feel longing. Since I have come back from Canada, I see Swiss characteristics differently.
Many are so high-handed and self-righteous. Their need to have to be insured against everything is almost neurotic. It would be good for Swiss people to live in other countries. There is a multicultural trend in Switzerland, too, but it is more a shark mentality: The stronger prevails.
Knowing you, you must have plans to travel and do new things. Am I right?
Yes, you are right! We will spend six weeks in Mexico at a cultural center and doing Yoga workshops. And then another three months in Thailand where we will get a training for becoming Thai massage instructors.