Helen Palmer (nice_cup_of_tea) wrote,
Helen Palmer
nice_cup_of_tea

Finding Friends in Foreign Lands

Or, how bookcrossing helped me make Zurich my home.

This week I celebrated my first Bookcrossing Birthday. True to my screen name, I’m sitting down at my laptop with a nice cup of tea and thought I’d reflect on my year with bookcrossing. When I joined in March 2005 I’d been living in Zurich for about a year and was feeling a bit lost. Like so many ex-pats, we’d moved country because my husband’s work had transferred us here. I knew that moving country was going to be hard, I just didn’t realise how hard! Although I was fluent in German, I had trouble understanding Swiss German and without a job, it was hard to make social contact with people or to really make friends.

I stumbled across bookcrossing though crenhov, a fellow expat and since then I haven’t looked back! Bookcrossing gave me a community to belong to and allowed me to make ‘real’ friends, even if we only communicated ‘virtually’! Even though I was still alone in front of my laptop, I was linked to friends all over the world. I joined BCUK (the Yahoo group for UK bookcrossers) and though them kept up with the gossip in England, assuaging my homesickness for "Old Blighty"! Recently, several of these bcuk-ers (aided and abetted by jedsmom and katie1980), realising that I was running out of tea stocks, started secretly sending me boxes of PG Pyramid teabags. My husband was bemused to say the least - I was just grateful!

Since joining bookcrossing I have participated & started many bookrings, traded, rabck-ed and wild released books. I have learnt to really read books again, to rediscover old favourites and meet new authors and genres. Plus, maintaining my bookshelf has dramatically improved my html skills! The biggest change has been that bookcrossing, an internet community, helped me to make real friends in Zurich. And from that point on, my life here in Switzerland has been much more grounded and real. After releasing my first books in Zurich, I got welcome pms from KatColorado and Sunneschii. Shortly afterwards I met KatColorado in Zurich for a nice cup of tea (although it might have been coffee, since cafes here don’t understand the need for boiling water or warming the pot when making a nice cup of tea!) and a friendship was born. I went to meetsups in Café Gloria and made many more friends, including Sunneschii, Dolphus, Sun-beetle, Wildspitz, Scarletbea and many others. The meetups gave me confidence to speak German, to learn to understand Swiss German and to have friends. It felt so nice to walk into a bar “where everyone knows your name”, even if that name is “nice-cup-of-tea”!

I am so grateful to have met this wonderful group of people. We’ve met up outside of bookcrossing, at the Zurich bookclub, in bars, cafes, in-line skating and barbeque-ing! These friends suppport me in improving my German, they've helped me in my job search by checking my cv, but most of all they give me a sense of belonging here in Zurich. The Bookcrossing community seems to be well suited to linking to other websites. We get to know each other as bookcrossers and we then reach out and connect with each other on sites such as www.livejournal.com and www.43things.com. And I love it!

A final thought. I just checked the list of bookcrossers who are participating in my
1st Bookcrossing Birthday “Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down” Bookring. At the last count there were 28 participants, many of whom are old bookcrossing friends and some of whom share a tea related bookcrossing name with me! There are friends from the UK, USA, Australia, Switzerland, Malaysia, France and Canada. Truly international, truly wonderful!

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Tags: bxing, writing
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