Post by Lauren
This Gratitude Friday, my post is both a vocabulary lesson and a story of my appreciation for this new word.
Before moving to Switzerland, my definition of the word “cosmopolitan” consisted of : #1 the pinky yummy martini, #2 the magazine, and #3 maybe an adjective to describe a swanky metropolitan environment.
I realized I was a bit naïve in this area when our cultural trainer Gary kept referring to Geneva as “cosmopolitan”. See, we’d been there just a month prior and I wouldn’t have described it as using the word cosmopolitan, as I knew it. In fact, what came to mind was beautiful, ancient, wordly and a bit ecclectic.
However, thanks to Wikipedia, I learned the proper definition of cosmopolitan is:
–A city/place or person that embraces its multicultural demographics
—World citizen, one who eschews traditional geopolitical divisions derived from national citizenship
—Cosmopolitanism, the idea that all of humanity belongs to a single moral community
–Cosmopolitan Society/Cosmopolitan City, where people of many ethnicities, religions and cultures meet and live in close proximity (especially applied to busy sea ports)
Well, in living in Geneva, I think I would agree with those better than my prior vocabulary.
In fact, Geneva is quite an anomaly compared to the rest of Switzerland. In training, we learned about Swiss stereotypes, how our personalities matched to their customs, and how to adjust our behaviors accordingly. However, Geneva is more “Swiss-light”, with a big influence from France, and an even bigger cosmopolitan influence.
One big reason is the proximity to France and influence of French culture, food, language, and architecture. Fast Fact: the canton of Geneva shares only 4 km of border with Switzerland, but 108 km with France. I read that most Swiss Germans don’t even consider Geneva really part of Switzerland at all!
However, probably the biggest reason is the cosmopolitan nature of Geneva. Based on the numerous humanitarian agencies, world organizations, and corporations headquartered here, 40% of Geneva residents are foreigners. There are people here from all over the world, living, working, and bringing their cultural influences in. Just in my own experiences, there are 40 nationalities represented at my church and 54 at my women’s club. It’s mind boggling!
So, onto Gratitude Friday. I absolutely love this about Geneva: interacting with people from completely different backgrounds as me and the exposure to all of their opinions, interests & beliefs.
Here are just a few specific examples of this :
In my Monday French classes, there is a South African woman, an Ethiopian woman, a Dutch woman, a British woman and me. Our teacher, Esther, is Swiss and was a teenager during WW2 here. All learning French together, we all have different accents and interpretations of words which is really entertaining and Esther considers it her English lesson at the same time.
Last week, Esther asked what the lady from South Africa thought of Nelson Mandela’s leadership, and it was a really neat education for me to hear firsthand from someone who lived there to hear about her own experiences. Prior to living in Geneva, I had never had this opportunity – all I learned was from movies and books.
In my photography group, there are three ladies from the Netherlands, a few Americans, one from the U.K., one from Australia, and one from Brazil. We all bring different things to the table. I really enjoy how much time the women from the Netherlands take to find out how you are doing and to learn about you. I always felt so much in a whirlwind that I am not sure if I have done this enough with people.
Friend and fellow blogger, Lady J, has taught me about Singapore and her time in Japan and I love her passion for her favorite foods and her dedication to bringing those flavors to Geneva in a beautiful way.
At Canadienne Buffets, we have been so lucky to meet great people from China, South Africa & Australia who we really have enjoyed hanging out with and learning about their experiences.
So much to be grateful for this week when it comes to the word cosmopolitan!