HAVING TOO MUCH TIME ON YOUR HANDS – FINDING MEANINGFUL THINGS TO DO
by Maria Alice Stock of Bonjour Geneva – a coach for expats.
When you first arrive in Geneva, you may find yourself in a situation of having too much time on your hands, especially if you came for your partner’s career and don’t have a job yourself at the moment.
If you are planning to stay for a short term, you may find you can’t really settle either but you also can’t simply put your whole life on hold.
So, what do you do?
What can you do to occupy your time in a meaningful way?
Our society values being busy. Needing extra hours in a day is almost default, to the point you may feel guilty for having extra time to do whatever you want.
Don’t give in to that feeling. Your worth is not measured by how packed your schedule is. Time off is essential to be creative and see things that were right there under your nose but you were too busy to notice.
As much as I understand that you need to get out of the house and interact with other people to stay sane, make sure to use your time to do things that do you good, not just for the sake of being busy.
Here are a few suggestions based on my own experience and that of friends and clients who have been through this:
1. STROLL AROUND TO FALL IN LOVE WITH GENEVA
I have my own method for falling in love with a city and it involves a great deal of strolling and reading in public spaces. Pick a book that had been on your list for a long time, or perhaps a new release you are very curious about and indulge yourself in daily guilt-free reading sessions.
Because you will have a book with you, you won’t feel too self-conscious sitting there at the park as retirees, parents with strollers and joggers pass by. And let’s be honest, reading is not a top priority to most of us, despite our best intentions, so this is the perfect opportunity to catch up on that front. It is also a fantastic way to escape homesickness for a moment.
When I arrived in Geneva, it was spring. I would sit at Jardin Botanique and read on the bench near the pond. Over a decade later, it is a cherished memory, blending the book plot, the setting where I read it, the longing for my family and friends and the excitement of starting a new chapter in my life, plus the joyful oddness of being able to read all morning on a weekday.
During the winter, you can undertake a favorite local café quest (Starbucks doesn’t count!). Start with the ones in your neighborhood and move towards the city center, or the other way around. Reward yourself with a carac (chocolate tart covered with green fondant), one of my favorite local delicacies.
Another idea that fits every budget is visiting public libraries. They all have at least one reading room where you can sit quietly to read (or write, if you’re that type, like me). Many have a section with books in other languages, including English. And you get to see different parts of the city too if you undertake a Geneva public library tour.
2. LEARN FRENCH
Even if you don’t expect to be here long, learning a bit of French can make your life easier. Being able to communicate in everyday situations helps to shake off that feeling of being an alien toddler who can only use gestures and a few sparse words.
Taking French lessons gives you an excuse to get out of the house and helps you establish a new routine, which is particularly important if you are not working at the moment.
Additionally, it is a way of meeting new people, who are likely to be in a situation similar to yours, and potentially make new friends.
I already spoke French when I arrived, so I decided to take Italian lessons instead. My lessons took place in the old town, and I loved having an excuse to walk up and down those meandering streets before and/or after the class.
And who knows? Perhaps what was supposed to be a temporary posting will become your permanent home. Many of my long-time friends in Geneva actually came for a 2-year contract or for a masters degree and ended up staying.
Learning French is a way of not quite putting your life “on hold” if the reason you came is your partner’s career. It will also help you fill that infamous “career gap” in your CV.
There are so many opportunities, you are sure to find a way to be of service to other people, make new friends, apply your skills or learn new ones.
Most festivals and sports events in Geneva rely on volunteers to function. Some of them launch an “appel aux bénévoles”, but if you’re interested in one that does not have information about volunteering on its website, don’t be shy and contact the organizers.
CAGI also publishes volunteering opportunities on its website. Usually, these are administrative-related jobs for nonprofit organizations.
Here are a few other places where you can volunteer:
Finally, you may also want to join Bonjour Geneva events. I host regular workshops and networking events for people experiencing the challenge of reinventing themselves following relocation and/or an extended parenting break.
Each time we work on a different topic, ranging from reclaim ownership of your schedule to making sense of an atypical professional path. We work in small groups, in an environment of trust where you can have meaningful conversations.
Maria Alice Stock
Interested in reading more inspiring articles by Maria? See below for some other current articles she wrote.