Switzerland is known for its neutrality. The small Alpine country was also neutral when Eogan O’Sullivan and his British wife decided where to raise the family.
“It made sense that we were going to a neutral country in terms of a place where we could build a life together,” said O’Sullivan, who grew up in Greystones, Co Wicklow. The couple now live outside Geneva where they work for themselves as a communication consultant with a passion for music. They met for the first time in a Parisian bar where he was performing.
“In 2002, I decided to start with my guitar and have a great year as a musician,” says O’Sullivan. Previously, he was part of the team that founded Lyric FM at RTÉ in 1999. He also spent a year in Switzerland on a scholarship to study broadcast management.
After struggling to relocate to RTÉ afterwards, he decided to give music a chance, made a demo CD and hit the road.
“In Paris, I played in a different Irish pub every night of the week,” recalls O’Sullivan. From there he sang on cruise ships in the Baltic and in taverns in Copenhagen and Berlin before crossing over to the United States.
“I learned a lot. I met the woman who is now my wife, and I knew I loved Europe, and I was drawn to Europe.
He’s also learned that music as a full-time party can be a challenge.
“You have to work hard, then you need luck, otherwise it will become a real drag. If you love music, I think the best advice is to find something else you can do for a living and stay in love with music. ”
Skiing and cycling
Returning to Switzerland in 2004 to play a role in the media sector, O’Sullivan and his wife have now spent five years in Geneva. “We had a great time skiing and cycling through the vineyards.”
It follows a new spell for the couple in Amsterdam before deciding that Switzerland could be their home.
“The Netherlands did not go to work because you can never learn the language. It is impossible for parents to speak Dutch to you at the school gate because their English is a million times better than your Dutch. I think you can’t fully integrate into a country if you can’t participate. These informal conversations are in the local language. ”
Switzerland was a place where they had mutual friends and career opportunities, and they were more likely to be locals. Shortly after their return, their son was born and they bought a house between Geneva and Lausanne.
“We have friends who are part of the Geneva international community, but we have children here at the local school and we have Swiss friends and we do our best to get involved in local life. You really feel at home, ”says O’Sullivan.
They don’t call themselves expatriates. “I would like my children to grow up to support the Swiss football team. International schools teach a large group of kids with an international perspective, but that’s not what we wanted.
“One of the things that attracts people to living here is the sweetness of life – expensive watches, fancy cars and fancy ski resorts, but I’m not. What I like is the way democracy works and the way society is built.
He says that taxes are paid partly to the local village, partly to the township, to the district and partly to the federal government. While things can happen slowly, it is also done democratically and many decisions are made locally. “Things work and people feel disenfranchised and invested in their local community. I think you feel more in control of your life here.
Music and sports
By working for himself, he can choose his clients and his working hours. “Normally I have the freedom to come home or help the children in Ireland and have time for other musical and sporting projects.”
One of those projects was the writing of Moi aussi, a song he had to write for a Swiss charity founded by an Irish woman who lives there to encourage the integration of people with Down’s syndrome into society. The title could mean “me too,” “me too,” or “just like you,” he says.
A music video of families in lip sync with the song released on World Down Syndrome Day in March has emerged with tens of thousands of re-engagements. He has heard that schools in France and Canada are using them to teach inclusion. “The dream is that the children of first or second grade have the right of way to learn this song.”
And the message resonates even more. “Normally I would sing in bars and concerts, and after that people would come to me and say, ‘This song really touched me – it’s about immigrants, isn’t it? Or it’s a matter of fear, isn’t it? ‘It’s not that?’ The message says: “I also exist, do not exclude myself from society”.
Compared to Ireland’s response to the pandemic, he says the Swiss may have preferred the economy a little more than public health. The country borders on five other countries and many health workers cross the Swiss border to work every day.
“We never had geographic restrictions; schools only closed for seven weeks; everyone worked from home. I felt it was easier psychologically. Who says who is wrong and who is right. I can not say it.”
He says Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, which made Brexit interesting.
“It’s strange that we live outside the European Union, but I don’t feel less European here. We are perhaps more integrated into the European Union than the British realize. There are trade agreements, so most EU rules apply. in Swiss.
As with all the rules that worried Brexit supporters, these rules also apply in Switzerland. It is not without controversy here. ”