Switzerland is known for its neutrality. The small Alpine nation was also neutral when Eugene O’Sullivan and his British wife decided where to raise the family.
“It made sense that we would go to a neutral country in terms of where we could build a life together,” said O’Sullivan, who grew up in Greystones, Co Wicklow. The couple now lives outside Geneva, where he works for himself as a communications consultant with a passion for music. They first met in a bar in Paris where he was performing.
“In 2002, I decided to start my guitar and have a great year as a musician,” says O’Sullivan. Before that, 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.
Finding it difficult to settle down in RTÉ afterward, he decided to give the music a chance, make a demo CD and hit the road.
“In Paris, I used to play in a different Irish pub every night of the week,” O’Sullivan recalls. From there he sang on cruise ships in the Baltic Sea and in taverns in Copenhagen and Berlin before touring the United States.
“I learned a lot. I met the woman who is now my wife, and I knew that I love Europe, and I was drawn to Europe.”
You also know that music as a full-time party can be challenging.
“You have to work hard, and then you need luck, otherwise it becomes a real handicap. If you like music, I think the best advice is to find something else that you can do to earn a living so that you remain in love with music.”
Skiing and cycling
After returning to Switzerland in 2004 to play a role in the media sector, O’Sullivan and his now wife spent five years in Geneva. “We had a great time skiing and biking through the vineyards.”
This came after a new spell for the couple in Amsterdam before they decided that Switzerland could be their home.
“The Netherlands was not going to work because you could never learn the language. It is impossible for parents to speak to you in Dutch at the school gate, because their English is a million times better than your Dutch. I think you cannot fully integrate into a country if you cannot participate.” . These informal conversations are in the local language. ”
Switzerland was a place where they had mutual friends and job 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 international Geneva community, but we have children here at the local school and we have some Swiss friends and we are doing our best to participate in the local life.” “It feels like a real home,” says O’Sullivan.
They don’t call themselves expatriates. “I would like my children to grow up to support the Swiss soccer team. International schools teach a large group of children from an international perspective, but that is not what we wanted.”
“One of the things that attract people to live here is the good life – expensive watches, luxury cars, and luxury ski resorts, but I’m not. What I love is the way democracy works and the way society is built.”
He says taxes are partly paid to the local village, partly to the canton and county, 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 deprived of their rights, and they feel 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 hours of work. “I usually have the freedom to go home or help the kids in Ireland and have time for other music and sporting projects.”
One of these projects was writing Moi Aussi, a song he had to write for a Swiss charity founded by an Irish woman who lived there to encourage the social integration of people with Down syndrome. He says the title can mean “me too,” “me too,” or “just like you.”
A music video for families to sync with the song released on World Down Syndrome Day in March with tens of thousands of posts. He has heard that schools in France and Canada are using them to teach inclusion. “The dream is that children in the first or second grade have the right to pass by to learn this song.”
And the message has more resonance. “Usually I would sing in bars and concerts, and then people used to come to me and say, ‘That song really touched me – it’s about immigrants, isn’t it? Or is it related to fear, is it not? ‘not this?’ 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 economics as little more than public health. The country borders five other countries and many health workers cross the border into Switzerland to work every day.
We had no geographic restrictions whatsoever. Schools are only closed for seven weeks; Everyone worked from home. I felt it was easier psychologically. Who says who is wrong and who is right. Baalbeck. ”
He says Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, which made watching a Brexit interesting.
“It is strange that we will live outside the European Union, but I do not feel less European here. We may be more integrated into the European Union than the British realize. There are trade agreements, so most of the rules apply in the European Union. In Switzerland.
As for all the rules that Brexit supporters have been concerned about, these rules also apply in Switzerland. This is not without controversy here. ”