The building work for a new retirement home in our village was finally finished at the end of last year.
One wing of the building houses the new locally-funded nursery school (known in German-speaking Switzerland as KITA - ‘Kindertagesstätte’). After two years on the waiting list, our older daughter Xiyan got a place in it.
The new KITA is very nice indeed. It has large, bright rooms and a huge garden with a fountain to play with in summer. All the furniture and toys are brand new. Just next door there is a well-maintained playground with all mod cons.
The whole setting feels generous and well thought through. A friend of ours peeked in through the widow of the KITA before it opened and exclaimed: ‘o-ho, they didn’t save money!’
All the staff at the KITA are female. This would probably be the same in China. But this is as far as the similarities go.
Certain things immediately stand out for someone who grew up in China: firstly, a lot of grown-ups are looking after very few children. Secondly, the children have to brush their teeth after lunch. And thirdly, they don’t have to sleep at midday.
I remember when I was at nursery age. Everyone had to sleep after lunch. Although I was never tired, I still had to lie down with my eyes closed.
Our daughter Xiyan is also very energetic, and doesn’t like to sleep during the day. When she goes to KITA, she is allowed to play or read books while some of the other children take a nap.
Before we got a place for her, I sometimes saw children from another KITA playing on the playground. To me, the staff seemed to neatly fulfill the Swiss stereotype - always very serious, strict and rule-bound.
I worried if KITA would be a good place for our child, probably because I would have expected nursery teachers to be more bubbly and emotionally engaging. However, since our daughter joined, I’ve come to realise that they really are extremely nice with the children - and also very professional.
Xiyan loves this place. She is evidently having great fun playing with the other children - and yes, following all the special KITA rules and rituals.
She also eats lots of healthy food - although she is not a fussy eater, at home she would never touch some of it. Sometimes when we pick her up, she even cries because she would like to stay longer.
After only two months, with all her lovely personality intact, Xiyan has become much more fluent in Swiss German, and much more polite and independent. Best of all, she has made lots of new friends.
I feel that in Switzerland the standards for nursery school are quite high. To get a place for your child is not so easy, however.
Only because the KITA in our village was recently extended were we able to get a place which is so close to home and also affordable. We wholeheartedly enjoy our good fortune - and are very happy to pay our tax bill!