Interview with Ernst: “I am without any roots”

janna and ernst in their home

An interview with Janna Müller-Odetti and Ernst Müller. Topic: “Home”. It was a hot summer day in Switzerland. Normally tourists are coming to Schaffhausen to see the waterfall, that is supposed to be the biggest in Europe. But we were visiting the parents of Claudia, who are living in this lovely town. After lunch and an Italian espresso, we sat down in the shade and talked.

Editorial note: All photos in this post are shot by Sven Driesen. For full-size title photo scroll all the way down.


What is home for you?

Janna: Home is where you were born, the culture that you take with you and the people that you know. They have an influence on each person, I think.
Ernst: I have another definition of home. For me it’s not the place where I was born but wherever I feel comfortable with my relatives.

How big is the influence of what you call “home” on a daily basis?

Ernst: 100 %. When I am here and my relatives are here then I feel at home, happy and cheerful.
Janna: I have a different opinion. I was born in another country and now live abroad. I have taken my language, the culture, some habits and also the Italian lifestyle with me. Of course, I had to adapt, but what I took with me stays and partly has an influence on my life and my relatives.

So home is more the place where you were born?

Janna: Yes, I think.

janna and ernst in their garden

Do you say this, because you live somewhere else now?

Janna: Home has different meanings. If I speak of home as the country I was born I think of its politics, its government, and all these things. If I speak of home as the place I was born, I think of a house, the surroundings, the culture, the language, the region.
Ernst: For me, home is not the place where I was born and spent my first years as a child. I feel better in Schaffhausen than in Löhningen, where I was born.

If we’re not mistaken you were born much nearer to this house than your wife who came here from Genova.

Ernst: I felt at home also in Genova, although I would not say that it is my home.

Why not?

Ernst: Because I am used to a certain standard in Switzerland. Here you have a good life without big problems. However, I would not say that I am here because of my roots. I am without any roots.

Your roots are here, aren’t they?

Ernst: Yes but they could also be somewhere else.

We’re confused. You said you are used to the life here but also that Genova can’t be your home. And then that you don’t have any roots anywhere.

Ernst: Perhaps I don’t really feel them or I am not conscious of them.
Janna: He never thought about it.
Ernst: Well, when I was young I traveled a lot in Europe and I never thought about Löhningen.

Perhaps not Löhningen. What about Switzerland?

Ernst: I would say so, yes. At the end of the day, home is Switzerland. But I always had the feeling I could also get used to another place. I think I am a quite flexible person. That can also be a disadvantage sometimes.
Janna: I also adapted. Sometimes it’s hard but it’s possible. I saw things in another country that I did not like. Or actually still don’t like. But rationally I tell myself: I am here and I get used to it. But I would not say that Switzerland is my home. I feel quite good here, perhaps even better than in Italy in many ways.

Do you think that adapting to a new life is a conscious process?

Janna: Sure.

Did you notice many differences between Switzerland and Italy when you moved here?

Janna: Sure. Because I experienced them. And if I would go to another country I would notice again other differences. When I was in Germany I saw things I did not like there. Similar to those I did not like in Italy.

Is Switzerland a compromise between Germany and Italy for you?

Janna: Perhaps. In Germany, I started to defend my home country. Before, I was only busy with criticizing Italy. Because I saw a lifestyle I did not like. And they criticized Italy and I said: You don’t know my country. I can criticize but you shut up if you don’t really know it.

janna and ernst in their garden

About Ernst

Place of birth: Löhningen, Schaffhausen
Parents: Ernst Senior Müller-Walter, Alice Müller-Walter
Siblings: Peter Müller (agriculturalist)
Study/Learned profession: Controller, now retired
Age: 69
Nationality: CH/I
Relationship status: married for 42 years  with Janna
Romantic or realistic? Realistic
How many Facebook friends do you have? I am not existing on Facebook
Adventure or Stability? Stability
Coffee/Tea: Coffee
My favorite spot in Amsterdam: Amsterdam Arena, although I have never been there. But I am sure it would be my favorite place.
If I were a bitterbal I’d be filled with…Baileys

About Janna

Place of birth: Genova, Italy
Parents: Giuseppe Odetti, Angelina Odetti
Siblings: Francesco Odetti
Study/Learned profession: Teacher/Translator (Italian and German language studies), retired but can’t help to keep working!
Age: 70
Nationality: I/CH
Relationship status: married for 42 years with Ernst
Romantic or realistic? Realistic
How many Facebook friends do you have? None, I am not on Facebook and don’t want to be
Adventure or Stability? Stability
Coffee/Tea: Coffee
My favorite spot in Amsterdam: Vondelpark
If I were a bitterbal I’d be filled with…cheese

janna and ernst on sofa