Balu is the kind of expat you always imagine: he lives in Baar, but is rarely found there. Due to his job as a sales manager at an international company, he is almost never at home. Although he’s now been in Switzerland for a good five years, he doesn't speak German. The travelling is to blame, he says apologetically. Learning the language is one of his resolutions for this year. The second is not to fly as often - and to therefore spend more time here, he says confidently and convincingly, accompanied by a charming smile.
The 32-year-old Indian, whose full name is Balu Mahendra Challagundla, talks about his eventful life. He starts by explaining his unusual name. He was indeed named after the bear Balu from “The Jungle Book”. "My father is a big fan of this character," he says - and the ice is broken. It was also his father who motivated him to discover the world.
He grew up in the Indian capital Delhi, with a multicultural background. His mother comes from a different Indian state than his father, and the two do not have the same mother tongue. “I speak three Indian languages. So I’m quite used to learning a language,” he says. One more reason to start learning German.
He has coped well with English so far, and some of his closest friends are Swiss, he assures us. Many anecdotes of funny celebrations and adventures that he experienced come to mind. He thinks Zug is great - you can get everywhere very quickly, and he loves nature above all. There are three things he has learned since arriving in Switzerland: paragliding, downhill biking and swimming. "I've only been able to swim since last summer," explains Balu. There was no infrastructure for it when he was a child in India. "Now I swim in every puddle," says the entertaining young man.
Balu Mahendra Challagundla on Lake Zug.
He has also jumped from Zugerberg with a paraglider, and Zug's local mountain is his favourite place. When he has a day off, he likes to run from Baar to Unterägeri via the Zugerberg, stop for lunch there and then hike back to the Zugerberg. He then stays there until it gets dark: "A glass of wine and the view of the wonderful landscape from the Zugerberg, there’s nothing better", he enthuses
He also tells his friends and family at home about this. "They think it's especially great that I live in a 'bar'," he jokes. He has had problems getting used to one or the other thing abroad, however. This includes the strict shop opening hours. "In India, you can buy a car in the middle of the night if you want." But he's also learned that the Swiss find it important to have a lot of time for themselves and the family.
He speaks of a real ‘culture shock’ when he talks about his first experience with carbonated water. "I bought a bottle of water and took a big sip." He was totally shocked. “There’s only still water in India.” Mineral water is now his favourite thirst quencher.
He likes it here, but Balu doesn't know whether he will stay long. "Spontaneity is my motto in life," he says, and continues: "Maybe I'll stay here forever, but probably not."
In the “New in Zug” series, the “Zuger Zeitung” portrays expats and newcomers. The contacts were provided by Sandra Herzog, founder of the meet-up group "Meeting new friends in Zug".