"I am 100 percent Swiss cheese," laughs Sandra Herzog introducing herself. She goes on to explain that as a typical Swiss she rather spend time at home than anywhere else. The 24-year-old who grew up in Hünenberg and still lives there today is the brains behind the meet-up group Meeting New Friends in Zug, which she started on her own initiative 3 years ago and runs alongside her full-time job.
The idea is to show newcomers around the canton, share local traditions and connect them with others from all over the world who have similarly decided to make Zug their new home. As the administrator, Sandra plans various events, which participants can join for free. Spanning more than 1500 members, Sandra’s gatherings are one of the most sought-after in Zug. Pre-pandemic she had held more than 120 meet-ups, which included after-work drinks, outdoor tours and participating in various cultural events such as the annual Chrööpfelimee or Jazz Night Zug.
We ask her where she drew inspiration from? Sandra shares how a 3-month-long language stay in Vancouver back in 2016 sparked her passion. Upon her return, she had wanted to maintain contact with an international crowd and keep practicing her English. She recalls her first event with a group of 12 at Mr. Pickwick Pub. “It was nerve-wracking. I didn’t know how many people would actually come nor what to expect. Long story short, it was a great evening with fantastic conversations.”
How much her initiative has resonated with people came as a real surprise. "In a society that’s becoming more and more anonymous, the need for social contact outside the workplace is evidently great," she says, adding, "I want to contribute to an open, tolerant and open-minded world." The groups are very intercultural and span all age groups. To her delight, more and more locals are attending as well. Besides, many friendships and even the occasional romantic entanglement have already grown as a result of her meet-ups, which she feels is the greatest reward.
Aside from the occasional online get-together, the pandemic has meant that Sandra has had to put her meet-ups on hold. “I have missed it very much and hope to return soon. I have a lot of ideas!” True to her spirit, she nowadays dedicates her spare time to her new podcast. “My goal is to build a bridge between locals and new expats. I think it is important that if you live in Switzerland, you get acquainted with the country.” The podcast combines general and insider information about Switzerland, bitesize Swiss German lessons, interviews with expats and much more.