The International Community

Do you know the international community in Bern? As part of our new feature, one individual from the international community will be introduced per info letter. Don't hesitate to get in touch with each other!

April 2021

Princess Tomas-Tayao, First Secretary and Consul at the Embassy of the Philippines

In this photo, I am wearing the national costume of the Philippines for women, the barò at sáya (dress and long skirt).

Photo courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. Abner & Jennifer Sto. Domingo

I am...

... from a town in the province of Bulacan located just north of Manila, Philippines. 

... the First Secretary and Consul at the Embassy of the Philippines.

... in Switzerland since June 2017. Before coming to Switzerland, I was in Manila, assuming the position of Director in the Asian and Pacific Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

... am passionate about visiting places and taking photos. I used to take the train a lot to go hiking or visiting friends. After a busy work day, I also love to walk in the city or along the Aare, or to sit in a corner somewhere in a park with a book, a cup of coffee or a drink, meet a friend, or just watch people go by. I like observing how people interact or do their everyday business. It makes you understand them better.

 

10 Questions to Princess Tomas-Tayao

What are you responsible for?

I handle economic matters at the embassy as well as consular matters. My work involves monitoring developments and having meetings with concerned officials, among others. As a consular officer, I handle passport matters and dual citizenship concerns, above all. Every day is a busy day, and it is even busier these days!

Which projects are you most excited about right now?

Given the limited engagements during this pandemic, I am looking forward to attending online activities on important issues. While this does not replace physical interaction, virtual meetings are the best alternative. This way we stay up to date regarding developments in the Philippines and elsewhere.

When you arrived in Bern, what were you most surprised by?

Its quiet Sundays! Back home and where I have been in Asia, Sundays are often bustling. People are everywhere, in restaurants, parks, malls, or in someone’s home visiting or celebrating an occasion. During Sundays here, the Bernese are often out of the city and so the city streets are always quiet. They are in the mountains exploring nature, swimming in the river or riding their infloatable boats, especially during summer.

What do you appreciate about Bern?

Its calmness and proximity to nature. Everything and everywhere seems peaceful and organized here. I also appreciate the public transportation for its efficiency and dependability.

Is there anything you would change about Bern?

Maybe its quiet Sundays, but then again, it is part of the Bernese and the Swiss culture. Sundays would always be quiet, and reserved for families and private events. And I respect that a lot.

Tell us about your favourite place in Bern.

Rosengarten. From there, you have a beautiful view of the city, the Aare, the church towers, and the green surroundings of Bern. From there you can also watch the sunset. It makes you admire Bern even more. In summer or on a bright day, you could also bring a mat, have picnic there or simply enjoy the sun.

How would you describe the "Bernese attitude to life"?

Balanced and organized. I appreciate how the Bernese take work-life-balance seriously and to heart. It is something I could learn from! Bernese, and the Swiss in general, are very organized and on time. Even coffee time with friends have to be organized way ahead of schedule!

What do you already know you will miss when you leave Bern?

Everything! Bern has a certain charm that will remain in my memory. Also, its calmness, its clean surroundings, its tram, its comfort. Name it. Having said tram, I would miss the SBB Mobile app! It is so convenient!

What is on your “to-do list” before you move on?

There are many more mountains to hike and cantons to visit! I should also check out the Swiss Grand Tour spots.

Who would you like to hear from next?

Mr. William Jesse “Bill” Longhurst, Minister at the British Embassy.

Thank you!

Salamat din! (Thank you too!)

January 2021

Julie Normand, Counsellor and Consul at the Embassy of Canada

I am...

… originally from Louiseville, a small town in the Canadian province of Quebec.

… currently Counsellor and Consul at the Embassy of Canada to Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein. Before being posted to Bern, I was Vice-Consul at the Embassy of Canada in Santiago, Chile, where I was responsible for consular affairs and emergency management and where I had to deal with many natural disasters (earthquake, landslide, volcanic eruption, fires etc.).

… in Bern since August 2016. I was scheduled to leave during summer 2020 but due to COVID we all stayed put. I have to admit I was really happy to hear I could stay an extra year!

… passionate about travelling. When I am not planning my next vacation or week-end, I read all the books I can find. As I have a lot of energy, I channel it through sports, mainly outdoor. I love hiking, skiing, tobogganing, swimming, biking, etc. During the semi-lockdown, I biked the 22km back and forth to work every day.

 

10 Questions to Julie Normand

What are you responsible for?

As the head of the administration and the consular program, there is never a dull moment! I am in charge of HR, finance, property, IT, emergency management and consular affairs. I particularly like helping fellow Canadians living, working or travelling to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Before COVID hit us, I used to do outreach trips to the different cantons to meet local authorities in order to be better prepared in case of emergencies or issues affecting Canadians. This was always a highlight.

Which projects are you most excited about right now?

  • World Economic Forum: Usually at this time of the year, I am working full time on WEF preparation, ensuring the logistics for the Canadian delegation.

  • Greening Embassies Network: Canada is amongst the eight countries behind this greening initiative (Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United States, United Kingdom) in collaboration with the City of Bern. While the pandemic has slowed the official launching of the Network, we continue to virtually meet and think green in all of our actions. We hope many countries will join us so we can reduce the collective environmental impact of the diplomatic community in Bern. Stay tuned!

  • Consular Corps: Along with amazing colleagues, the Consular Corps of Berne was created last May 2019. It has not only organized a series of events but was also a key player during the current crisis: Since March, the Steering Committee of the Consular Corps has been acting as a channel between the Swiss authorities and the consular communities. It has proved to be a great network to share information and best practices.

When you arrived in Bern, what were you most surprised by?

I arrived in August and was first surprised to see so many people in bathing suits, or suit and tie walking around town with waterproof bags. From young students to older folks, from federal worker to families, they all seemed to be heading to the same place. I soon found out they were all going to take a dip in the Aare…and I followed the movement.

What do you appreciate about Bern?

  • Its quality of life. Nature is at its doorsteps. I enjoy being able to bike everywhere, wander in the Dählhölzli forest at lunch time (particularly the zoo area) or be able to take a swim in the river crossing the city.

  • I also very much appreciate the various festivals taking place in the street of Bern, particularly the Buskers Bern, Christmas and Onion market to name but a few.

  • Pop up bars during summer, the Münsterplattform and the numerous swimming pools around town.

May you tell us about your favourite place(s) in Bern?

Definitely the Aare. I am an avid swimmer and take every opportunity to go down the river as early as May until the end of September. I am such an Aare lover that I bought the poster made by a Bernese Artist Kaspar Allenback called Aareschwumm Bärn. This will follow me everywhere in the world as a great souvenir of my posting here. And the best tool to use is the Aare guru app! Everyone should have it on its phone.

How would you describe the "Bernese attitude to life"?

In two words: laid back. I appreciate that the Bernese take very seriously the balance between their work and personal life. They are easy going, not complicated.

What do you already know you will miss when you leave Bern?

Schweizmobil! An App that includes the 65000 km of hiking/biking paths in the country. We have done parts of it but will need to come back to finish the rest. I will also miss the numerous ski resorts, the mountains, the cable cars/train/funiculars, the lakes and the cows!!

My kids will miss the cheese and chocolate. They are already asking if we could bring some in our shipping container!

What is on your "to-do-list" before you move on?

We had the opportunity to discover the 26 cantons and I had many "Coup de Coeur" so it will be hard to go back to all of them. I am hoping to go one more time to Appenzell. I hope to also be able to admire one more time the Matterhorn, a majestic peak. I also have yet to enjoy the longest sledging slope in Europe (Bussalp)!

Which was one of the most significant encounters during your stay in Switzerland?

I will always remember the very warm welcome of Mr. Bruno Bagnoud, Founder and Président d'honneur d'Air-Glaciers. I visited their facilities in Sion and Mr. Bagnoud had many great stories to tell notably on the making-off of the James Bond movies "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" which was filmed in Switzerland and various rescue operations.

Who would you like to hear from in the next info letter?

Princess Tomas Tayao, First Secretary at the Embassy of the Philippines.