Julie Normand, Embassy of Canada

Find out how Julie describes the Bernese take on life, which famous Swiss she was most impressed by, and which toboggan run she is still desperate to try out.

Article published in the info letter January 2021

Julie Normand

Julie Normand...

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

… is the Counsellor and Consul at the Embassy of Canada to Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein. Before being posted to Bern, she worked in Santiago, Chile, where she was responsible for consular affairs and emergency management, and therefore had to deal with many natural disasters (earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, fires, etc.).

… has been living in Bern since August 2016. She was scheduled to leave in summer 2020, but all the staff stayed put due to COVID (she admits though that she was really happy to stay one more year).

… is passionate about travelling. When she is not planning her next weekend (and she uses all her weekends to discover new places!), she reads all the books that can be found. Being a very energetic person, Julie likes practicing sports, mainly outdoor. She loves hiking, skiing, tobogganing, swimming and biking. During the semi-lockdown, she biked the 22km back and forth to work every day.

10 Questions to Julie Normand

What are you responsible for?

Being the head of the administration and the consular section, 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 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 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 in May 2019. It has not only organized a series of events, but was also a key player during the current crisis: Since March 2020, 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 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 politicians 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 take a swim in the river crossing the city.

  • I appreciate very much the various festivals taking place in the street of Bern, like the Buskers Bern, Christmas and the Onion market to name but a few. During summer, the pop-up bars, the Münsterplattform and the numerous swimming pools around town are great places to be!

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 their work-life balance very seriously. 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 we 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 all 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 return to Appenzell and being able to admire one more time the Matterhorn, a majestic peak. And I still have 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 various rescue operations and the making of the James Bond movie "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" which was filmed in Switzerland.

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

Princess Tomas-Tayao from the Embassy of the Philippines.