Recolating: Look Before You Leap!, Swisspreneur Podcast
Relocating: Look Before You Leap!

Sara de Sousa

Oct 3, 2021
minute read

Is relocating on your bucket list, but uprooting seems too overwhelming? Starting your own business abroad is not without its challenges. Iva Kabosch’s wanderlust carried her around the globe, and now she is a business founder in Switzerland. Read on to see how Iva took the plunge — and changed her life forever.

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

Alan Watts

Leaving your home to find a new one abroad may just be one of the most terrifying choices to make in life. Curiously enough, it can also revolutionize your entrepreneurial dreams.

Iva Kabosch knows it all too well. Taking the leap can be intimidating, but with a can-do attitude, the right planning, and a pinch of good fortune, it can truly turn your life around. Having uprooted her own life, Iva now connects with fellow expats and shares their inspiring stories on Exlander, a podcast about expat experiences from all walks of life. With her vast experience in language teaching, Iva also provides language coaching services to those wanting to take their English and German to the next level. Today, Iva tells us the story of her big leap, and what you need to know before deciding.


Languages have always been a passion for Iva. A native speaker of Czech, she soon mastered English and German. By the age of 17, she was already tutoring fellow students for their Maturita exams!

Iva’s international endeavors took off in 2011, when she participated in an Erasmus programme at UZH as an English and American Studies student of the Charles University of Prague. Life took its course for Iva: after finishing her Master’s and meeting her Swiss husband, Switzerland soon became her new home. 

Switzerland is known for its forgiving tax rates and appealing markets, but shaping a sustainable career from scratch as a foreigner is no easy feat. At first, Iva struggled to make ends meet as she juggled her many teaching jobs, fear of rejection and clashing cultural expectations. What had become of that oh-so-praised independence?

Overcoming adversity is something all entrepreneurs learn along the way, but this doesn’t make the hustle any less scary. Despite Iva’s natural affinity, language teaching positions are especially tricky for non-native speakers, since they are often rejected on principle. However, the linguistic community agrees teachers from ESL backgrounds are perfectly qualified and hold many advantages under their belt. To give just one example, the fact that they were once learners themselves allows for a “been-there” understanding of the acquisition process, and consequently a more relatable experience for learners.

Cultural expectations are yet another bridge to cross when building a business from the ground up. Christina Kehl, head of the Swiss Finance Startup organization, mentions how Switzerland still needs some improvement on embracing mistakes in work culture:

"We demand pioneers but no interruptions in corporate CVs; we want hits without the flops; entrepreneurs, but no failures . . . . Mistakes, failures, trial and error are the nuts and bolts of innovation. The old adage «You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs» is more true today than ever before . . . . This is the widely-praised «culture of failure» that Switzerland desperately needs!"

Kehl in “Switzerland’s Inept Culture of Failure” (2017)

Language learning isn’t any different. In his conversation with The Local CH, chemist and fellow expat Tom Smith explained his approach to learning Swiss German: don’t overthink, just keep talking. Interestingly, language learning and entrepreneurship are not as different as one would expect! If an obstacle is leaving you at your wit’s end, try applying the same principles to your company’s projects: 

  • Consistency always takes the gold. Small steps build up to great achievements. 
  • Communication is key to thriving.
  • Struggling is not only natural, but absolutely crucial to growth. You are the one shaping your own definition of success.

Despite some challenges along the way, Iva managed to stay optimistic, and that positive outlook definitely paid off! Before founding her business in April 2021, her skills and natural curiosity took her around the globe, collaborating with institutions like the AUM and the European Parliament, and even representing Cambridge University Press in the Swiss sphere. Now, she holds a part-time position at UZH as an Administrative Assistant, while nurturing her own enterprise as a language coach and podcast host. What a journey this has been!

Finding your voice

Iva’s Exlander project started out as any lockdown hobby, but she soon realized her vision was much larger than that. Talking about her struggles and joys sure was reassuring, but it also had the potential to build a community where others could find comfort and inspiration. For every struggle you encounter, relying on others who’ve walked that path before can take a weight off your shoulders. Many people wished to tell their stories, so Iva was quick on building her own setup and getting down to business!

Exlander wants to express the rich diversity of expat life, so every story on the show is unique. During our conversation, Iva highlighted two remarkable guests. Vladimir Dzuro is a criminal investigator, author and chief at the NY headquarters of the United Nations’ Office of Internal Oversight Services. His work The Investigator: Demons of the Balkan War brings awareness to the horrors of civilian massacres in former Yugoslavia and the importance of cultural memory. Chris J. Reed is a B2B expert rocking the Singaporean marketing stage with his firm Black Marketing — all of this sporting entrepreneurship’s most iconic mohawk!

Lessons learned 

We can all agree expatriation is a deeply private experience. It has the power to redefine your definition of home, broaden your perceptions and truly make your self-employment dreams skyrocket. If that itch for change just won’t go away, Iva has some lessons to share: 

  • Check in with your emotional foundations. For some, being far away from their family proves too much to bear. Stepping out of your community means accepting harsh moments of solitude, uncertainty and sorrow. Take your time before making any lasting decisions.
  • Make an effort to learn the local language. This will greatly reduce the “expat bubble” feeling and boost your inclusion in the ecosystem.
  • Strengthen your headspace. You may come across prejudice, but never let it affect your stance of kindness.
  • Do your research on administrative procedures. Is your goal-destination known for obscure paperwork and tricky work permits? Plan ahead to avoid getting caught up and always double-check your sources.
  • If it all seems too chaotic, don’t be afraid to reach out to relocation services. Informed help is always a godsend, especially for non-EU citizens.
  • Relocating is different for everyone. Even if a country is known for a specific cultural or laboral practice, never expect your experience to perfectly match someone else’s.

Looking for more inspiring stories? We've got you covered! Check our conversation about hustling and female leadership with Estefanía Tapias. If you need a leg up on how to get started in Zurich, listen to our episode with Kaisin's founder Andri Silberschmidt


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