Shuhei Kagawa

2021 in review

Dec 31, 2021 - Review

A view from a lift in Amden

I turned 40 this year. I've lived roughly half of my life—in a happy case. If time gets faster as we age, it'd be more than half. But 2021 didn't feel short to me, probably thanks to a lot of changes this year.


My biggest event this year was the move to Switzerland. In December 2020, I started working remotely from Berlin for a team in Zürich. Then I flew into Zürich at the end of March and moved into my current apartment in June.

International moves are not easy, but everything felt three times harder during the pandemic. We terminated numerous contracts by letter/phone/email, packed books and furniture, gave away the rest, emptied the apartment in Berlin, and departed from the new BER airport. I didn't say goodbye in person to most of my friends in Berlin. We checked into a temporary apartment, found a long-term apartment, bought furniture piece by piece. We finally felt we settled down in the autumn.


Sun and alps over the Limmat river and the Zürich lake

Zürich is small. Almost everything is within walking distance. It doesn't have as many trees and parks as Berlin does, but the Zürich lake and mountains are nearby. You can see snow-crowned alps across the lake. My biggest complaint is that most of the streets and sidewalks are covered with asphalt. They are good when you carry suitcases, but I don't like how they look.

People here seem to be early birds. Streets become noisy around 7 a.m., so I had to adjust myself to become an early bird. I go for a walk after 9 a.m., and parks and coffee shops are almost empty where I'd see more people in Berlin. On the other hand, cafes and bars get full of people enjoying apéro in the late afternoon, especially in summer.

It's expensive to eat out here—twice or more of Berlin. I haven't tried many because of the pandemic and the price. On the other hand, more Japanese groceries are available here. Also, I'm happy that supermarket chains sell sashimi-quality salmon and tuna. Especially, Migros' salmon is amazing.


Even though Zürich is a German-speaking city, many people speak fluent English. It feels much easier to live here without speaking German than in Berlin. But this situation of no pressure somehow motivated me. I started learning German again with Duolingo.

I learned some Swiss-German phrases like merci vielmal meaning thank you very much. Such a nice expression of multilingualism. Also, I learned that the -li suffix was Swiss German. The most famous one would be muesli (Müsli), and some of you may know the compression algorithm Brotli (Brötli).


Matterhorn and its reflection on a lake

I got a new hobby, hiking. Well, I had to, because it's Switzerland. Starting from Uetliberg—Zürich's Hausberg—I hiked on Rigi, Pfannelstiel, Lägern, Pilatus, Zermatt, Amden, and Sihlwald.

The Swiss government provides an impressive map website/app called SwitzerlandMobility. It shows everything necessary for hiking and allows you to plan your next trip.

In addition to mountains, I visited several Swiss cities: Luzern, Rapperswil, Basel, Bern, Lugano, and Neuchâtel. They were all small and walkable. Before my move, I didn't know that there were many medieval towns in Switzerland. It was fun to walk through Switzerland, Germany, France, and Switzerland again in Basel.

I was able to travel a lot because Swiss transportation is great and the land is small. In terms of area, Switzerland is only 40% bigger than Brandenburg and half of Hokkaido.

Food and drinks

I've been exploring the famous Swiss Cheese. Emmentaler, Appenzeller, Gruyere, Vacherin, and so on. I learned that Parmigiano Reggiano was not necessarily the best cheese in the world.

Also, I almost stopped drinking alcohol, including beer. Instead, I've been practicing latte art and drinking coffee every day.

Social media

I'm trying to reduce my usage of social media. Sometime this year, I realized that I was spending more than 3 hours every day on Twitter. That was horrific. In addition, social media timelines show less and less content from my actual friends. They show recommendations and content that my friends liked. I tried to limit time first, but it didn't work. So, I just stopped using them altogether for a few months. It felt great. I got more time to read books and became attentive to what was going on around me.


I bought roughly 60 books, read 12 of them, and half-read several more. I couldn't read much around the move but started picking up in the winter. I especially liked that Tyranny of Merit and Four Thousand Weeks made me step back and think about how to spend the rest of my life.


It's been a year since I started my current job. It took me the whole year to feel comfortable with it. My managers told me I was doing fine, but I didn't feel I was catching up fast enough. The tech stack was completely new to me. It was hard to focus on work for the few months around the move. Imposter syndrome was real. Working from home didn't help here.

Fortunately, it gradually improved. I was able to focus again after settling down in my current apartment. I slowly felt belonged when I commuted to the office and met teammates in person. My starter project turned out to be more complex than I expected, but I'm happy that I finished it. I started getting some other responsibilities. There's still a long way to go, but now I feel I can do something.


In 2021, I moved to a new country, settled down at home and work, traveled a lot, and had some chance to step back and reflect. I'm looking forward to what's to come in 2022!

Cow on a field