Feb 19, 2014

Swiss Talk : Foreigners are not welcome in Swiss anymore?

Although I'm not an EU foreigner, however, no doubt I'm also a foreigner who lives in Zurich. Recently because of the vote to against EU Foreigners, this issue has become one of the hottest topics among foreigners in Switzerland. What worth to discuss that is, I received very two different aspects of this controversial issue, according to my non-swiss friends, either they are a big lover of Switzerland, or anti-Swiss. Therefore, the vote result led to more deep discussion about living in Switzerland and how Swiss people treat foreigners. This is why I want to write about this article and share some point of views with you.

A few weeks ago, me and my expat friend saw a big advertisement board in the train station which was encouraging people to vote to against more EU foreigners come into Switzerland.

"How typical swiss people, they're so not open mind, now even want to vote to against foreigners moving into their country, see, maybe one day we both can't stay here anymore" 

That was my friend's reaction when she saw the advertisement. She is an anti-Swiss. But I can understand why she felt in that way. She isn't racist or point out she doesn't want to be friends with them, however, so far she had only bad experiences here. Once she lost her phone during the street parade, so she asked me to go to "Lost and Found Office" with her in Zurich. In the mean time, there was a man who can only speak English in front us, also had the same situation. But the reception Swiss lady responded to him in German with very unfriendly attitude, appeared that she wasn't willing to help him at all. But, when it was our turn, the lady turned out to be very friendly. Just because I speak German?!

Nevertheless, it was one of her stories, in addition, what I think it's also very interesting, she used to work with French Swiss, and she divided Swiss into two parts, French Swiss and German Swiss. Due to bad experiences with German Swiss, which is more proved her point of view that she thinks French Swiss are much more friendly and charming.

In contrast, my French friend had another aspect of this issue. After the vote was finished, a French newspaper wrote about the article, title was "Swiss virus". The whole article was very negative and against to Swiss. My French friend got mad after she read it. She called the newspaper immediately and wrote a letter to them. (You can find the letter here in French.) I'm quite surprised of her reaction and she was very agitated, and the way she defended Swiss. Even she is one of these EU citizen.

"It's so unfair that they describe Swiss people like that! All my Swiss friends are very nice and friendly,  they're open, not conservative and racist at all! " 

She loves Swiss very much, and when I'm with her, indeed, we meet many nice Swiss people. They're very friendly and help us a lot in many things! We couldn't accomplish our project well without their generous assistance. For example, I was signed up for a printing class in Zurich, the Swiss lady was afraid of I don't speak german or I can't understand well, so she told me she would love to do the translation to me if I want to. I think it's very thoughtful and kind. On the other hand, of course I heard of she complained about Swiss from the government department once in a while. However, generally speaking, she never though Swiss are racist.

There're good people and bad people in every country.

No matter what, I believe everyone has their own experiences living in Switzerland, and of course you meet every different of people all the time, it doesn't mean the people you meet can representative the majority of the country. Besides, I tried to think about why some Swiss people hate foreigners so much. Perhaps they had too many bad experiences with foreigners before, they probably have a feeling that foreigners don't respect their culture or whatever it is. After day by day, they behave automatically very unfriendly when they meet foreigners. People do things most of the time based on their own past memories and experiences. At the end, people developed their own prejudiced by previous impression.

Furthermore, I talked about with few Swiss friends, perhaps they're just a bit of shy and more cautious, they don't show too much passion to others, especially you're totally a stranger for them at the beginning. So it might also give an impression to people that they're not willing to help or being cold. 

The reason behind the vote can be more complex and due to many other factors, you can't jump to the conclusion and interpret the message as Swiss are racist, or against foreigners. It could involve in economic or political issues, not just because of one single event. For instance, why Taiwanese don't think they're Chinese, but rather a Taiwanese, but it doesn't mean Taiwanese are racist. And why Hong Kong people don't like Chinese so much. 

All things considered, what we can do is, we need to get rid of our prejudice and always to be open mind to everything and everyone. In addition, if you're friendly with a smile all the time, the chance you meet the bad people would probably less, but not a guarantee. Besides, try to ignore the people who give you a cold shoulder or a bad attitude, maybe he/she just has a bad day.

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