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Old 31.01.2015, 11:37
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Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

I have been playing in an Orchestra Verein since I moved here last fall, and I really enjoy it. Not only do I get to continue playing the violin while I'm here, but I am meeting and getting to know the locals. It helps that I can speak some German, but most people in the orchestra speak English. (They are kind enough to let me practice my High German with them.)

I know there are sports Vereins here, and I am curious if any of you are part of a Swiss Verein that has helped you integrate a little into the culture. What kind of Vereins are available, and how did you find yours?
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Old 31.01.2015, 11:49
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

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I have been playing in an Orchestra Verein since I moved here last fall, and I really enjoy it. Not only do I get to continue playing the violin while I'm here, but I am meeting and getting to know the locals. It helps that I can speak some German, but most people in the orchestra speak English. (They are kind enough to let me practice my High German with them.)

I know there are sports Vereins here, and I am curious if any of you are part of a Swiss Verein that has helped you integrate a little into the culture. What kind of Vereins are available, and how did you find yours?
I'm in a parents Verein, a running/biking Verein, a Flyfishing Verein, and a regular fishing Verein. I was in a Vespa Verein for a while too but I wasn't particularly active. I'm probably forgetting a Verein or two that I'm a member of....

I agree, they're good for cameraderie and integration, you just need to put yourself out there and go out of your comfort zone a bit.
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Old 31.01.2015, 12:07
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

I am glad you were successful integrating yourself in the Verein. many are not so lucky . Vereins are a hard nut to crack I'd say!

One enters the Verein as an outsider and one sees that everybody knows everyone else - and they don't take any particular notice of whether you exist or not . Of course they are polite and all that but one feels one is somehow out of place.....even if one understands the local language and speaks high german reasonably well....

Anyone experienced something similar?
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Old 31.01.2015, 12:29
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

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I am glad you were successful integrating yourself in the Verein. many are not so lucky . Vereins are a hard nut to crack I'd say!

One enters the Verein as an outsider and one sees that everybody knows everyone else - and they don't take any particular notice of whether you exist or not . Of course they are polite and all that but one feels one is somehow out of place.....even if one understands the local language and speaks high german reasonably well....

Anyone experienced something similar?
Sure, they're a hard nut to crack, but it also depends how you define "crack". I'll never be the guy who knew these guys since they were kids, but I don't expect to be. I get out of my fishing verein, for example, exactly what I want. I meet some decent people who share a hobby, I'll go fishing or drink a beer outside of verein events with some of them, the verein events expose me to new places to fish or teach me new things, and I get to clean up our river and grill some bratwurst a few times a year. I embrace my status as an outsider (American in my case, not everyone hates us) and use it to my advantage. I do
speak CH german well though...
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Old 31.01.2015, 12:54
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

Here in the sticks we have a Pilzverein - OH into all types of fungus so sure it would suit him perfectly...he says only if they listen to Røyksopp...
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Old 31.01.2015, 13:25
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

Club des Champignons, love it. I learnt all about edible mushrooms from my dad, who was a great specialist- and it is still one of my favourite hobbies- Fortunately I know all his 'coins' - the best places to find this or that mushroom type around here. A joy. Dad died 5 years ago, aged 96- and going mushrooms gathering in his old haunts is one way of feeling really close to him. I even talk to him and hear his voice, telling me where to look, lol.
No mushroom club round here- as all guard their secrets and would refuse to share!

Most clubs are very welcoming to outsiders- OH is now playing bridge in a club here, and he has been made so welcome at our local Ski Club- although I have been a member since 1954- and continued paying my subs during all the years I lived in UK (39) and am one of the veterans. There are indeed 100s of clubs available locally, of every possible description, steam train, VW, every sport, cards, scrabble, choirs, photography, music, wildlife and nature, painting, caving, whatever, etc, etc, etc.

Last edited by Odile; 31.01.2015 at 13:46.
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Old 31.01.2015, 13:36
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

I'm a member of several vereins, and also regular courses (where the same people attend each next block, over years) and discussion groups. All three set-ups have helped me meet people. Of course I didn't immediately "harvest" a bunch friends from my first participation, but I did learn heaps about how Switzerland works. I speak German well, and I think that quite a lot of my practice was thanks to the people in such groups.

Of course, I choose groups in which I'm interested. But way beyond that: since there's no doubt about the fact that I'm foreign, and since the folk in the vereins are local, I've been able to ask them many of the kinds of questions people post here, such as where to find corn-starch or bleach, the names and procedures of particular government offices, ideas for trips out, how the public transport or the school system works, etc.

Over and over again, my experience has been that the locals welcome my efforts to understand and integrate, and they are very helpful in teaching me things about living here, once they feel certain of two things: a) that I'm not about to rave about how much better things are where I come from, and b) that I am interested in learning German and assimilating in the way things work here.

Vereins, courses and discussion groups offer an ideal place for integration, since the structure is given and one sees the same friendly folk regularly. I met some of my current good friends in this way, even though I've subsequently left the actual course or group behind me. I'm sure that my ability to connect with and understand other Swiss people, in general, was enhanced by the interaction in the vereins.

If you find that you're the lonely one sitting at the outside of the interaction, my tip would be to ask someone there for specific advice about some aspect of daily life, ideally in the presence of several others. And try to show them, week by week, that you are better able to ask your questions in the local language than you were when they first met you. It can be very motivating!
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Old 31.01.2015, 15:10
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

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I am glad you were successful integrating yourself in the Verein. many are not so lucky . Vereins are a hard nut to crack I'd say!

One enters the Verein as an outsider and one sees that everybody knows everyone else - and they don't take any particular notice of whether you exist or not . Of course they are polite and all that but one feels one is somehow out of place.....even if one understands the local language and speaks high german reasonably well....

Anyone experienced something similar?
A mixed bag.

The various dog-related clubs I belong to are open and friendly, as one would expect.

But the local Vereine are a different matter. The Fasnacht groups, the farm-related clubs, the groups devoted to local traditions and festivals are closed to outsiders, one pretty much needs to inherit membership. Even the 'community' clubs - the Frauenverein, Mannerverein, Elternverein, Seniorenverein - are not really open to outsiders either. One must be invited, one cannot join on one's own.

I long ago gave up on trying to break the ice with local society. Not interested in being made to jump through hoops to join an exclusive organization, not the way I want to spend my all-too-scarce free time.

No, I spend my free time with dogs (and the people who love them) and books (and the people who love them). The former are largely local-ish folks, the latter expats.
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Old 31.01.2015, 17:13
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

Oh, yes, meloncollie, now that I think of it, I know of some of those invitation-only Vereine, too. As far as I hear (never, of course, having been to one) those are typically business-oriented and steeped in a history of either old family and/or religious networks.


I was thinking more along the lines of what Odile described:
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Most clubs are very welcoming to outsiders....
There are indeed 100s of clubs available locally, of every possible description, steam train, VW, every sport, cards, scrabble, choirs, photography, music, wildlife and nature, painting, caving, whatever, etc, etc, etc.
plus also open or semi-open discussion groups on all sorts of topics, perhaps attached to cultural centres, and courses such as aquafit, woodworking or cooking.


I've found this range really amazing! Certainly, for me, the interaction with folk in various groups over the years has been a strong contributory factor to my feeling at home in Switzerland.
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Old 31.01.2015, 17:18
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

Clubs are not particularly popular around here.

Tom
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Old 31.01.2015, 17:28
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

I sing in two choirs here, one where there are several expats, but which is resolutely Swiss and everything gets done in French (all the expats speak French). The other choir, I'm the only foreigner. I also ran our residents' association for four years. Frankly I don't see that much difference between clubs and associations here and anywhere else. They're made made up of the members and that's all there is to it.
I'm also a local councillor.
All these activities bring me into contact with locals, which I think is an essential part of integrating here.
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Old 31.01.2015, 17:56
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

If I join a group, here there or anywhere, it is because I am interested in what the focus/theme is, and not an attempt to meet people (as a natural happy loner-at-heart). Nothing worse (from my perspective) than the locals thinking I need help in how to live my life Swiss style I absorb what appeals and just let the rest be.

Over the years in various locations I have become cautious not to over involve myself, as aside from my family wanting to know where I am, the last thing I want to feel is an attendance obligation, or having to explain that I was otherwise engaged. I tend to involve myself in activities that involve an intense, but short(er) duration, of volunteering or commitment - and pursue my interests casually.

Music is an activity that I enjoy in a group - I sing in a choir, sometimes two, and highlight the rehearsals in my agenda. Instrumental (violin/viola) my preference is chamber music in small groups, and find that in any trio/quartet someone else needs to adjust the plans so I don't look like the fickle one.
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Old 31.01.2015, 18:09
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

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A mixed bag.

The various dog-related clubs I belong to are open and friendly, as one would expect.

But the local Vereine are a different matter. The Fasnacht groups, the farm-related clubs, the groups devoted to local traditions and festivals are closed to outsiders, one pretty much needs to inherit membership. Even the 'community' clubs - the Frauenverein, Mannerverein, Elternverein, Seniorenverein - are not really open to outsiders either. One must be invited, one cannot join on one's own.

I long ago gave up on trying to break the ice with local society. Not interested in being made to jump through hoops to join an exclusive organization, not the way I want to spend my all-too-scarce free time.

No, I spend my free time with dogs (and the people who love them) and books (and the people who love them). The former are largely local-ish folks, the latter expats.
Even when you're invited and spend some time with a local group is just that, it's lovely but you won't make friends (like real friends, the type you visit each other, go to vacations together etc) if that's what you're after. Not even them are very close to each other, they only appear like that to an outsider. So if it's not an association with a common interest i.e. a choir, hiking etc I don't even consider joining it. I have made some friends here (most of them are expats/immigrants) and I wish I had more time for them.
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Old 31.01.2015, 18:29
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

You can't say a Swiss Verein is like this or like that. The Musikverein I am in organizes trips, walks, we visit concerts together and so on. The Musikverein in the neighbouring village doesn't do any of these things. They even don't go for a drink after rehearsal. I only know that all these Vereins want fresh blood, and when you want to join they will be very welcoming.
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Old 31.01.2015, 18:31
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

Funnily enough I recently had a Swiss person comment that it is very hard to meet or get to know so-called "expats" (I am not keen on the label thus inverted commas)

EF is a sort of Verein
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Old 31.01.2015, 20:10
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

I went a few weeks back for a trial session at our local "Frauenriege" which is a sort of gym class - mixed sports session for local women once a week, with other sessions and special events throughout the year. If I am not mistaken it is part of a Switzerland wide club system with different teams for different ages and sexes. The wider organization puts on a local "show" once a year - which was a real, slightly surreal, treat that the whole community seems to either attend or be part of (I have never seen men over the age of 70 doing rigorous gymnastics - it was impressive).

My experience was that the women were initially a bit standoffish though polite, and became more open quickly throughout that first session - inviting me for a drink with them after. I would recommend at least a bit of german for this type of club though. Nobody switched to English for me (nor would I want them to) and activity/game directions were a little "involved". All in all, quite nice. As it turns out, I will not continue on with them (yet) as I found the sessions quite late at night for me (8-10pm) as my kids tend to wake up at 5am.

When I told a Zurich friend I was thinking of joining such a Verein she thought that was hilarious as these Vereins are apparently a real "farmer" thing to do. I say, When in Rome! I will definitely try again in the future as it would be a superb way to integrate into a small, more rural community.

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Old 31.01.2015, 21:17
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

Not ready to join a Verein yet (not least because my German is terrible) but when I first heard about them, I thought that it is such a nice concept. I love the fact that children, from a rather tender age, join these clubs for gymnastics, or music, or choir. At a time when we are always lamenting how the kids are left to their own devices (pun intended), it is quite refreshing to see that things here are a bit "back-forwards" (in the nicest possible way).

The Swiss Vereins remind me of all these associations (Women's associations, Football Clubs, Groupe du troisième age) which were so popular back when I was a kid. Now, only old ladies (including my mother) are still attending these groups - all the young'uns are too busy with FB, Twitter, and the like

Ps: anyone got autocorrect change "Verein" to "Vermin"
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Old 31.01.2015, 21:26
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

I joined 2 clubs in Zürich, had mostly great experiences with one of them and utterly fantastic experiences with the other (and even made some genuine friends in the process). if anything, both experiences made me sympathetic for what it must be like growing up in the country, since making friends does not come naturally for many and there is always an element of "what can that person do for me" to most of even the social relationships. in other words, the members aren't just standoffish with outsiders or foreigners, they are more often than not standoffish with each other.
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Old 01.02.2015, 01:11
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

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I'm in a parents Verein, a running/biking Verein, a Flyfishing Verein, and a regular fishing Verein. I was in a Vespa Verein for a while too but I wasn't particularly active. I'm probably forgetting a Verein or two that I'm a member of....

I agree, they're good for cameraderie and integration, you just need to put yourself out there and go out of your comfort zone a bit.

VËREINE, CLUBS, etc are important in Swiss social life. I in 1968 joined a Club, which had been established in 1960 (turned into a cooperative in about 1992) and we regularily meet the veterans of the 60ies. I somewhere in the 1990ies got a letter of an ex-member of the Club, asking for assistance, I DID help out for a year and also the others helped out. We realised fairly well that his address was a ZUCHTHAUS --- whatever I RE-sent various letters for him (and from his side) and out of principle never looked into the content. We by chance met again later and that period never mattered to us really. THIS is what a good Club is all about, that people keep together in solidarity also in bad times.
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Old 01.02.2015, 10:54
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Re: Experiences with Vereins / Clubs

Thank you all for your replies. As I suspected, there are many ways to experience a Verein: good, bad and in-between. I am not looking for long-time best friends, but just a way to step outside my expat bubble.

A friend of mine helped me find this orchestra, so I don't know the best way to find a Verein except to google the name of your city and Verein.

How did you find your club?
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