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Old 13.05.2008, 23:25
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Attitudes in Switzerland

Greetings,

First real post here, so forgiveness sought in case this has been covered elsewhere before.

I did go through about 50 pages of the gigantic thread on racism before posting this question.

We're a diverse couple from San Francisco - I'm Indian and my wife is African American. We have been in the Anglosphere for most of our lives - I've lived in Britain and the US for the past two decades, and my wife was born and brought up in the US.

We're contemplating a move to Switzerland - Neuchatel specifically - in the near future.

Reasons are - a different (hopefully) enriching experience, easy access to the rest of Europe - (we are ardent foodies), and providing a unique experience growing up - for our daughter.

I have not really experienced a ton of racism - overall in the UK or the US. In the US, sometimes we have bizarre experiences, but they are few and far between.

From what I have read so far, it appears as though blatant discrimination is an everyday reality in public places and various other walks of life.

Please correct me if I am wrong.

Ideally, I would love to hear some feedback from people like ourselves - who are non-white, professionals and who are able to choose where to live in the world - but have lived in the West all along - about how they feel about living in Switzerland.

Is this an everyday reality for a lot of you ? Just trying to decide whether we should take up an opportunity that has been presented to us !

Thanks in advance for any and all insight ! Cheers!
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Old 14.05.2008, 00:02
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

1st I'm white so feel free to disregard.

There are certain instances of very blatant racisim here in CH but I believe there are all over the world... However, what tends to bother me most is the more subtle approach which seems to be accepted as a norm.

Small things such as the ethnic origin of a perpetrature is mentioned in a news cast if he/she is not swiss for example.

However, do not think you will be hounded out of the country by aggressive, violent racists. Expect some difficulty of course, these come hand in hand with moving to a new country.

I have also heard, and again someone please feel free to correct me, that the french speaking part of Switzerland tends to be more open. But I could be wrong.

Eitherway, take a deep breath and take the plunge. Don't burn your bridges and if things go south you can always head home. You just never know what such a move might bring...
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Old 14.05.2008, 02:49
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

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Small things such as the ethnic origin of a perpetrature is mentioned in a news cast if he/she is not swiss for example.
And why exactly should police and media censor this information? Perhaps they shouldn't report crime at all as to not upset anybody? Are you telling me that in the US or in any other country they're not reporting the ethnic origins of a perpetrator? How would it even be possible to omit such information? A few years back someone from Kosovo killed a swiss teacher and fled to Kosovo where he spent only 2 years in prison much to the outrage of quite a lot of swiss. (http://www.news.ch/Lehrermord+Polize...410/detail.htm). How could anyone have any idea what this case is all about without mentioning the origins of this guy? Don't shoot the messenger if you don't like the news.
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Old 14.05.2008, 09:05
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

In the UK, the ethnic origin is very rarely mentioned.
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Old 14.05.2008, 09:32
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

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And why exactly should police and media censor this information? Perhaps they shouldn't report crime at all as to not upset anybody? Are you telling me that in the US or in any other country they're not reporting the ethnic origins of a perpetrator? How would it even be possible to omit such information? A few years back someone from Kosovo killed a swiss teacher and fled to Kosovo where he spent only 2 years in prison much to the outrage of quite a lot of swiss. (http://www.news.ch/Lehrermord+Polize...410/detail.htm). How could anyone have any idea what this case is all about without mentioning the origins of this guy? Don't shoot the messenger if you don't like the news.
Because.... some (lets take for example that nice little "news"paper called Blick) might use it as not-so-subtle way to tell us that foreigners are criminals? Even though I have to say recently I have heard often that they mention if the perpetrator is Swiss... ---->> sorry, very off-topic

Sure someone can give more of an insight, however I wish you all the best in contemplating and hopefully in the move as well!
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Old 14.05.2008, 09:41
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

To the original poster - do not be put off by the numbers of complaints you'll see about Switzerland (in general in the Complaints forum).

Remember the basic rule of marketing - for one vocal complaining customer, there are seven silent satisfied customers.

What I can recommend is do not start with an a priori. As long as you won't spend your time trying to find a link between every single incident that happens to you and race you'll be fine.
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Old 14.05.2008, 09:42
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

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Greetings,

First real post here, so forgiveness sought in case this has been covered elsewhere before.

I did go through about 50 pages of the gigantic thread on racism before posting this question.

We're a diverse couple from San Francisco - I'm Indian and my wife is African American. We have been in the Anglosphere for most of our lives - I've lived in Britain and the US for the past two decades, and my wife was born and brought up in the US.

We're contemplating a move to Switzerland - Neuchatel specifically - in the near future.

Reasons are - a different (hopefully) enriching experience, easy access to the rest of Europe - (we are ardent foodies), and providing a unique experience growing up - for our daughter.

I have not really experienced a ton of racism - overall in the UK or the US. In the US, sometimes we have bizarre experiences, but they are few and far between.

From what I have read so far, it appears as though blatant discrimination is an everyday reality in public places and various other walks of life.

Please correct me if I am wrong.

Ideally, I would love to hear some feedback from people like ourselves - who are non-white, professionals and who are able to choose where to live in the world - but have lived in the West all along - about how they feel about living in Switzerland.

Is this an everyday reality for a lot of you ? Just trying to decide whether we should take up an opportunity that has been presented to us !

Thanks in advance for any and all insight ! Cheers!
I'm a white Californian, a professional, and married to a Scot. I'm currently living in a small village near Neuchâtel, though we are leaving.

From my experiences, I wouldn't call the Swiss racist. They are perhaps "nationalist". By this I mean I have seen some negative remarks made about people based on their nationality rather than race or religion. People from the Balkans specifically.

That said, Neuchâtel has a high amount of foreigners. There is a (small) university here. There are a fair number of international firms here. Neuchâtel is a bit of a backwater in some respects, but it is a friendly, comfortable backwater. I've enjoyed living here.

It will take awhile to gain the trust of your neighbors. You should make a strong effort to learn French if you do not speak it already.

I find the life here a very interesting contrast to life in CA.
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Old 14.05.2008, 09:58
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

I believe that once people hear your accents you will be identified as Americans which of course carries its own baggage. I think folks are accustomed to meeting lots of different kinds of people here, so there is a tendency to look for more subtile signs when getting an impression about somebody. The way you dress has a big impact on people I think.

Anyhow, coming from San Francisco I think you probably won't experience that big of a cultural change, of course I could be wrong since as a mix of Irish, Polish, and Italian I look pretty much like one group of Swiss natives (though usually they think I'm Dutch for some reason.)

You mention being foodies. You might be a tiny bit dissappointed with the run of the mill restaurant here. If you are a vegetarian (I am) it can be a little difficult, but not impossible. I'm totally unfamiliar with the restaurant scene in either Neuchâtel or Yyverdon, but I know some excellent restaurants in Lausanne, Geneva, Bern, and of course Zurich. Meanwhile of course Paris is just a train ride away, as is London, or Rome for that matter.

One thing is for sure, if you cook yourself then this is a marvelous place to be. Local produce is readily available and of similar quality to produce in the Bay Area.
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Old 14.05.2008, 10:07
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

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I'm a white Californian, a professional, and married to a Scot. I'm currently living in a small village near Neuchâtel, though we are leaving.

From my experiences, I wouldn't call the Swiss racist. They are perhaps "nationalist". By this I mean I have seen some negative remarks made about people based on their nationality rather than race or religion. People from the Balkans specifically.

That said, Neuchâtel has a high amount of foreigners. There is a (small) university here. There are a fair number of international firms here. Neuchâtel is a bit of a backwater in some respects, but it is a friendly, comfortable backwater. I've enjoyed living here.

It will take awhile to gain the trust of your neighbors. You should make a strong effort to learn French if you do not speak it already.

I find the life here a very interesting contrast to life in CA.

I agree with this statement. Racists you will find everywhere in the world. So I would not say that Swiss are racist, maybe somewhat nationalists, but most of the all, they are very protective of the Swiss way and very proud of "made in Switzerland" in every sense. Politically, culturally, economically, quality etc...
And this can sometime be difficult for a foreigner to understand, becuase some things sometimes does not make much sense, but that is how it is here.
Expressions about nationallity, etnicity, gender, race don't have the same strong meaning as in US or maybe in the UK, so don't get too upset or hurt if you hear some comments about race or gender etc... These issues are not that sensitive here, so people are that carrefull about what they say.
But what is most difficult for many foreigners in Switzerland to understand are all the rules that Swiss are sticking to. And Swiss people hold very strongly to these rules, (no noise after 10 p.m, no showering after that, and many other everyday issues). Becuase, many foreigners have heard this that every Swiss person is in a way also a policeman.
And as one of my firends told me (maybe too strong), looking what others do is the national sport in Switzerland. So when you get here, become a friend or friendly with you neigbors and you life will be easier. And learn French, because Swiss French are still French speaking and English is something very unfamiliar for them.
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Old 14.05.2008, 10:44
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

Before I arrived in Switzerland, I also read most of the "Are the Swiss Racists" thread and caused me some consternation. What I've found so far after living here for the last couple of months is that (I think) most Swiss are first and foremost worried not about race as much as they are worried about crime.

However, they, like everyone else, do tend to generalize and so they associate certain groups of people (could be visible ethnic groups or race of people) as being more likely to be bad seeds than others. Also, it seems basic PC (political correctness) has yet to arrive fully in Switzerland so their language may sound more alarming to those used to PC-speak (i.e. US, UK) than those who aren't.

There is also a political party that is using this general fear of foreigners to their advantage and you will soon find their posters everywhere if you do in fact move here (at least in the German speaking parts.) The posters are rather racist and can put people off but it's not saying every Swiss person is xenophobic. In fact - many middle class Swiss have travelled all over the world and are quite sophisticated.

Just to give you examples that even in the relatively quiet parts of Switzerland (Thun, south of Bern,) that there is diversity; we have on a very nice housing complex a White-Swiss man with a African-Swiss(?) woman living with their 2 cute daughters, Koreans who lived in another apartment. Among some of the people we know - A White-Swiss girl with a boyfriend from Rwanda and another Swiss woman with an Egyptian husband. And me and my wife - I'm from Malaysia of Chinese origin with a British wife.

So here is my personal conclusion from my experiences so far: The Swiss are no more racist than any where else. If you try appealing to people's best nature, you won't find much trouble here but instead find a gorgeous country, plenty of leisure activity and expensive meat!
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Old 14.05.2008, 10:49
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

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To the original poster - do not be put off by the numbers of complaints you'll see about Switzerland (in general in the Complaints forum).

Remember the basic rule of marketing - for one vocal complaining customer, there are seven silent satisfied customers.

What I can recommend is do not start with an a priori. As long as you won't spend your time trying to find a link between every single incident that happens to you and race you'll be fine.
I agree with this. Over 20% of Switzerland's population is of foreign origin which is high for a small, conservative country. That isn't equally distributed so percentages are much higher in some places than others. Consequently you will hear a lot of public debate and commentary about foreign immigration and immigrants if you come to live here and you will have to be comfortable you can live with that. Outwardly however, in daily life most Swiss are polite, reserved and law abiding most of the time and it's well recognised that the economy couldn't function without foreign residents. To what extent any of this translates into racism I'll hold comment since I haven't experienced it and gratuitous comments on this subject are generally not helpful. That's better left to individuals with direct experience.
What I would say is that even in more multi cultural European countries with strong anti racism laws like the UK, debates on immigrants can't be avoided even if it's true that UK newspapers don't report the ethnicity of wrongdoers. In the UK for example the current commentary is about the number of Polish and other economic migrant workers from Eastern Europe though not all of that by any means is negative commentary.
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Old 14.05.2008, 10:57
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

I think Nationalistic rather than Racist competently describes the Swiss.

Small minded inbred flag waving nazi's is another.. JUST JOKING! I couldn't resist.

The Swissies will treat you well enough I expect but don't expect to be their equals, not because of colour, but because you are not Swiss.

If you take the view that being equal to a Swissie is like being equal to a small minded inbred then that makes life easier!

(Apologies to my Swiss friends, I meant everyone else - not you!)
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Old 14.05.2008, 11:12
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

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And why exactly should police and media censor this information? Perhaps they shouldn't report crime at all as to not upset anybody? Are you telling me that in the US or in any other country they're not reporting the ethnic origins of a perpetrator? How would it even be possible to omit such information? A few years back someone from Kosovo killed a swiss teacher and fled to Kosovo where he spent only 2 years in prison much to the outrage of quite a lot of swiss. (http://www.news.ch/Lehrermord+Polize...410/detail.htm). How could anyone have any idea what this case is all about without mentioning the origins of this guy? Don't shoot the messenger if you don't like the news.
I do very much like the news. However, I do not see it relevant to mention each time whether it was an Eastern European commiting a crime or a Swiss. In certain circumstances such as the one outline above then nationality, or ethnic origin becomes relevant. 80% of the time it is not.

I also find it particularly distasteful that "Secondos" need to be mention or that a person is "eingebürgert" (neutralised swiss).
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Old 14.05.2008, 11:31
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

I've had my turns at "Bogarting" the Racist thread, and I advise that you not let the racist thread stop you from moving here. A couple of thoughts on your decision:

1) You would probably already experience racial discrimination when you travel outside of SF city limits.

2) You're moving to Neuchatel, in the French part of Switzerland. Most of the racist comments were experiences in the German part. Reports and my personal experience is that the people in the French part are a little more socially enlightened.

3) So what if you run into racial discrimination? It's just annoying and ignorant, but there are such people all over the place. They'll be saying things about you in a language you don't understand anyway, so just smile and wave.

4) The racism here is not going to kill you, as long as you are gainfully employed. It's not like someone will point a gun to your face. That's likelier to happen across the bay from you, in Oakland.

5) My personal interest: The more foreigners come, the more they realize there is a wide world of diversity out there.

Hope that helps.
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Old 14.05.2008, 13:53
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland THANK YOU

I maybe venturing a tf off the OP's question and apologise for that,but i just wanted........

..........to say thanks!!

Because contrary to the racist thread, I feel the comments made in this thread were well thought through and we (the swiss) weren't chucked into ONE pot as a whole nation!

I agree about the comments in regards to the West being a bit less,lets say nationalist.

I live on the border to the French part as well , we might not be as sophisticated or posh as Zurich or Geneva for example,i think the description of the region being a sort of peaceful backwater fits perfectly fine!

I am proud that our part of CH has voted as a first, foreigners into local and national councils and it's true that Neuch and Bienne are the cities with one of the highest foreigner per native ratio, we are proof that a peaceful side by side as well as a together ( mitenand) is possible!!!

Instead of racism I'd rather talk about discrimination ,I won't deny some people might be judged on their skin colour only, which is of course absolutely not correct! Others, like me, can get ( and do get) discriminated because of their handicap..... un-correct treatment of people is sadly often the norm, but as weith many things Switzerland is slowly changing,it's not easy to chuck values and traditions of hundreds of years over board in just a few years and recreate something new in a short time.

Give us time, those who are living longer here see that change does indeed happen,it just needs time ( more).
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Old 14.05.2008, 14:04
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

to the OP. We are a diverse couple too, I am mexican and she is an american blonde. So I can attest to what you are asking. I will say that swiss people in general are not really racist, they just dont have political correctness I suppose. They dont mind telling you and putting you in your "race bracket" and so on.
Im not going to lie, the first year was hard, maybe it was the stares (which I grew used to by now) I felt "judged". But now that I see back, this was just me being insecure, swiss people are ALWAYS staring, but thats is just their culture.
As I said, political correctnes, almost doesnt exist here. Once you understand that and see that they are not trying to be "racists" then you are all set.
We are very welcome here, the only funny part its when we go to the lake in our swimsuits

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Old 14.05.2008, 14:44
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

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I have not really experienced a ton of racism - overall in the UK or the US. In the US, sometimes we have bizarre experiences, but they are few and far between.
That's how I'd describe the situation here as well.

If you look different (and African American is different for Swiss standards - there are very few people of African origin here compared to other countries in Europe and elsewhere), you'll stick out, that's a fact. But that doesn't mean people will be impolite or hostile, they'll just be curious.

There's going to be the occasional bonehead white supremacist a*****e that'll give you a hard time. But believe me, they give everyone a hard time. My wife has been verbally attacked more than once by neo-nazis although she's white and very Swiss.
I don't think it's worse here than anywhere else. Also, your having an American accent will make people like you better. While the US generally aren't as well liked anymore as they used to be, I've never witnessed anyone who acted that out when he actually met a US citizen. The animosities are mainly directed towards the government, not the general population.

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Old 14.05.2008, 15:04
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

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...Also, your having an American accent will make people like you better. While the US generally aren't as well liked anymore as they used to be, I've never witnessed anyone who acted that out when he actually met a US citizen. The animosities are mainly directed towards the government, not the general population.
I get a lot of curious conversations from uninformed people about the 'states. Most of them are stuck with media cliches with no direct experience. Some of those conversations are on this forum. As for you (the OP), you can claim to come from the People's Republic of San Francisco.
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Old 14.05.2008, 15:09
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

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Im not going to lie, the first year was hard, maybe it was the stares (which I grew used to by now) I felt "judged". But now that I see back, this was just me being insecure, swiss people are ALWAYS staring, but thats is just their culture.
Yep. 100% agree. People do seem to stare a lot more here than in the anglo countries.

So to the OP, if you do get stared at, it most likely has nothing to do with yours or your wife's ethnicity. People just stare.

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I get a lot of curious conversations from uninformed people about the 'states. Most of them are stuck with media cliches with no direct experience. Some of those conversations are on this forum. As for you (the OP), you can claim to come from the People's Republic of San Francisco.
Good point. I'm often amazed at how often people think they 'know' how things are in the US regardless of the fact that they've 1) never been there and 2) not known many, if any, Americans.
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Old 14.05.2008, 15:16
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Re: Attitudes in Switzerland

In latin cultures we don't just stare at women...

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