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  #1  
Old 14.12.2005, 22:08
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Are the swiss racist?

I have both Swiss and Canadian citizenship, and have lived in both countries about equal amounts of time.
I don't know if it's just because it's tabu in Canada, but I have trouble with some of the comments made to me by my swiss acquaintances (and relatives).

I get really annoyed when I'm involved in conversations where people are put down based on their ethnicity. Does anyone have an opinion of this? My friends in canada never talked like this ...

When I was in Canada I was proud to be swiss, I thought their neutrality was something special. Now I think they're just neutral because they think they're superior to everyone else...

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Old 15.12.2005, 09:26
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

Hey now this mail almost made my day! No the Swiss are definitely not racist in the common English understanding of the word. They are just monumentally xenophobic and of course being black, yellow, brown or anything else that is not WHITE is for them a sure sign that you are a foreigner. Interestingly enough seeing as we are about 5 minutes away from the large Canton they treat the Turks at the start with a minute amount of respect as they might be Swiss Italian which is only 2nd class and not 3rd

You might be interested to know that most jobs taken by foreign nationals are through job agencies and it is common practice for the prospective employer to tell them no foreigners. And seeing as these companies earn their bread from such employers they of course prefilter applications. You might have also noticed that in Switzerland it was common to say in job adverts German mother tongue, but this is now commonly Swiss German mother tongue!

With regards to Blocher - nice comment he is very definitely xenophobic unless of course those nasty foreigners are working for Ems-Chemie in which case they are in his eyes "honorary Swiss"!!!!

Richard
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Old 15.12.2005, 11:29
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

I suffered more racism in a year at an English school than I have in 10 years of living here. But then, if someone was openly racist to me, I'd give them a firm response. I'm half caste and must admit, the girls seem! to find it interesting...!!
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Old 15.12.2005, 13:50
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

My favourite encounter has been with my "landlady". She isn't really, but she has taken posession of the laundry schedule and I think it brings meaning and fullfillment into her life.

My boyfriend and I have a tendency not to use our alloted laundry slot, forgetting even to write a little note on the paper giving it free to others. She caught me in the hallway and started pestering me about it. She told me that even the black couple who lived in the building could manage to keep to the schedule.
I just stared at her and asked her to repeat what she said.

Ok, she's not the youngest .. but still ...
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Old 15.12.2005, 14:19
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

wow - I'm sure this one will hit a nerve on both sides of the fence. Before I go on, I think it should be important to try and define the question a little more. To say "are the Swiss racist" kind of lumps all Swiss into the same boat, and while this is the same thing that "they" often to do to foreigners (tar them all with the same brush), hopefully we can do a little better than that. Perhaps a question like "is racism a big issue in Swiss society?" might be less "inclusive". Otherwise this might be seen as "Swiss bashing" which would make "us" (non-Swiss) guilty of the same sorts of things we often accuse the Swiss of. But anyway...

I don't believe that all the Swiss are racist, but I am alarmed at the sheer number of times I encounter a very relaxed attitude towards racial insults and jokes. In many countries people would simply not speak like that in public or among collegues. I've had to tell people bluntly on more than one occassion that I do not want to hear racist remarks in my workplace, and the fact that I even had to say something disturbed me. One of the people concerned continued to use the term "yugo" purely because he knew that I didn't want to hear it. I'm not talking about some high school idiot here either, I'm talking about someone with a university education (not that I'm implying that this means anything either).

Luckily for me I am white, and am not the kind of foreigner that some Swiss love to hate, but I'm still offended. My favourite is "oh, we don't mean you when we talk about foreigners, you aren't like the others" - this makes my blood boil - so I'm being treated differently because I was fortunate to be born somewhere that they like (or rather don't dislike)?

I'm also reminded about a wedding I attended a few years ago from a friend of mine who married a turkish woman. After the wedding there was some dancing, and for a while some turkish music was played and the turkish side of the family and friends danced. The only non-turkish person participating at this point was the groom. Did any of the guests decide that they'd like to learn a little bit about another culture? No. In fact, a Swiss woman at my table started openly complaining that they should be more respectful of us and our culture and not expose us to their culture in that way. I was furious to hear a remark like that, but the part that really puzzeled me was how openly she could say it in the company of others without being embarrassed. The other thing was that the wedding wasn't in Switzerland, it was in France.

I think that's the crux of the matter - many Swiss people just aren't ashamed or embarassed to express such views, whereas in other countries nobody would openly say something like that. It goes to show that racism is something that is tolerated, maybe not at an official level, but it is something that is very prevalant in this society. That's not to say that Switzerland is the only country where you can often hear racist comments, in fact it happens in many countries - in the UK for example I've often heard things that shocked me, but I just realise that these people grew up in a different society and a different school system than I did.

We were taught to value the differences that other cultures bring and to appreciate diversity rather than fear it, but I doubt that such things feature in the Swiss education system - especially judging by the number of young people (not just older people) coming out with racist and xenophoic statements (the younger they are, the more shocking it is!)

@panamahat - While it is terrible that people made racist remarks at school we should also bear in mind that school kids will seize on anything at all to pick on other school kids. If you were at a school where you are one colour, and everyone else is another colour, then you are sure to get it as the minority. If it weren't for your ethnicity they would have found something else to tease you about. The only way to compare your experience would be to go back in time and do your schooling here :-) I think the point here is that kids often aren't old enough to know better, but adults are!

I too have never been the victim of racism - since I'm white, but I do have many really nice friends from the Balkans, and they are treated really badly. When looking for apartments for example often people just hang up the phone as soon as they hear the first few words.

@richard - yes that doesn't suprise me at all. There are laws against discrimination, but one often sees job adverts which openly state the age and gender for a position - if it is illegal why does it happen? Surely even the newspaper would reject such ads on the grounds that they are illegal? There is a federal office here for the equality of men and women (you'd never guess though!), but this department is usually called something like "Equal Opportunity" or anti-discrimination in other countries. I think the failure to acknowledge that there are more types of discrimination than gender discrimination in the naming of that dept also says something.

I grew up in apartheit-era South Africa (among other places), so I'd like to think I also know something about the ugly side of racism. Thankfully the situation has changed today. My grandfather is still racist, but on the whole the population seems to have overcome their past, and most whites I spoke to do not harbour racist views, or if they do they won't express them openly. How impressive that a nation with such a dark past has made so much progress in just 10 years. When will we see a change here? Usually the hope lies with the young.....
This user would like to thank mark for this useful post:
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Old 15.12.2005, 14:23
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

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My favourite encounter has been with my "landlady". She isn't really, but she has taken posession of the laundry schedule and I think it brings meaning and fullfillment into her life.

My boyfriend and I have a tendency not to use our alloted laundry slot, forgetting even to write a little note on the paper giving it free to others. She caught me in the hallway and started pestering me about it. She told me that even the black couple who lived in the building could manage to keep to the schedule.
I just stared at her and asked her to repeat what she said.

Ok, she's not the youngest .. but still ...
Exactly - she didn't even realise that there was anything wrong with that she said! Of course, since you aren't black, then you'd understand right? But the sub-text was that since they are black, they are likely to behave badly, and if they can behave then you have no excuse.

I've heard stories from many people (Swiss) that the younger ones in a block have got together and "voted" to abolish the laundry schedule in a block, preferring to go for the free-for-all approach. The older ones weren't happy - but were outvoted. Maybe if you can rustle up the support you do could spark a revolution and live your life without the constant stress of having to stick to your laundry schedule!
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Old 15.12.2005, 15:13
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

wow thanks man i'll keep that in mind !!!
Now I've been educated
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Old 15.12.2005, 15:21
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

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wow thanks man i'll keep that in mind !!!
Now I've been educated
Wasn't trying to educate, nor condescend - just trying to present balanced and alternative views into the discussion - that's all.
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Old 15.12.2005, 18:21
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

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I grew up in apartheit-era South Africa (among other places), so I'd like to think I also know something about the ugly side of racism.

There's a nice side of racism then ??? :-)

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Old 15.12.2005, 18:25
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

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Hey now this mail almost made my day! No the Swiss are definitely not racist in the common English understanding of the word. They are just monumentally xenophobic and of course being black, yellow, brown or anything else that is not WHITE is for them a sure sign that you are a foreigner. Interestingly enough seeing as we are about 5 minutes away from the large Canton they treat the Turks at the start with a minute amount of respect as they might be Swiss Italian which is only 2nd class and not 3rd

You might be interested to know that most jobs taken by foreign nationals are through job agencies and it is common practice for the prospective employer to tell them no foreigners. And seeing as these companies earn their bread from such employers they of course prefilter applications. You might have also noticed that in Switzerland it was common to say in job adverts German mother tongue, but this is now commonly Swiss German mother tongue!

With regards to Blocher - nice comment he is very definitely xenophobic unless of course those nasty foreigners are working for Ems-Chemie in which case they are in his eyes "honorary Swiss"!!!!

Richard
I'd say it's more like classic racism: If you're of white western/northern European origin you're pretty much part of the club (though not 100% and can never be, since you're not Swiss).

However, if your skin colour is in any way dark then you are treated progressively worse and worse, depending on how non-white you are.

Well, that's from observation as I'm white skinned. Not everyone is like this of course, but there seems to be a much greater tolerance of what would be considered offensive racist attitudes elsewhere in Europe.



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Old 15.12.2005, 18:43
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

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My favourite encounter has been with my "landlady". She isn't really, but she has taken posession of the laundry schedule and I think it brings meaning and fullfillment into her life.
Going off topic here, but I think that many older people here have lead such a dull and anal life that they come to a certain age and realise "This is it, my life is almost over and I've totally wasted all the possibilities.".

This makes them hate everything with a vengeance and there's nothing that they like more than to pick trouble with other people to make themselves feel better.


Here comes another of my anecdotes about life in Switzerland: I was recently in the baths in Baden. There's a system of jets at the side whereby you move along when a gong sounds. Well, it was early in the morning and there were only a few people around so when the couple next to me didn't move along, I wasn't too worried as I was there to chill out and the water was nice. An old guy then came up next to me and started giving ME earache about not moving along. I explained that he should take it up with the couple down the line who weren't moving but seeing the trouble brewing, they moved down and I did likewise since the space was now free.

Not content with his 'victory' he proceeded to start giving me an ear bending about how important it was for everyone to move when the gong sounded blah blah blah. I decided I wasn't going to get into an arguement in a place I came to chill out in and as I just swum off I saw him looking around and smirking like a 3 year old who just got some sweets. I just had to remind myself as I always do in these situations that sad people like that aren't worth worrying about. It was also a good reminder of not too spend too much time growing older here :-)


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  #12  
Old 15.12.2005, 19:33
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

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Well, that's from observation as I'm white skinned. Not everyone is like this of course, but there seems to be a much greater tolerance of what would be considered offensive racist attitudes elsewhere in Europe.
Hmmm... Well it's difficult to make a generalisation. That also makes it sound like Europe is significantly less racist than Switzerland, which I think isn't exactly the case.

Discrimination also abounds elsewhere in Europe - in your home country it wasn't about race(as you know!!), but elsewhere in Europe it is. The Dutch used to be tolerant, but that seems to have changed. I've lived in two other European countries (UK and Germany). The UK had its fair share of race issues, but wasn't as bad as Germany, which wasn't exactly the land of milk and honey as far as foreigners were treated. The difference is that if you are an EU citizen then you can't officially be treated as a foreigner (though they tried), whereas in CH you can be, so maybe we just notice it more here?

The Irish and the Icelandics always said that they were tolerant of foreigners - which was easy because they didn't have any! Though I guess things have changed in Ireland (the republic I mean) since they started getting some imports - I bet they weren't best pleased and didn't exactly welcome them with open arms!

Mark
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Old 16.12.2005, 11:25
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

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The Irish and the Icelandics always said that they were tolerant of foreigners - which was easy because they didn't have any! Though I guess things have changed in Ireland (the republic I mean) since they started getting some imports - I bet they weren't best pleased and didn't exactly welcome them with open arms!

Mark
Hey come on Mark the Irish really don't care about a few imports. There balance of trade as far as people is concerned is second to none...

I don't think either that it is about being tolerant, but is more about fully integrating anyone that is not part of your culture. I am still shocked about the Swiss school system and its lack of flexibility in integrating students from other parts of Switzerland. This thread was originally about racism in Switzerland, but the shock is really the Swiss lack of ability, desire, need(?) to integrate people from different backgrounds even from within Switzerland itself - which in my opinion counters some of the comments made above and implies more a lack of desire to see something different or simple ignorance, and of course blatant racism...

No I am not Swiss-bashing just expressing an opinion...

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Old 20.12.2005, 09:20
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

Reading the AZ(Aargausiche Zeitung) this morning I got a little hot under the collar with their page 3. This was not like an English page 3 at all so that was not the reason! (slap)

They had a big section on Swiss Asylum seekers - ie those poor people who find themselves desperate for help. It showed a graphic with the development of applications and how Mr Blocher had managed to reduce dramatically the number of applications. This graphic had green for less applications and red for more kind of indicating their belief that there should be as few applications as possible

It does worry me that the Swiss have this kind of attitude to thes sorts of people but I wonder(worry) if this is not the case in every other country and I am a bit of a freak!

Richard
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Old 22.12.2005, 21:10
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

Hi Richard,

I think to some degree this type of fear will exist in every country, but it isn't black and white, some countries have more of it than others. Like the Swiss always like to say when presented with an aspect of their country which someone might not like - "yes, but it is like this everywhere". I object to such sweeping statements which demonstrate nothing but ignorance - an assumption that other countries have exactly the same problems, and that therefore you don't have to think about another way of "fixing" or improving your own country. My usual response is "yes, but in some countries much more than others".

One simply has to dig a little deeper into statistics and examine things like number of asylum accepted per year compared to size of population, and number of acceptances compared to number of rejected applications. Apart from the numbers one can also compare other things such as: The length of time taken to process applications, and the treatment the people will receive before and after their applications. For example - will a professor of mathematics be forced to do nothing but demeaning garden work for a few years while his application is being processed? They will in Switzerland, but you'll find that other slightly more switched on countries would be glad to have someone so educated and will open the doors immediately. You can also look at other things like forced deportations etc.

One should also be careful when making such comparisons with other european countries - many of them have a very poor showing when it comes to the treatment of refugees. Within Europe Sweden pulls more than its fair share of taking refugees (by a factor of about 5-10) than other countries. However, Switzerland, despite being a rich nation that often points the finger at other nations for human rights abuses, now has some of the harshest laws regarding the treatment of asylum seekers. Apparently this seems to have the support of Swiss population, but the UN has some very harsh words to say about it.

How ironic that a nation that plays host to the UN, Red Cross, and other humanitarian organisations has been harshly criticised by the same organisations on a host of human rights issues ranging from conditions in its prisons (massively overcrowded) to treatment of refugees.

I think the Swiss generally consider that they and their country do a lot to help poorer people and poorer nations. But it is easy to put your hand in your pocket and give money to help ease the feeling of guilt, but it's another matter entirely when the needy are living in your own country - then peoples' generousity seems to disappear.

I know that not every Swiss is racist or likes to see refugees treated in this way. But let's face it - the majority voted for these laws, and that's a hard fact to argue against... It must be incredibly frustrating for some Swiss who are a little more progressive/liberal who always seem to find themselves on the losing end of the ballot box!

I heard an excellent expression the other day: "Nationality is nothing more than an accident of birth". Those of us lucky enough to hold passports which entitle us to a peaceful existance would do well to remember that!

Mark
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Old 24.12.2005, 16:22
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

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Hmmm... Well it's difficult to make a generalisation. That also makes it sound like Europe is significantly less racist than Switzerland, which I think isn't exactly the case.

Discrimination also abounds elsewhere in Europe - in your home country it wasn't about race(as you know!!), but elsewhere in Europe it is. The Dutch used to be tolerant, but that seems to have changed. I've lived in two other European countries (UK and Germany). The UK had its fair share of race issues, but wasn't as bad as Germany, which wasn't exactly the land of milk and honey as far as foreigners were treated. The difference is that if you are an EU citizen then you can't officially be treated as a foreigner (though they tried), whereas in CH you can be, so maybe we just notice it more here?

The Irish and the Icelandics always said that they were tolerant of foreigners - which was easy because they didn't have any! Though I guess things have changed in Ireland (the republic I mean) since they started getting some imports - I bet they weren't best pleased and didn't exactly welcome them with open arms!

Mark
Well Mark, we can't all have the enlightened attitude to racial integration that South Africa and Australia have displayed (sarcastic dig) but I'm not saying that other countries are free of racism. However, it is shocking how prevalent racist _attitudes_ seem to be in Switzerland.

That said, there are a huge amount of foreigners here, which in other counties would cause many more problems but it seems to be mostly OK here so maybe it's more a case of people talking rather than causing physical trouble as would (and has been) the case in other western countries.


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  #17  
Old 04.01.2006, 17:38
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

Quote:
Reading the AZ(Aargausiche Zeitung) this morning I got a little hot under the collar with their page 3. This was not like an English page 3 at all so that was not the reason! (slap)

They had a big section on Swiss Asylum seekers - ie those poor people who find themselves desperate for help. It showed a graphic with the development of applications and how Mr Blocher had managed to reduce dramatically the number of applications. This graphic had green for less applications and red for more kind of indicating their belief that there should be as few applications as possible

It does worry me that the Swiss have this kind of attitude to thes sorts of people but I wonder(worry) if this is not the case in every other country and I am a bit of a freak!

Richard
The UK feels the same - often simply because the country <sic> is targetted by asylum seekers who travel through other EU states and don't seek aslyum there.

Surely if you're seeking asylum, anything's better?

My POV is that if you migrate and add value, you're fine. That is hopefully how others perceive me.
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Old 04.01.2006, 19:30
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

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The UK feels the same - often simply because the country <sic> is targetted by asylum seekers who travel through other EU states and don't seek aslyum there.

Surely if you're seeking asylum, anything's better?

My POV is that if you migrate and add value, you're fine. That is hopefully how others perceive me.
IMO, The real problem is that the asylum system around the Western world has been misused by people who are basically economic migrants who want to circumvent the normal methods of migrating.

Genuine asylum seekers are certainly entitlied to help and shelter. Economic migrants are more than welcome to offer their skills and experience - but if their skills aren't useful to the host country, they have no right to expect to be able to go there anyway under the guise of someone seeking asylum.

What needs to happen is faster (and fair) processing of asylum claims. Those deemed needy can stay and apply for work permits too, if they wish. Those found to be using it as a way to circumvent proper immigration procedures should be ejected ASAP and barred from entering the country again.


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Old 11.01.2006, 09:37
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

I'm new here and reading a relatively insightful (so far so good) book called 'Beyond Chocolate - understanding Swiss culture'

It has already made a few things clearer for me and I'm sure it could serve to douse a few of the fires raging here.
  #20  
Old 13.01.2006, 09:17
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Re: Are the swiss racist?

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Economic migrants are more than welcome to offer their skills and experience - but if their skills aren't useful to the host country, they have no right to expect to be able to go there anyway under the guise of someone seeking asylum.

Perhaps another way to consider that point. Imagine that you are an "economic" migrant with skills useful to another country. One might assume that another country will provide the option for you to migrate there, or make it easy for you. Sadly, very few countries have skilled migration programs. Let's take Germany for example, it was possible to come there as a guest worker and clean toilets many years ago, but not as a skilled person. Result - massive skills gap, severly hurting the economy. Many european countries now need high levels of immigration to survive the next 50 years, but the populations prefers to bury their heads in the sand and pretend they don't need the foreigners. Meanwhile those countries with active skilled migration programmes are reaping the benefits of having other countries educate their immigrants and their economies are forging ahead.

One positive aspect of Switzerland is that it at least makes it possible for skilled migration (though without the promise of citizenship, and when it happens it takes far too long and is too expensive, but that is another story). That said - this type of migration is only possible with a sponsoring company, and is different to skilled migration in other countries where you can enter the country on a migration visa without having a job. It should also be pointed out that since Switzerland has agreements with the EU most "skilled migration" is now coming from within the EU, effectively shutting out the opportunity for those outside the EU.

Anyway, I think we are getting off the topic a little, I think we were discussing whether we encounter racist attitudes in our everyday dealings with Swiss people, and whether these attitudes are entrenched in society, or just manifest themselves in a few extremists.... To discuss the pros and cons of asylum seekers we should probably create a new thread :-)
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