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Old 03.09.2011, 12:31
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Perspective: doz we haz it?

Reading this forum, one gets the impression that life in Switzerland is a maelstrom of nasty neighbours, rude shopkeepers, useless parents, pursed-lipped bureaucrats, aggressive xenophobes and vicious cynophobes.

Of course, it isn't really like that, is it? Sure, we've all experienced things which aren't entirely pleasant, the frequency and offensiveness of which are increased, somewhat, by our being foreign, but overall, life in Switzerland isn't significantly worse for most of us than it would be in any other country.

I was trying to work out why so much bad stuff seems to happen here compared to England (for example), when it dawned on me: back in England I knew, perhaps, a hundred people. Stuff happened to me directly, or to my closest friends and colleagues, or to my extended family, or to people I saw once every couple of years, and I'd hear about it sooner or later. There might be a burglary, or an act of vandalism, or someone might get mugged, or someone might have problems with his neighbours. I heard about my parent's friends having their dog poisoned, my cousin having his house ransacked, my friend's adopted son having problems with his asylum application. These things might happen, on average, about once a week, but I'd only catch up on them when I made my once or twice monthly phone calls. Life was life, and, to bowdlerise: stuff happens.

Here, I read a forum frequented by several hundred people living all over Switzerland. Every time something bad happens, it is posted on the forum. When we read about these incidents, we are reminded of similar incidents posted last year or the year before, and dig them up to refresh our outrage memories. We can all remember the forum member who watched in horror as an old man tried to hit his child's legs with a stick. We can all remember the forum member who was beaten up by skinheads. We can all remember the forum member who was attacked by pepper spray. We can all remember the forum members who endured nasty comments, physical attacks, unhelpfulness at the parish office. We read about them almost every day, and can read the details any time we please.

The end result, of course, is that we perceive Switzerland to be a lot worse than it really is. When something happens to us - as stuff happens everywhere - we are reminded of that incident we read on the EF, and it fuels our frustration and anger, as "it's obviously happening to a lot of people", as, indeed, it is. Except that normally we'd only hear about it if it happened to someone we knew. Here we hear about it when it happens to anyone, whether she lives in Geneva or St Gallen or Chiasso or Sion.

If we were members of a forum of a similar size and activity in our home countries - especially one frequented by foreigners - we might find ourselves seeing those countries in a very different light. We'd read about the stuff that happens all the time that we hardly ever hear about - the xenophobia, the petty bureaucracy, the petty crime that never gets reported in the papers, but which would make its way straight onto the forum. And we'd come away convinced that our own countries were as complicated and annoying and frustrating as Switzerland.

It's hard to keep this perspective - I know that I struggle to not observe patterns of poor behaviour after reading about them on the EF - but, if we are to have any chance of being happy here, we don't really have a lot of choice.

So - on balance - do you think life in Switzerland is as bad as we paint it, or do you think our view of the country is skewed by having access to many more stories of personal experience than we might normally enjoy?
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Old 03.09.2011, 12:43
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

I love leaving in Switzerland. I dont want to go back to Cyprus. Being able to go out at 2pm in August is reason enough

Ok on a serious note. Maybe its just me but i believe my life personally its better here. I can go out for dinner in a tracksuit if i want to and nobody says anything. In Cyprus, people point at you if you dare to go out in with anything less than full make up.

Plus most of my friends there want to leave. Im the lucky one who actually made it. There are no jobs unless you know somebody.

I guess im just saying that because im enjoying my life here. Back home i could never afford to live on my own and have to rely on my parents.

But to confuse it a bit more. Switzerland, as much as i enjoy it, still doesnt feel like home
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Old 03.09.2011, 12:44
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

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So - on balance - do you think life in Switzerland is as bad as we paint it, or do you think our view of the country is skewed by having access to many more stories of personal experience than we might normally enjoy?
Interesting insights and a great post. My husband and I were having the exact same discussion recently. You only read mostly negative stuff on here and people with similar experiences tend to emerge from the woodwork adding to the discussion, hence magnifying the incident and skews your perception of the country, people and rules even further.

A good example will be the BBQ on the balcony thread: I read comments about not being able to grill on the balkon because the neighbours wont like it, and hesitated in getting one initially but bit the bullet and got it in the end. All has been well.

I've also read about Swiss dental hygenist and how rough they are when cleaning your teeth. I was horrified when my husband told me he made an appointment with one and insisted that he tried mine. He refused, stuck with the one he picked and came back without a scratch.

Dont even get me started on the noise rules. Over the summer, due to the sweltering heat, my neighbour in the next building has had his telly on FULL volume the entire day till about 11.30pm at night. No one seemed to give a toss - instead I, the auslander was asking my husband: "is this allowed??! I am surprised no one's called the police!!"

I can quote many more examples. I take such posts with a pinch of salt, because there are always two sides to every story. Read it, offer help if we can but try not to let it affect your daily life, and let it breed negativity (All Swiss are xenophobes/racists/anal farts about noise and rules/busybodies who spy on their neighbours/bad at service, etc etc), because it clouds your judgment and perception, holding you back just that little bit when embracing new experiences.
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Old 03.09.2011, 12:47
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

Self perpetuating, sadly. Same happened with many French colleagues at work in the UK.
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Old 03.09.2011, 13:03
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

Hmmm...I don't think I judge a place according to some internet chat, more likely on my own experience. There are great things, there are not so great thigns, just like everywhere else. Reading tabloids here will make you believe also that furiners are behind all the crap that is happening. Same ol shtick. Some locals will take the furiner stereotype with a grain of salt and not prejudge, some will fall for it.

I do not think that what one would read here represents how life really is in reality. Everybody filters through this. It's just choice of problems people want to share, or need to share in order to survive. Survival will make you post about crappy stuff since you will want to learn up how to cope.

But we have a lot of very nice experiences shared here, too. Just like general nagging, sometimes you chose something to nag about, sometimes something nice to share, normal human talk. I think I wouldn't necesarrily want to only read about the positive stuff since I need still a lot of practical info that usually does come out in the "I have a problem" threads.

In terms of good news/bad news...I can't really watch the news back home since the level of corruption makes one sick. I do not know, however, that not seeing stuff in media here makes it not exist here. You see? Not hearing about things, living out of the reach of scandalist news, might influence general slap happiness, but not sure if that would be a reality, too. It's all skewed, anyways, in some ways. One bubble, or the other bubble. Most people make the sense in it by some kind of filtering. Some cultures, however, do filter for people, and I am not a fan of it.

I have just started this book and it's interesting.
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Old 03.09.2011, 13:04
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

I once wrote jokingly that there is no positive equivalent of Complaints Corner on the EF.
If your only window to the world is the news on TV, you are bound to believe that we live in a dark world, full of violence and general negativity. It’s an old question: Why does bad news in the media sell so well? Why do we pay more attention to rants rather than positive, uplifting posts?
Here’s an intersting article. “As evolution would have it, we humans are wired in such a way that negative events leave a stronger impression than positive ones.” I think it’s time we tried and untrained ourselves.
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Old 03.09.2011, 13:29
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

I'm not sure it's just the forum - wider access to media in general, methinks. I'm remembering people like that idealistic Texan who was on here a few months ago (Synaptic was it?) or like ProsperityJoy - people who read a lot of news, and become convinced that police brutality or kidnapping or what-have-you is commonplace in the US because they're constantly hearing about it. Same thing in Switzerland, I think a lot of expats here can become convinced that the SVP hates us or that Swiss neighbors are hell, based on what they read rather than on personal experience. Not that there mightn't be a grain of truth to either of those views, but when people let random gossip on the internet override their own experience we have a problem.

It's good that we have access to all this data, don't get me wrong. I wouldn't want to go back to depending on just news from a local newspaper and gossip from the hairdresser's. But at the same time we need to realize that we are absorbing much more information than in previous generations, and try not to give the secondhand stuff too much weight compared to our own experiences and those of people we actually know offline.
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Old 03.09.2011, 13:35
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

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Here’s an intersting article. “As evolution would have it, we humans are wired in such a way that negative events leave a stronger impression than positive ones.” I think it’s time we tried and untrained ourselves.
Well, it's not only that. But research apparently found out that slightly cynical and sceptical people tend to see the reality in a more acurate way and their critical thinking skills prepare them better to deal with potentially difficult situations.

I think it depends how you grow up. If you are poor and constantly have to think about a serious back up and relying only on youself, no flexibility and restrictions far worse than here, actually, then you kinda seem more negative, since you constantly thinking "what if.." scenario. You have to. You don't close your eyes and just chill thinking somebody will pick up where you left off. Knowing things does not make one negative, though, but being prepared and ocassionally nagging might be a tad different to Smile therapy.

I personally think we expect too much from here. And get a little disappointed, when a place cannot deliver 200%, since it is supposed to (advertised heaven on earth and price tag that shoud assure quality, too). It's not very fair to here. Staying here longer and longer makes one realize how this place is no different than other, better in some ways, more difficult in others. And one feels more grateful with time, me thinks.

I translated some work of Arnost Lustig and have met him for 1o years, interracted enough to soak up his fun ways. He was one of few Auswitz survival kids, very moving writer. He always said, people are bastards. You can make yourself think whatever you want, but that thought will always stay at the back of your mind. No amount of hedonism and optimism will erase that back thought. Countries make no difference. I wonder if that is Jewish or not, don't know.

I also talked a few weeks ago with one of my very good friends, an 85yr old prof and a collague choir singer. He told me how with age, there is this cynical view, that, people are all egocentric creatures. And dumb. I am not sure, it's certainly a perspective of somebody who lived 50 years longer than me...But asking for help with problems and off loading here, maybe it is negative, maybe it's just human. Maybe people do not know how to nag in a more sugarcoated way.

This is long and way off the original alley, but when one has multicultural life, you run into this all the time.

I appreciate thoughts in this thread.
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Old 03.09.2011, 14:04
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

Applause for your post, DB.

I can only suggest that the forum serves for some as the info channel and for others as an "entertainment" and gossip channel where unintentionally (I hope) pet peeves, grudges, minor annoyances and the like go through an mentally incestuous mutation and get blown all out of proportion, giving the impression of a bear who isn't.
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Old 03.09.2011, 14:13
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

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Applause for your post, DB.

I can only suggest that the forum serves for some as the info channel and for others as an "entertainment" and gossip channel where unintentionally (I hope) pet peeves, grudges, minor annoyances and the like go through an mentally incestuous mutation and get blown all out of proportion, giving the impression of a bear who isn't.
Don't get me wrong: I don't think that people are blowing their own experiences out of proportion. Some of the stuff we read about on the forum really is very unpleasant.

Moreover, I think the forum provides a very valuable service, being a place where we can come and rant when we are upset, frustrated, angry or disappointed with some aspect of life in Switzerland, without fear of breaking the law or upsetting the neighbours. It is good that we have place to do this.

My concern is with the reader, rather than the writer of such posts. It is the cumulative effect of reading the experiences of several hundred people living in places as diverse as Lausanne, Lugano, Liestal and Lenzerheide that leads us to believe that Switzerland is an awful place full of people having awful things happen to them. Which, of course, it is*. It's just that without the English Forum we wouldn't be reminded of that fact quite so often.

*just like everywhere else is.
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Old 03.09.2011, 14:45
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

absolutely, DB! because offline i dont hear anything like that.
nobody i know in person all over zurich (cant speak for other parts in ch)
has any of those problems. ok, some paper hassle, bit of bureaucrazyness..but thats it.
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Old 03.09.2011, 14:53
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

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places as diverse as Lausanne, Lugano, Liestal and Lenzerheide
... which would be even more diverse if they didn't all start with the letter L. Just sayin'.
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Old 03.09.2011, 15:20
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

There is a lot more chances of a misunderstanding happening in daily business, compared to home. Most of the people on EF have only been here for a few years, and even those who've been here longer may have challenges with the languages and the local customs. After some years, we've become accustomed to the way things work and even know where to find brown sugar, make substitutions for cake flours, etc. And we talk more to our neighbors and coworkers and decrease our dependency on EF for all our news and social needs.

But there are unpleasant surprises. So maybe I come here and post because I got (figuratively) slapped in the face and reminded that I are foreign and want sympathy from someone who is more likely to understand my point of view. I don't post how my visit to the recycling center was surprisingly easy this morning (major apartment clean-up) or the comment from the cashier at Coop (she liked the print on my t-shirt) or the absolute peacefulness of a hot Saturday afternoon.

I also think like begats like. Someone may decide to post about a noisy/nosy neighbor because he's already read someone else's complaint. Same for speeding tickets, invasive plants and unreasonable working hours. These are acceptable topics, so they get discussed again and again. Some people are hard-wired to complain a lot and they want to be heard.
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Old 03.09.2011, 16:14
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

Nah it is not as bad, you are right, people usually come here to the EF as a sort of release and sharing what experiences (mostly bad but also good of course) has happened in their lives so basically I think drawing definite conclusions from the forum is justa bit biased
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Old 03.09.2011, 16:23
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

Among other things, such a forum also promotes selective perception. That's normal. You read about something, you (subconsciously) begin to focus on possibly experiencing the same, and -- lo and behold -- it does happen. Would have gone unnoticed, though, if you hadn't been made sensitive to it.

One wonderful example: red shoes in Switzerland. Ever since that Diccon Bewes guy wrote in his book, Swiss Watching: Inside Europe's Landlocked Island, that about one in four persons in Switzerland wears red shoes, many EFers observed the same. After all, he had mentioned it in about four different chapters in his book. Does that make it true? No, it doesn't. Although there is a huge lot of good stuff in that book, there's some total b.s. too.

How do I know? I checked it on a more or less scientific basis. Well, sort of, anyway.

After having read the book in early spring, I started analyzing my video collection of the past two years, with material from public places in Zürich, Chur, Scuol, Davos, Klosters, Zernez, Müstair, St. Gallen, Greifensee, Rapperswil, Glarus, Schwyz City, Brunnen, Seelisberg, Altdorf, Buochs, Stansstaad, Beckenried, Zug, Lucerne, Baden, Lenzburg, Burgdorf, Bern, Fribourg, Gruyčre, Montreux, La Tour de Peilz, Lausanne, Rolle, Nyon, Geneva, Neuchâtel, Morat/Murten, Lugano, Locarno, Ascona, Ponte Tresa, Magliaso, Capolago, Mendrisio, Melide, and, just for comparison's sake, also from Midtown Manhattan, Queens (NYC), Washington, DC, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis and the rather rural Grand Traverse Area (Traverse City to Petoskey) and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Result after carefully counting more than 4500 pairs of shoes on both sides of the Atlantic: About one in 120 persons wears red shoes or, at least, shoes with a conspicuous amount of red on them, a statistically insignificant little bit more in the USA than in Switzerland.

Conclusion: Diccon Bewes should have his eyes and / or his memory checked. But, funny enough, lots of EFers confirmed his totally unfounded findings. They read about incredibly frequent red shoes in Switzerland, they saw a pair -- gosh, the guy is right, let's tell our fellow EFers!

That's how the human mind work. It's just applied psychology.

P.S.: Please don't pick up the red shoes topic here. That was just an example.
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Old 03.09.2011, 16:26
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

I'm part of the small Swiss non-expat group lurking on this forum. I enjoy broadening my view of the world with the discussions being posted here, and when I can I enjoy helping the disorientated expats who try to understand how this country works.

I'm fully sympathetic with the expats who struggle with all the novelties, and need a little reassurance to settle in comfortably. But recently I feel like there's a huge amount of posts from newly-arrived expats who complain harshly that everything is sh** in Switzerland: no choice in supermarkets, prices too expensive, opening hours too short, nosy or just plain awful Swiss neighbours, etc.

Now, I know my country is far from perfect, and neither are its Swiss residents... But I have more and more troubles to keep calm when confronted to those perky remarks from that small group of 'Swiss bashing' EFers. Sometimes it's all I can do not to answer them "if you hate it so much here, why you don't go back to where you're from?!" I mean, quite a lot of the expats complaining here arrived in CH thanks to juicy job offers who allow them to live much more comfortably than me!
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Old 03.09.2011, 17:03
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

Life`s a beach enjoy itShit my spelling,bitch of course
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Old 03.09.2011, 17:06
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

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I'm part of the small Swiss non-expat group lurking on this forum. I enjoy broadening my view of the world with the discussions being posted here, and when I can I enjoy helping the disorientated expats who try to understand how this country works.

I'm fully sympathetic with the expats who struggle with all the novelties, and need a little reassurance to settle in comfortably. But recently I feel like there's a huge amount of posts from newly-arrived expats who complain harshly that everything is sh** in Switzerland: no choice in supermarkets, prices too expensive, opening hours too short, nosy or just plain awful Swiss neighbours, etc.

Now, I know my country is far from perfect, and neither are its Swiss residents... But I have more and more troubles to keep calm when confronted to those perky remarks from that small group of 'Swiss bashing' EFers. Sometimes it's all I can do not to answer them "if you hate it so much here, why you don't go back to where you're from?!" I mean, quite a lot of the expats complaining here arrived in CH thanks to juicy job offers who allow them to live much more comfortably than me!
Its all your fault
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Old 03.09.2011, 17:23
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

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Reading this forum, one gets the impression that life in Switzerland is a maelstrom of nasty neighbours, rude shopkeepers, useless parents, pursed-lipped bureaucrats, aggressive xenophobes and vicious cynophobes.

Sometimes I read those posts & think I live in a parallel world.

The other thing is that "expats" or rather us non-Swiss don't realize that when we do run into some issue WE are the problem.

(Oh, god. NO. what? Me??? I didn't do anything....it was themmmm)
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Old 03.09.2011, 17:26
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Re: Perspective: doz we haz it?

Interesting post DB.

I take the stories of evil tram drivers, landlords et al with a pinch of salt, and try to form my judgments mainly on my own experience.

With that said my own experience with respect to Swiss people is that there are without doubt more grouchy people here and more people here who seem to have frowns permanently fixed to their faces than is the case in the UK, but at the same time, there are more people who are kind, generous and lovely here than I am used to back in the UK. Neighbours, bus drivers, staff at the local Coop, and just random people in the street who without request help out or put a smile on my face.

In scientific notation, the first chart shows my experience with respect to ppl in London

perspective-doz-we-haz-bell-curve1.gif

And this second chart roughly shows my experience with ppl in Switzerland (though i wish i could flatten out that curve a bit):

perspective-doz-we-haz-bell-curve2.gif

So basically, I can live with the extra grouchy people, because there are also extra nice people here.
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