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Old 25.08.2014, 13:50
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Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

Looking around old threads on the forum to learn about how things are in Switzerland I seem to see a very negative picture of life there.
Lots of people posting that not even can they not get a girlfriend but that that they are failing to even make friends.
Lots of comments saying that the Swiss are very insular and closed off, xenophobic, etc....
Bloody hell.

I am wondering here; how much truth is there to this?
Are they in any way right?
Or are they just moaners from the US/India/Brazil/other countries where the people are very strange and super open and eternally positive, and that it is not Switzerland that they have trouble with but western Europe as a whole?

I ask as... In the past I have read online what people have to say about countries before I move there. I get to the new country to find that the actual major differences hadn't been mentioned at all and the supposed differences the internet highlighted weren't really issues at all.
The majority of such commentary online seems to come from an American perspective, which is very very different to the North European perspective of Britain (Well. The north at least. I can't claim to speak for the south.)

So I ask experienced Switzerlanders- how was your experience in the early days of getting to know people?
Do the Swiss have much of a pub culture of random crack with random people?
Are they club-crazy?
Would they go in for free hugs?
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Old 25.08.2014, 13:56
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

I have profound experience of living both in the south and in the north of Europe and the Swiss are nothing like either. So even if you come from Europe, you'll be in for a bit of a chock coming to Switzerland.
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Old 25.08.2014, 14:00
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

It's a fact of life that people will voice and write about complaints, but not always about good and positive things.

And if you come from the UK, you should also know there are huge differences between North and South, rural and town- etc. The answer to your questions would change vastly depending if it is about London or Manchester or North Yorkshire, Norfolk or Devon- about age and generation, education, etc.

And of course some parts of Switzerland are much more insular and indicative of the traits you mention above than others. The French and italian parts are quite different to the central German Kantons of Schwyz- and Zurich and Geneva are quite different... and Basel is the more 'Latin' of the German towns... etc. I've lived inb several towns in the UK, with very different cultures and attitudes- same here.

However, it is clear that many are attracted to Switzerland as it is seen as the last Eldorado- but find that it is not easy to make a success of it and then become bitter. Switzerland is not for everybody, that is for sure- but your own attitude, to learning the language, to having an open mind yourself, to making the effort to understand that is goind around you and adapt to some extent, etc- will make all the difference to how people react to you in return.

Where in the UK are you? I've known some Brits to move to Devon or Norfolk and never be accepted as a local... and I've know an Indian family who was bullied and stoned out of North Wales...
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Old 25.08.2014, 14:12
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

I came here in 1989, and I have been invited socially 3 times into Swiss peoples homes, that is aside from being invited as a friend of a friend.

The Swiss can be friendly, but they are very very insular. They always claim that once they make a friend it is forever, as if this will justify not making a friendship quickly, and only until they are very very sure. But who do you know that begins a friendship with the idea, "I can always dump him next year"? How many of you go to EF events, many Swiss people come to these events too.

You won't find a friend in a bar, and probably not on public transport, and restaurants are difficult too. My advice is always to join a club, a church, an evening class, a sporting club. Join something where you can make a statement, so that others can judge, and possibly agree with you, and begin to become closer to you. Your local Gemeinde/Commune will have a list of societies and clubs in the area, with the contact information.

So I ask experienced Switzerlanders- how was your experience in the early days of getting to know people?
Do the Swiss have much of a pub culture of random crack with random people?
Definitely not!
Are they club-crazy?
No
Would they go in for free hugs?
Free HUGS - forget it!!

.

Last edited by Sbrinz; 25.08.2014 at 14:46.
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Old 25.08.2014, 14:13
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

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stoned out of North Wales...

Everybody gets stoned in North Wales.


There's bugger all else to do there...
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Old 25.08.2014, 14:13
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

Countries and towns are just like people - all people are not the same, yet they`re the same. All depends on your own attitude, and the people you interact with.

Like when someone tells you "That person is a (negative) so-and so", and you get to meet that person (with your open mind) and find they`re actually quite nice!

And visa versa
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Old 25.08.2014, 19:52
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

When reading things on the internet, one must keep in mind that everyone's personal experience is going to be different. It's like reading reviews on Amazon - there's always going to be someone who feels their life was made better by owning a certain product, and another who feels the product destroyed their life.


I know of a girl who moved from the US to Switzerland and she LOVES it. I know of another who really wants to go back to the US. Personal experiences, personalities, background and initiation into the new country, the first few people they met (first impressions, though they are not a representation of EVERY person you will meet in a country, can play a HUGE impact on how one views a culture as a whole. Don't hate; it's true.), how well they were able to integrate, how the culture effected them at different points of their life (for example, if they were having a rough go of it, were they able to head out somewhere, meet people, feel better? Or did they feel even more isolated, stuck and secluded when life was ALREADY difficult?), etc... The list goes on.

I don't think any two people are really going to have the exact same impression of a certain culture because of a lot of factors. A place like Switzerland works for some people; for others, it doesn't. No harm, no foul, it could happen anywhere, in any country.

This doesn't make excuses for certain things. There are things like basic human kindness, generosity, helpfulness, etc. that really should be an international thing wherever you go. Some places, you may find more of those things than other locations. But once again, there will always be someone who loves it and someone who can't wait to leave. Because (excuse my corniness here, butů) people are like snowflakes, no two are the same.



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Or are they just moaners from the US/India/Brazil/other countries where the people are very strange
Speaking as a Swiss who just moved back to Switzerland, I will try not to take that personal.

By the way, I noticed the subtile exclusion of the UK in your list of places where "People are very strange." Very nice hint of favoritism there, really, keep it up! As far as making friends and influencing people, you're off to a great start!

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Old 25.08.2014, 20:02
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

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I came here in 1989, and I have been invited socially 3 times into Swiss peoples homes.
You're in Bern! Basel's the place to be
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Old 25.08.2014, 22:07
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

I wrote a big reply to this and didn[t get around to posting it!

Basically was saying I am pretty new here (3 months) so if it's early days' experience then mine are as fresh as they come

And I have been pleasantly surprised with life here. Was expecting it to be tougher than it actually is. It;s a bit like having your first kid, when you're expecting people love to tell you their horror stories! It ain't that bad

Most of the Swiss I have met have been delightful and friendly! <3 The only exceptions that spring to mind are a couple of shop assistants, but perhaps they were just having a bad day; I've worked in shops before myself, sometimes it;s so boring and customers are just annoying even when they are nice
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Old 25.08.2014, 23:40
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

Some of my best friends in the world are Swiss. They are warm, intelligent, open-minded, fantastic people. And so are some other best friends, who are not Swiss.

What all of them have in common (Swiss and non-Swiss), without exceptions, is that they are highly educated, have lived in different countries (and understand what it means to be away from your loved ones, stuck in a place where everyone speaks a "funny" language), are open to different experiences and trying different things.

I don't think being Swiss has anything to do with anything. I think it's the type of people you seek out in the different countries you live in that can determine you having a great or horrible experience, in any given country. I have much more in common with my Swiss friend who was up at 3am with me studying statistics in graduate school in California, than with the kid I've know since we were 8 years old, who never left our small town in Northern Italy.
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Old 26.08.2014, 10:38
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

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When reading things on the internet, one must keep in mind that everyone's personal experience is going to be different. It's like reading reviews on Amazon - there's always going to be someone who feels their life was made better by owning a certain product, and another who feels the product destroyed their life.


I know of a girl who moved from the US to Switzerland and she LOVES it. I know of another who really wants to go back to the US. Personal experiences, personalities, background and initiation into the new country, the first few people they met (first impressions, though they are not a representation of EVERY person you will meet in a country, can play a HUGE impact on how one views a culture as a whole. Don't hate; it's true.), how well they were able to integrate, how the culture effected them at different points of their life (for example, if they were having a rough go of it, were they able to head out somewhere, meet people, feel better? Or did they feel even more isolated, stuck and secluded when life was ALREADY difficult?), etc... The list goes on.

I don't think any two people are really going to have the exact same impression of a certain culture because of a lot of factors. A place like Switzerland works for some people; for others, it doesn't. No harm, no foul, it could happen anywhere, in any country.

This doesn't make excuses for certain things. There are things like basic human kindness, generosity, helpfulness, etc. that really should be an international thing wherever you go. Some places, you may find more of those things than other locations. But once again, there will always be someone who loves it and someone who can't wait to leave. Because (excuse my corniness here, butů) people are like snowflakes, no two are the same.
It's quite possible to generalise and say that the Swiss are less friendly and open than the Spanish or the Italians. Anyone who moves to the Romandie will find it much easier to fit in than in the Deutschschweiz.
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Old 26.08.2014, 11:09
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

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I ask as... In the past I have read online what people have to say about countries before I move there. I get to the new country to find that the actual major differences hadn't been mentioned at all and the supposed differences the internet highlighted weren't really issues at all.
The majority of such commentary online seems to come from an American perspective, which is very very different to the North European perspective of Britain (Well. The north at least. I can't claim to speak for the south.)

So I ask experienced Switzerlanders- how was your experience in the early days of getting to know people?
Do the Swiss have much of a pub culture of random crack with random people?
Are they club-crazy?
Would they go in for free hugs?
Well, that's a mistake. I mean - reading "online" about a place..Well, I didn't read anything before moving here, not the usual anonymous stuff you find online anyway. Certainly not the English forum (thanks goodness), neither other expat forums. Based on my personal experience, and only that, I had quite a rather positive experience/image of Switzerland, so much better than I feared - I feared they were cold, unsympathetic, unwelcoming etc. So not true, I was pleasantly surprised.
I am not saying there is no xenophobia or racism here, but if you come here with your mind already set up on that, you'll very likely notice that and nothing more.
It's a beautiful place that has so much to offer. People? How should I describe them, generalising, of course - peaceful, respectful of others, correct, kind, even nice. Making friends will depend entirely on you, but some of them will give you a chance, be sure of that - like everywhere, really.
I don't think they have that pub culture you're referring to, but there are Swiss who meet up in the local bar, be sure of that, and I am pretty sure they're able to have a beer with a stranger.
Club-crazy? No, not hat I noticed. You can go to my home country for that.
Free hugs, no, not really, they are anyway too shy for that.
In short - don't expect everything (including people) to be exactly like your home country and you'll be O.K. Will you really like it? Not sure, you won't know till you don't try.
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Old 26.08.2014, 11:11
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

I'd write something a bit harsh but I'm afraid 20 Minuten is watching and will write an article from it.


PS: How's that for being Swiss?
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Old 26.08.2014, 11:18
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

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Everybody gets stoned in North Wales.


There's bugger all else to do there...
unless you're interested in sheep
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Old 26.08.2014, 11:25
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

I think it depends on the individuals. To what extent can you stretch out of your comfort zone and accept people as they are rather than as you want them to be? Do you look at people and think, they're different so they must be wrong, or do you seek to see things from their point of view, and maybe end up noticing its not as different from yours as you initially thought.

Personally, I spend much more time hanging around with Swiss friends than with expats.

In my view, a lot of the moaning on EF reflects people going around and expecting things to be exactly like at home and seeing a deficit rather than an opportunity in everything that's new.
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Old 26.08.2014, 11:49
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

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Do you look at people and think, they're different so they must be wrong
I never managed to integrate that well... but I did improve my staring skills over the years.
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Old 26.08.2014, 12:03
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

Like someone mentioned here already, the best way to integrate is to join a local club (music, sports,...) You meet local people of all ages and professions, you can go to the local pub together for a drink afterwards, sometimes there are local festivities you are invited to or you have to help at local events. If you need help on housing, administration, you can ask someone if they have some inside information.
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Old 26.08.2014, 12:05
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

I literally laughed out loud when you took the opportunity to take a shot at Americans and then, just like every single Brit I have ever met, went on and asked if Switzerland has a pub where you can hang with the mates and watch some footie.



before I moved to Switzerland, I was told a million times that "the Swiss" were insular and slow to make friends, and that I should look forward to a tight-knit expat community where we would fit in right away. and I found the exact opposite to be true - I found the expat community to be boring and insular, but made several reasonably close and likely lifelong friends among "the Swiss". be willing to leave the safety of your comfort zone, join a local club or three, and show a geniune interest in learning the local culture (and language), and you will find "the Swiss" to be no different than people anywhere else in the world - there are good ones and there are bad ones, and if you keep an open mind and sense of humor about it you will find yourselves magically stumbling across more of the good than the bad.
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Old 26.08.2014, 12:13
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

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It's quite possible to generalise and say that the Swiss are less friendly and open than the Spanish or the Italians. Anyone who moves to the Romandie will find it much easier to fit in than in the Deutschschweiz.
I'm a grumpy Spaniard.
We come in all shapes and moods.


As for "free hugs", they'd better not
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Old 26.08.2014, 14:48
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Re: Making friends and influencing (Swiss) people

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It's quite possible to generalise and say that the Swiss are less friendly and open than the Spanish or the Italians. Anyone who moves to the Romandie will find it much easier to fit in than in the Deutschschweiz.
We have a collection of Swiss friends...and there are distinct differences between the ones from Romandie and those who are "SD" (schweizerdeutsch).

What we have learned over the years:
  • You are more likely to have random invitations/social outings with Romandie folk. There appears to be a higher amount of free time left in the schedule for such events to happen. With our "SD" friends...plans are often made two to three months in advance and there is little to no chance of those plans changing or a random meeting to happen in the interim.
  • SD seem to make friends for life. Our SD friends have so many social engagements with people they have met throughout their lives that there is very little time to accommodate "the now". Social agendas tend to be filled with planned get-togethers with old friends and families (parents usually).
  • Staring is a sport. Don't take it personally. The best way to avoid being stared at is to stare right back. However...if you get into a stare lock...RUN!!!
  • Clubbing...only if your 20.
  • Pub culture...just because "pub" is in the name does not make it so. In the cities "pub" usually means "bar". The closest I've seen to actual pub culture does not seem to be in the cities so much...take a trip to the sticks and you will find this...even in canton Zurich.
  • Hugs...depends on the person...but generally...no. Hugs and clubbing do seem to be more closely related though.
General advice...as with others...join a club of interest and remember that you're not "home" anymore. Or simply learn to live with less people in your day and try to master the Swiss social agenda: you too can plan months in advance too!



With enough time, you'll see your social life in CH is more like a glacier...growing and flowing slowly, but with plenty of mass to keep the momentum up. Just be patient.
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