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Old 09.08.2009, 14:05
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So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country?

On another thread, somebody asked "When you were living at home, surrounded by your friends, family, your own culture, how often did you reach out to foreigners who were new in town?"

When we are feeling particularly unintegrated and unwelcome, how many of us stop to consider how we dealt with foreigners who were resident in our own home countries? Did we actively welcome them? Did we just ignore them? Did we accommodate their language difficulties and cultural differences? Did we make "blah blah foreigners, but not you, you're OK" comments? Did we moan about them down the pub?

This thread isn't intended to be a point-scoring exercise, but rather an opportunity to reflect on how the local population might feel when confronted by a bumbling, inarticulate foreigner while trying to go about their business.

So... how did you treat foreigners before you came to Switzerland?
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Old 09.08.2009, 14:25
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

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So... how did you treat foreigners before you came to Switzerland?
Quite differently than I will after having been in Switzerland.

Shoe's on the other foot now.
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Old 09.08.2009, 14:32
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

That's a good question.

I have always been a bit sensitive to newcomers. Back in the late 80s, I worked answering phones for customer inquiries (thank goodness that didn't last long and I got another job in the company, hell, I tell you. Hell). I was always being thanked by people with a rather poor command of English for being patient, taking my time and speaking slowly, clearly and so they'd understand - not rushing through with speedy NYC speech and accent. I never made assumptions they'd understand all the processes, either, and made sure to explain them a bit extra as I figured they were probably newish to the customer.

If I encountered a foreigner in a situtaion where I could be friendly, I usually was. Of course, sometimes that backfired, as a German guy whom I just struck up a conversation with in a line to get into a nightclub thought I was hitting on him. We ended up being friends, but only after he met my boyfriend at the time
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Old 09.08.2009, 14:33
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

I think I've always treated foreigners the same. But that's because I am also American.
In my opinion, foreigners in America...are America. It's based on foreigners.

Here in Switzerland it's a little different, however I never treated them differently. After all, many "foreigners" are Swiss.
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Old 09.08.2009, 14:39
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

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So... how did you treat foreigners before you came to Switzerland?
English is the Amtsprache in Singapore, which makes it a lot easier for foreigners to integrate into local society, although, while working for an american MNC, i've had expat colleagues who took up chinese classes prior to their arrival, only to give it up upon arriving. but, hey, its a small place, i dun expect everyone (anyone?) to know all too much about it. i found it interesting to interact with foreigners, and learn more about where they come from, and if they are keen, i'd be glad to help them discover more about local culture, which often involved bringing them to eat durians at some point. you know, to help ease the "culture shock"

that was before i left the country. now, when i am back, and if i happen to meet foreigners, i bring them to eat durians first, then i ask them about where they come from

oh Lusty, when are you popping by?

is this question also open to the local swiss? would really love to hear from them.
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Old 09.08.2009, 15:03
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

I am originally from Denmark, and left when i finished my Gymnasium, until then, I lived at home, so I have a fair excuse from my Time in Denmark. My Mum did have foreign exchange students living in her house before I was born.

In Germany, I was well integrated, Met lets of people, had a relationship with a german girl etc. Both Flensburg which is as close to Denmark, as Basel to Germany, and Bremen, where I did not get to know just 1 other foreigner.

Then I went to Scotland. After I had been in Scotland for 1.5 year, I bought a 3 bedroom house, and rented out 2 rooms. In the 5 years, I lived there, I had Tennants staying from 2 months up to 2 years. All of them were foreigners, and I never got any scottish friends, except from a few people in my Golf Club.

Here in Switzerland, my immediate Neighbours are all from ex Yugoslavia and while i have helped them with computer problems, communication is a bit difficult, as they do not speak good german or english. and the people I have met otherise are all foreigners. The only swiss people, I have got to know, were all colleagues.

I have never known any foreigners in Denmark, so I was surprised to hear, copenhagen should be international, but if they are cool people, I would happily hang out with them.

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Old 09.08.2009, 15:34
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

I've always been interested in people from other countries. As a school girl I used to swap my school dinners with my Indian and Pakistani school mates as they loved chips and stuff and I loved their packed lunches.

When I lived in Kent I had neighbors from India who hadn't been in the country for very long so I bought fireworks for the kids on November the 5th and they came into my yard to set them off. Same at Christmas, pressies for them under the tree. The little girl made me laugh as she did all the translating for her mother and once told me proudly that her brother wasn't English yet as he had not started school.

I always translated dialect for the Italian student who I worked with in Preston as I thought it unfair to him not to mention if he moved south no one would understand him!

Working in the hotel industry is an excellent opportunity to get to know people of all Nations and walks of life I especially tried to help the wives of a few asylum seekers just by being warm and explaining with hand and feet how to use washing machines, electronics etc.

My life's a lot richer by knowing so many different nationalities.
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Old 09.08.2009, 15:42
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

I socialized with foreigners quite a bit when I was back home.
At work, I would go to lunch with them.

In Switzerland, I only get asked to lunch by other foreigners.
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Old 09.08.2009, 16:23
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

In reading everyone's posts here, I can't help but wonder - are we the anomalies? Is it because we were open to foreigners in our home countries that we're foreigners now?
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Old 09.08.2009, 16:24
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

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In reading everyone's posts here, I can't help but wonder - are we the anomalies? Is it because we were open to foreigners in our home countries that we're foreigners now?
I suspect it has more to do with the fact that those who didn't give a monkey's about foreigners back home haven't contributed to this thread...
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Old 09.08.2009, 17:09
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

Diversity is exciting. I have lived in a few countries myself so it was easy to help out foreigners back home, easy to imagine how frustrating it is to stick out and not know how things work in a new land. I played in bands with them, support their artistic and other efforts, took them to parties and around town, taught them Czech for free (and how to appreciate Czech beer), helped out with practical and legal advice, shared food at potlucks and just bring them what we Czechs eat at random times, it's fun to surprise...Explained customs and habits, tried to find out about their home culture through different political and religious activities they organized, we had movies parties, all sorts of parties, life in Prague is not really as separated into local/foreign as it is here. I made fun of them, in a nice way, haha, so they feel like at home a bit, where people know them and are allowed to ream their little butts, every now and then, haha.

We share our lives quite intensively, my oldest friend is a foreigner I met in CZ shortly after revolution..The expat community back home is humongous, there are many that mingle with locals and many that keep to their own. Due to working at an international uni back home and another one hosting summer courses for foreigners in Prague every summer past 10 years, helping out was also my job, it is way nicer to do on a human level, personally and close to people rather than considering it a job, actually. I enjoy being helpful and I like people who are the same. It is not a huge investment of oneself, so I don't get the apprehention. If somebody takes you for granted, so what, their loss. If I get dissappointed that one does not reciprocate my help, that's life, not a tragedy.

I always remember being in Berlin, used to play soccer with Turkish kids, not speaking their lingo, or Blackpool cleaning people's houses not really knowing what they wrote on the note they left on a counter for me, or in the US feeling so freakily different, in Danmark so sad their Christmas was so...bleek and quiet. That's how foreigners feel in CZ. Everyone is an alien until someone takes them and shows them around.

The number of people arriving in Prague is so huge, many leave, new come, it's quick and exciting, foreigners like to live there. It's also easier to make it on your own there. It's much bigger deal to move into CH, all costly and one never knows if it works out. I think people need help here more than in any other (foreigner more friendly) place.

We have helped a ton of people while here in CH and we were helped too.
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Old 09.08.2009, 17:21
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

I swear if you use the word foreigner again I quit I am an expat...
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Old 09.08.2009, 17:23
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

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In reading everyone's posts here, I can't help but wonder - are we the anomalies? Is it because we were open to foreigners in our home countries that we're foreigners now?
I think you are correct there. Since my grandfather was an immigrant to the UK, my father's family got used to having foreign guests at home, and my parents continued that tradition. There were also a fair number of schoolmates whose parents had settled in our area during and after WWII.

So yes, moving to a place where I am the foreigner wasn't nearly as hard as it is for some.
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Old 09.08.2009, 17:24
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

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I swear if you use the word foreigner again I quit I am an expat...
Eh, semantics again
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Old 09.08.2009, 17:29
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

I lived for 7 years with my Swiss partner in southern England prior to moving to Switzerland. So I can tell a little about what the 'boot is like on the other foot'.

First off language: if you don't speak English - and quite good English - you are absolutely and totally lost in the UK. There is absolutely no consideration whatsoever for other languages.

We came across a French woman who had moved to England with her French husband for his job. She did not speak English. She spent most of her days crying. We knew a group of Swiss-Germans in the UK (in fact ran a Swiss club there) and they befriended her - speaking to her in French. She basically had a nervous breakdown in her short stay in the UK and was able to do nothing but shop silently in the local supermarket where speaking was not required.

I could write much more but don't have the time just now...
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Old 09.08.2009, 17:33
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

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I lived for 7 years with my Swiss partner in southern England prior to moving to Switzerland. So I can tell a little about what the 'boot is like on the other foot'.

First off language: if you don't speak English - and quite good English - you are absolutely and totally lost in the UK. There is absolutely no consideration whatsoever for other languages.

We came across a French woman who had moved to England with her French husband for his job. She did not speak English. She spent most of her days crying. We knew a group of Swiss-Germans in the UK (in fact ran a Swiss club there) and they befriended her - speaking to her in French. She basically had a nervous breakdown in her short stay in the UK and was able to do nothing but shop silently in the local supermarket where speaking was not required.

I could write much more but don't have the time just now...
I know how she felt, poor thing. We did have overstuffed pantry and soap cabinet for a while, too.

I was going to add the same thing you wrote, that being in a bi-cultural marriage or relationship makes one aware of the difficulties the "outsider" goes through...
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Old 09.08.2009, 18:40
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

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In reading everyone's posts here, I can't help but wonder - are we the anomalies? Is it because we were open to foreigners in our home countries that we're foreigners now?
It may have to do with how and when were introduced to the concept of foreigners.

My husband's family housed many exchange students (six week stays or something) for a few years. My parents helped international college students get their footing in the U.S. That meant at least twice a year (each semester) from when I was 3 until 9 or so we had someone staying with us for a few weeks before the semester started. We had students from India (various regions), China, Brazil and Thailand staying with us. We often kept in touch for a little while and they would get invited for Thanksgiving and Christmas (most international students have no clue about Thanksgiving and they often cannot always afford to go home at Christmastime, which isn't even a holiday in many countries). My parents still exchange Christmas cards, etc. with a few of them.

I can't say that my husband and I did anything special to accommodate foreigners when we were in the U.S., but we did answer questions, mostly about pronunciation and Thanksgiving.
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Old 09.08.2009, 21:58
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

I married one. My husband came to the US to go to grad school, then took a position at a uni where I was studying.

Of course, only just that one time did I marry one....
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Old 09.08.2009, 22:10
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

Or it could be that, like me, people come from a crap little mining town that no foreigner would ever want to move to. Seriously in my six years of High School I cannot think of a single person who was born outside of the British Isles.

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I suspect it has more to do with the fact that those who didn't give a monkey's about foreigners back home haven't contributed to this thread...
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Old 09.08.2009, 22:17
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Re: So, what did you do to accommodate foreigners when you lived in your home country

We are all foreigners. Some came earlier. Maybe several generations earlier (like the Pilgrims to the USA). Some came later, maybe today.

And the most unfortunate are the indigenous who are swamped out and almost eradicated by the foreigners. Examples are the American Indians or the Australian Aborginees or the Maoris in NZ. Wonder what they think about foreigners.

This over dominance by foreigners is what some locals fear. The German word for it is Ueberfremdung.
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