Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sometimes the nicest people in Switzerland aren't Swiss‏

Maybe it's because I'm tired, but I need to have a bit of a bitch (or whinge if you don't know what that means). Not that I've come across anyone bad, but sometimes the nicest people we've come across in Switzerland haven't necessarily been Swiss. And I apologise if you're Swiss and you're reading this. The fact you're reading this means you're nice. Thanks, it means a lot. But I haven't come across you yet, so it doesn't count.

Take the other night. We got back after four days in London and get a taxi home. The taxi driver turned out to be a nice guy, who conversed with us, helped with our luggage, etc - but he wasn't Swiss. He was French Moroccan.

Sometimes, the Swiss (and I don't know if this is a Swiss French or just a Swiss thing) can really punish you if you're foreign. Especially in language. If you don't speak French, sometimes you'll get little help. Even if they speak perfect English. And I know that sounds really stupid and ignorant of me - I'm in a French-speaking country and I should learn French. I am, and really I'm trying and I make an utter fool of myself sometimes when I do try. But it's almost like there's this slight sadistic attitude towards expats sometimes. Even if expats try really hard and speak French and make the effort, and the Swiss can see that, they sometimes still don't cut us a break.

I'm not really sure what it is. The Swiss are not xenophobic, but I think they could be elitist. And why not, I guess it is their country. But still, sometimes some people don't make for a welcome.

I can't really blame the Swiss I guess, when I see the statistics that suggests they might feel as though their country is being overrun by expats. In Switzerland, 20% of the population are foreign and in Geneva, it's worse, almost 40%. With stats like that, I can see how some Swiss may think they're strangers in their own land, and react against that.

I genuinely think that most Swiss, at their core, are a nation of warm, friendly people - once you get to know them. And that's the thing. It's my job, as an expat, to scratch their veneer of 'just another foreigner' and get to know them. Because who wouldn't want Swiss friends?

1 comment:

  1. 20% may be foreign but many of those are born or lived all their life in Switzerland, so it's a little bit difficult to compare like for like with other countries where the same demographic of people are likely to have gained citizenship in that country already.