A recent study has shown that three in 10 people surveyed believed the Swiss to be unfriendly towards foreigners, making it one of the most unfriendly places in the world for expats to live. But what is life actually like as a foreigner in this supposedly ostracising nation?
Switzerland itself is a diverse nation with four main languages, varied climates and a range of culinary styles, and yet Switzerland retains a keen sense of identity. In my year as an expat living in French-speaking Switzerland I cannot say that I encountered any cold-shouldering or snubbing, however, evidently, one experience cannot paint a picture of a nation’s attitudes.
A quick search for ‘Is Switzerland unfriendly towards foreigners?’ generates a wealth of blogs, websites and testimonials of people experiencing a sense of exclusion. But what is the reason for why these individuals should feel that they are so excluded?
Recent immigration figures have shown that Switzerland has one of the highest percentage of foreigners, around 24.6% of the population. These high figures have brought the question of immigration into the forefront of political debate within Switzerland, raising issues such as should foreigners have reduced access to the welfare system and should entry requirements be increased. Arguably this debate around immigration has brought with it some bad feelings towards foreigners, but can this be the whole story?
Firstly, I think that it is important to remember that as with all nations in this world of increasing globalisation, immigration is a hot topic and therefore one study, or political debate should not tar the image of a nation.
During my time in Switzerland, I experienced nothing but welcoming and openhearted people. Local festivals and celebrations were always an occasion for inclusivity and festivity, and were not used to promote isolationist nationalism. And so, whilst my opinion may be somewhat biased, or warped by my experience, I would encourage anyone thinking of living or visiting Switzerland to take the opportunity to explore this captivating country.