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Immer wieder lesen wir über das Problem der Expat-Integration. Einheimische meinen, dass die Expats (generell Englischsprechende) sich bei der Integration hier in der Schweiz keine Mühe geben. Sie haben den Ruf arrogante Vielverdiener zu sein, die es nicht für nötig halten, sich in die Sitten des neuen Wahllandes einzuleben. Man findet sie meistens in den englischen und irischen Pubs der Stadt oder zuhause in ihren Villen am Zürichsee oder in den steuergünstigen Kantonen Zug und Schwyz. Spricht man den normalen Schweizer auf Expats an, sagt er wahrscheinlich, dass sie unter sich bleiben. Ihrerseits sagen die Expats aber auch, dass es sehr schwierig sei, sich hier in der Schweiz als Teil der lokalen Gesellschaft zu fühlen. Integration scheint also doch nicht so einfach zu sein. Um das zu bekämpfen investiert der Kanton viel Geld in Integrationsintiativen wie zum Beispiel Informations- und Begrüssungsabende, die auf English gehalten werden. Dazu bekommen auch verschiedene Expat Organisationen Geld und Unterstützung, um die Arbeit des Integrationsamts zu erleichtern. Nichtsdestotrotz bleibt der Erfolg aus. Und hier liegt mein Problem.

Letzten Samstag war ich zum wiederholten Mal auf einem solchen Expat-Anlass und wieder enttäuscht. Als Auslandsschweizer habe ich grosses Verständnis für Expats. Dazu arbeite ich auch tagtäglich mit Expats, indem ich ihnen die deutsche Sprache beibringe, um sie dadurch zu integrieren. Wie bei den anderen Events wurde ich wieder von einem der Organisatoren eingeladen mit der Behauptung, dass ich und einige andere für unsere Arbeit bezüglich Integration geehrt werden würden und nebenbei würde ich viele potenzielle neue Kursteilnehmer treffen. Und da beginnen schon die Probleme: Diese Veranstaltungen für Expats sind schlecht organisierte Networkingpartys. Hauptsache es gibt einiges umsonst und verschiedene Gruppen und Firmen, die ihr Angebot an Kursen, Programmen und Produkten präsentieren können. Schweizer und sogar Deutschsprachige sind hier eher selten — ich schätze ihr Anteil liegt bei ca. 10%. Die behauptete Integration im Sinner beider Gruppen bleibt hier aus. Die Leute, die sich an solchen Anlässen treffen bleiben zu größtem Teil Ausländer mit guten Englischkenntnissen, die anderen Menschen in der gleichen Lage, kennen lernen wollen und dabei ein paar Bier oder Prosecco trinken wollen. Dabei sind einige Schweizer, die mal im Ausland gearbeitet haben, und auch hier in der Schweiz in einem multikulturellen Umfeld leben wollen. Integriert sind sie zwar, jedoch nur untereinander. Die sogenannte Expat-Community ist sehr offen, auch Schweizern gegenüber.

still1Von Seiten des Integrationsamts, vieler Schweizer und anderer Expats kann man aber von keiner Integration sprechen. Es wird erwartet, dass man sich als ein Teil der Gesellschaft, der Nachbarschaft, der Gemeinde fühlt. Dies ist vielen Expats aber noch nicht gelungen. Warum? Sind sie in ihrer Expat-Blase gefangen? Oder sind die Schweizer zu hart und kalt─ ein Volk, das sich nicht knacken lässt? Nein, die grösste Hemmung ist das moderne Leben. Man muss sich eigentlich fragen, wie gut man als Schweizer selber in seiner Gemeinde integriert ist. Zürich lockt Menschen aus der ganzen Welt und natürlich auch aus der ganzen Schweiz. Sie ist eine wirtschaftliche Hochburg des kapitalistischen Erfolgs; wer möchte denn nicht gerne hier leben? Ich bin davon überzeugt, dass es den meisten Zugezogenen ähnlich wie den Ausländern geht. Es sind nämlich genau die aus anderen Teilen der Schweiz Zugezogenen, die sich mit den Expats vermischen.

Warum ist Integration mittlerweile so schwierig geworden? Die Antwort hängt mit der Entwicklung des Egoismus zusammen. Wir haben das Gefühl einander nicht mehr so viel zu brauchen. Wie viele Vereine gibt es heute noch im Vergleich zu früher? Wie viele Gemeinde-Ferienhäuser wurden verkauft, weil heute jeder seine eigene Zweitwohnung in den Bergen haben will, oder gar keine Ferien in der Schweiz verbringen möchte? Die, die integriert sind, also die, die im selben Ort aufgewachsen sind, haben bereits ihre kleine Gemeinschaft und haben meistens wenig Interesse neue Freundschaften zu schliessen. Und die zugezogenen Schweizer können am Wochenende einfach wieder “nach Hause” fahren, um ihrerseits bestehende Freundschaften zu pflegen. Sogar viele Expats aus Großbritannien und Irland können sich das leisten. Also ist Integration überhaupt wichtig? Ich würde diese Frage immer noch mit Ja beantworten. Aber wir müssen uns bewusst werden, was wir von Integration eigentlich erwarten.

Grundsätzlich gibt es ein fundamentales Missverständnis zwischen Schweizern und Expats, nämlich darüber, wie man sich als neu Hinzugezogener in einem anderen Land zu verhalten hat. Englischsprechende (Engländer, Amerikaner, Iren, Kanadier usw.) sind es gewöhnt, dass man die Neuankömmlinge begrüsst, sich vorstellt und sie einlädt an gesellschaftlichen Anlässen teilzunehmen oder zum Beispiel in Vereinen mitzumachen. Der Schweizer hingegen erwartet, dass der Neue sich selbst vorstellt und anbietet. Hinzu kommt, dass Englischsprechende Fremden viel schneller vertrauen als die Schweizer. Im Resultat dauert es länger, sich hier in der Schweiz einzuleben.

Eine Rolle spielt aber auch die Sprache. Auch wenn die neu Zugezogenen schon im Ausland Deutsch (sprich: Hochdeutsch) gelernt haben, können sie zumeist wenig mit Schweizerdeutsch anfangen. Herr und Frau Schweizer helfen hier aber meistens gar nicht. Statt mit den Neuankömmlingen Hochdeutsch zu sprechen, wechseln sie direkt ins Englische. Hier könnte man stattdessen langsam und deutlich mit Expats Deutsch sprechen und ihnen nebenbei helfen Schweizerdeutsch zu verstehen. Schon kleine Hinweise — es heisst “Stange” nicht “kleines Bier” — können der Integration zuträglich sein.

Screen Shot 2013-03-18 at 23.00.14Des Weiteren sollten auch Unternehmen, die Mitarbeiter aus dem Ausland rekrutieren, größeres Augenmerk darauf legen, neuen Expats die Sitten und kulturellen Eigenheiten der Schweiz von Anfang an näher zu bringen. Hier kann das Integrationsamt helfen und es reicht oft schon ein halber Tag. Ausserdem könnten Unternehmen eine Art Mentorensystem einrichten: Schweizer Mitarbeiter, die ihre ausländischen Kollegen in lokale Gebräuche einführen und sie animieren, an gesellschaftlichen Anlässen teilzunehmen. Auch ortsansässige Vereine könnten ermutigt werden, mehr ausländische neue Mitglieder aufzunehmen. Viele meiner Kursteilnehmer spielen z.B. in Bands zusammen mit Schweizern oder sind im Alpinisten Club. Diese Expats haben in aller Regel mehr Schweizer Freunde und sprechen schneller besseres Deutsch.

Mit diesem Artikel will ich betonen, dass der Kanton, die Stadt, und Frau und Herr Schweizer das Integrationsproblem neu überdenken sollten. Zurzeit funktioniert es nicht und viele Steuergelder werden schlicht verschwendet. Expatklubs müssen keine finanzielle Förderung bekommen, weil sowohl Schweizer als auch Expats wollen, dass Schweizer und Expat zusammenkommen und nicht, dass eine parallele Expat-Gesellschaft geschaffen wird. Dafür bedarf es aber Zeit, Geduld und Offenheit auf beiden Seiten.

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Recently there has been a great deal of material written about expats in Switzerland. By expats, the specific call is against Highly skilled English speaking individuals and to a degree Germans residing in Switzerland and working at some of the world’s most successful firms.

The German-speaking Swiss are up in arms about the what they deem to be the development of parallel communities that are not integrating into Swiss culture. Of course the biggest issue is language. Many politicians and voters want to impose and have already imposed mandatory language skills when applying for different residency permits (You need a A2 level in German for a C Permit).

What is clearly not understood though is that the expectations of the people I’ll call “integrators” are built on old ideals that no longer apply to modern Switzerland.

Switzerland’s advantages for business are the following:
1. Taxation (companies can save millions)
2. Legal (companies as well as individuals can trust that the laws of the land are not arbitrary and that they will be treated fairly)
3. Location (Switzerland lies in the middle of Europe and is well connected to the world, a brilliant place to run an international company from)
4. Infrastructure (Swiss infrastructure is world class. The tax money is used wisely to ensure that people have more and better services than in other countries)

All of that said today’s expats are rarely coming to Switzerland to stay for a long time. Switzerland likes this. It’s great for maintaining low unemployment and ensuring minimal obligations to people who have worked here.

Because of the modern world we live in, many expats (UK residents and Germans alike) can easily travel back to their home countries at the weekends. When one works from 9-5 Monday – Friday, weekends would be integration time, but today it means time back home. Switzerland is essentially like the city, weekends are spent in the country.

Regarding language, this is not taken seriously by the state, companies, nor by most Swiss. The state as a whole has no unified requirements. When it comes to subsidizing, each canton does it differently. Zurich for instance has given the Migros Klubschule and ECAP a monopoly on German instruction. Businesses are more than willing to throw money at the problem, allowing for generous budgets to fund language instruction, but do not give their employees the time or incentive they need to learn German. As a language teacher, I sympathize with my students working over 45 hours a week, have a family, and are trying hard to learn German. Then of course there are the Swiss themselves: when an English speaking person tries to use their High German to order coffee, ask directions, make an appointment, or even just start a conversation the Swiss person will more often than not respond in English. This is demotivating to German learners and shows that the Swiss are not willing to help with linguistic integration.

Another interesting and very overlooked issue regarding integration is how many Swiss are equally not integrated in their communities. Even the city president of Dubendorf has stated that this is an issue. In a recent interview, he said that he does not want growth at any cost and doesn’t just want people moving to Dubendorf, but working in Zurich proper, essentially only using Dubendorf for affordable housing, rather, he would like to see engaged people who will enrich the community.

«Wir wollen nicht um jeden Preis wachsen», sagt Lothar Ziörjen. Das «Dorf» – wie er es nennt – brauche vor allem Leute, die sich integrieren und am Gemeindeleben teilnehmen. [Full article]

However, as the demands of work are constantly growing, people find it more difficult to allocate time for more social and civil activities. They are just trying to pay the rent. It should also not be over looked that other Swiss who move to different areas of Switzerland for work reasons act like their expat counterparts and return to their home regions at the weekend.

What is the solution to this issue? Is Switzerland being flooded by high-payed Anglophones that are taking away what it means to be Swiss? are they harming the economy or Swiss culture? The opposite is actually true. Switzerland is profiting from its expat community. The key thing to understand is that they are highly skilled workers, adding to Switzerland’s economic output. If the country is worried that we need too many foreigners they, would be smarter to invest in education instead of the fighter jets and help ensure that the native Swiss population is trained and skilled to fill the jobs of the future.

The reality of the issue being debated is that despite social media we are less less community oriented today than we have ever been. There is a current triumph of the ego, whereby everyone is busy taking care of themselves and not interacting with their neighbours let alone their bigger community. It is perhaps the awareness of how this will have long term negative consequences that makes some people insist on harping on expats. After all their language and financial success make them stick out. Then of course there is also a degree of jealousy, as Julia Morais from the Integration Office in Zurich told the Tages-Anzeiger.

If communes, cantons, and the state really want expats to integrate faster and better, then they will have to eliminate some of the exclusion practices that are essential to waking people’s interests in integration. If you can’t vote or express civil and political desires in the community and country in which you live, there is little incentive to integrate. The current practices of the integration offices of organizing special events that only attract expats will not help them build communities with other Swiss people.

Switzerland likes to think of itself as an island in Europe.

Today World Radio Switzerland (WRS) told listeners that, “World Radio Switzerland, is threatened with either closure or privatisation. According to Roger de Weck, director-general of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, WRS’s parent company, an English-language radio station should no longer be publicly funded.”

This news has many Expats in Switzerland getting quite upset. While no final decisions have been made, this case presents further evidence of how disconnected the country is from how it operates in reality. Swiss politicians and many others refuse to see how interconnected business and the world economy is. This interconnectedness also directly and indirectly affects culture.

Most countries exist with their own mythologies. Switzerland’s mythology can be summed up in a few words: neutrality, industriousness, heritage and quality. These are the beliefs with which many Swiss operate. Switzerland is the wealthy country with an remarkably high standard of living thanks to its neutrality in times of conflict, the industriousness of its people and the quality of the products it produces. These make up the country’s heritage, which is respected around the world.

While there is a degree of truth in this myth – all myths are somehow founded in facts – it is a very naïve picture of the way the country operates. Thanks in part to the Schengen-Dublin agreement, but also in large part to low taxes and also its lack of qualified specialists Switzerland has seen many expats move to the country. For many Swiss the influx of Expats is an alarming trend as they continually hear about potential layoffs and the threatening economic climate. Yet, Expats don’t seem to fit into the scheme of the “fee-loading Eastern European” come to live off the social security system the hardworking Swiss have built. Because of this they must be vilified some other way. So the Expats are made out to be arrogant and seen to be refusing to integrate to Swiss life.

These trends are very unfortunate as is the view that foreign workers are simply here to take advantage of the country. Given the economic data that 71.3% of the country’s GDP comes from services, 27.5% from industry and only 1.2% from agriculture (Global Finance). These myths must be reexamined. Switzerland benefits from its Expat population and needs to work as much with Expats hoping to integrate into Swiss life as it does with the Swiss to help them understand the role Expats play in the country’s prosperity.

The news of the threatened closure or sale of WRS comes on the heels of a potential law that will forbid expatriate pupils from attending international schools in Zurich. Again the argument of integration is being used to justify the move. Unfortunately, these moves are aggressive and place Expats in the defensive and blame them for not integrating. In return, some companies may reconsider having Switzerland as their home base, or at least the canton of Zurich.

Integration is a two-way street and it must be said that it is being poorly handled by both the Swiss authorities and Expats alike. This raises the question though of how important is integration anyway? Many Expats will only spend a few years in Switzerland before moving on to another country for a few more years. Even those who end up staying for protracted lengths of time may never integrate as their job simply does not allow them to. They would be as unintegrated in their home country as they are here because long working hours and frequent travel do not allow them to have a social life. So even those who wish to learn a national language or integrate are not afforded the time required to do such.

The Swiss authorities need to provide simple to use services for those wishing to integrate, and perhaps even offer an integration bonus system that is easy to understand and use. They also need to educate the Swiss as to the importance of the Expat community. It is a major source of the country’s wealth and needs to be competently addressed without stereotypes and aggression.

Companies for their part should also do more to help their employees with integration. This is not just an HR issue where more in-house training courses for language and intercultural understanding will solve the issue. It means seriously giving employees time to integrate and learn one of Switzerland’s national languages and genuinely live in Switzerland.

Returning to the subject of WRS, it would be a shame for the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation to close the station. English is as good as Switzerland’s third language as there are more people able to effectively speak English than Italian or Romansch living in Switzerland. Furthermore, English is used by many Swiss as the default language of business when communicating with another Swiss person who speaks a different national language. By this I mean a native of Zurich is most likely to speak English when talking to a native of Geneva. Regarding the use of public funds to support an English language station when it’s not a national language, we also teach English at schools across the country and some cantons have even given English priority over other national languages, an English language radio station would further support that instruction. As Pedro Simko of Saatchi and Saatchi makes clear in his interview, English radio in Switzerland is for the public good.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Running clears my head and is one of the activities during which many ideas come to mind. As I was running today I was thinking about Mark Twain and social media.

Mark Twain once wrote that if you want to drive a young man insane, have him keep a journal for a year. When I was 21 I tried and I faltered, but before that I was going mad trying to come up with things to write about. A journal is a private thing and perhaps this was my issue, perhaps it’s a man thing or perhaps even human, but knowing that no one should really be reading your journal while you live, you try to write meaningful things that might say something positive to your children or grandchildren when you’re no longer around. Of course this doesn’t have to be the case, but so it was with me and I think many others.

Then blogs and Facebook came along and we’ve all started keeping a journal. Many of us make entries more than once a day. From how we’re feeling, to what we’re reading, to well thought out observations and arguments. But it’s all there and being stored somewhere. Why are we writing more than ever before? Surely we do not possess a broader vocabulary than our parents, nor are we more refined masters of grammar. Do we have more opinions and observations than past generations? There may be some arguments for this, but I have another hypothesis.

We write more today than ever before because we have an audience. Writing in your journal for future generations is completely different from writing for a potential public of a billion people. Now there may be a great many other observations, such as the idea that we write things that we used to tell people when we used to speak to our friends and family in person and not just digitally. I, however, believe that it all comes back to the Aristotelean idea of humans being social creatures. The internet is just society when we want it, but it is social. That said, I think humans are performers. Much of what we do, we do for others, especially when there is recognition.

So there we have it, that’s what I was thinking about while running today. I think that this post proves at least for myself, that my theory has some validity.