My dear Swiss fellows: It’s not only about your feelings…

I have been asked to write about my view on the Swiss referendum for “curbing” immigration into Switzerland. It is very hard for me because I feel very strongly about this topic. I feel it was a huge mistake. I feel it affects me more than it should. I felt like leaving the country. I thought about giving you factual reasons why this referendum sends the wrong signals and why I can only assume that 50% of the Swiss voters did not really understand what they were doing. I thought I’d give you an insight into the immigration reality by showing facts and figures such as

1) Unemployment rate is at 3.5% (who’s taking jobs away?),

2) 22% foreigners include second generation immigrants who were born here as well as well-integrated permanent residents,

3) Many large companies have hundreds of open positions they cannot fill because the Swiss markets does not have the resources needed.

4) Many large companies are only strong because they hire experts from across the globe.

5) The pension system depends on a regular migration as there are not enough babies born by Swiss people.

6) Illegal immigration is per se NOT legal. So you cannot fight it with quotas.

7) Stopping the bilateral agreement means you want to end a contract that includes free trade into the EU and many other countless benefits that have pushed the growth in this country.

Without doubt:  This country depends on qualified immigration and on free trade with the EU.

BUT: facts and figures did not win this popular initiative. So I want  to tell you more about how I feel.

I came to Switzerland for work. I was well established in my home country Germany. I had worked in Zurich earlier in my life and had waited for a chance to move back. (In 1998 I could not stay as I would not have gotten a permit). My company asked me to move to Switzerland because the team was falling apart and they could not find a team leader in four months. I gave up my friends, my apartment and I moved. It was not easy. My role was a step down and I even took an income loss by purchasing power into account but I had this dream about living in Switzerland and it motivated me.

I said to my friends in Germany that I m “repatriating”. I was born on lake Constance so Switzerland felt like “home” for me. I was wrong. I speak High German, not Swiss German. I m a foreigner in this country and I will always be. I am an immigrant. If I ever spoke Swiss German perfectly I would still be an immigrant. I grew up with a heightened sensitivity about racism because I am raised in Germany. I belong to the nation responsible for the Holocaust.

In Switzerland people of my generation do not have the German guilt complex. They are open-minded but they do not worry about discrimination in the same way as I do. I work with people from different cultural and religious backgrounds and I want them to feel welcome and at home here but I do not even feel welcome and at home here.

I look at job postings asking for Swiss German and I feel the discrimination. It’s subtle but it is there. I felt it at work. Swiss colleagues would constantly mock my “German” style until I completely shut up, until I stopped being myself at work and until I gave up fighting for what I believe was right and important. I changed into a robot. Now, in Germany friends tell me “You talk in a funny way.” They laugh at my grammar. I’m shocked if a person I do not know speaks to me in public. I say “Merci” instead of “Danke”. I’m too early for appointments. I plan four weeks ahead and my friends at home shake their heads. I’m more relaxed, less pushy, less direct. German clients don’t get me. They think I am nice and shy. They think I don’t know anything. What I am trying to say is that I have become more Swiss than many Swiss people I know. I just don’t use the dialect because I am worried that I could hurt a Swiss person’s feelings.

My dear Swiss fellows, I am sensitive to your feelings and I am trying so hard but your majority does not care about my feelings or the feelings of the other 2 million well-behaved, well-integrated highly educated professionals that came to Switzerland for work.

Now, I run a business here, I pay my taxes, I create employment and still you do not want me here. It breaks my heart.

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2 thoughts on “My dear Swiss fellows: It’s not only about your feelings…

  1. My Dear Angie

    I am Swiss. And I want you here.

    I, like the other 49.7% of the voting public, voted NO on the initiative to curb the immigration. I – like you – and the 49.7% of the voting public stared incredulously and utterly baffled at my social media stream as the result came in on February 9th.

    I agree, this vote was not a result of reason and facts but rather based on emotions, most ostensibly, Fear. And Fear is a bad adviser. Always.

    As you know, my family and circle of friends as well as my work consists predominately of an international crowd and there were many heated discussions about the implications of this result over the last few days. Many people – including yours truly – are not happy with this situation.

    Please remember: It was a very, very close result. And half of the Swiss population is just as concerned and frustrated as you are. Part of the problem, too, is the looming uncertainty of what this actually implies and how the curbing is going to be put into action. Good luck with that, folks in Berne. I salute you in advance for figuring this one out.

    But the result is what it is and in with this unique system of direct democracy in Switzerland sometimes it comes down to a simple truth: “Vox populi – Vox Rindvieh” meaning that most voters are blindly following a party line rather than think for themselves and take time to carefully consider what their situation will be after the vote is over and the results are in.

    But. We. Are. Here. Now what?

    As Martin Luther King said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”

    So let’s not put our heads in the sand and feel angry, but roll up our sleeves, continue to be awesome people and professionals and figure out a solution that will somehow make this work for everybody.

    Or in the words of U2: just “going to kick the darkness, ‘till it bleeds daylight”.

    That’s a pretty good action plan. If you ask me.

    • Thank you Susan,
      You know how much I care about this country. As one friend said: If you do not speak up, who will? I wish to motivate global people to stay, support them find a job and a life here. I believe it’s all possible and we can co-exist but the attitude towards intercultural sensitivity HAS TO CHANGE. We cannot reverse globalization. This fairy tale told by Mr. Blocher and the likes is wrong. We have a global world and we all just need to learn to navigate it. That’s all. I am happy to contribute. Actually, I get up every morning to do that. :-).
      I thank you for being here and giving me the mental hug that I need at the moment.

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