Some are calling it the largest refugee crisis since the civil war in Rwanda 20 years ago. Others are going so far as to compare it to the Second World War. The fact is, as the latest events in Paris also show, our world is in upheaval. Extremely large numbers of people are fleeing conflict and so the topic of integration is being raised over and over again. We asked four of our employees from other countries for their thoughts on the matter.
The dictionary is full of definitions, such as “the act of combining into an integral whole”, “consolidating two or more things” and “integrating a racial or other ethnic group”. But how do you as a stranger gain access to a larger existing group, and how do you learn the different cultural and social codes?
Emigrating for love
Our employees Julia (Germany), Floriane (France), Verena (Germany) and our comic illustrator Pascal (France) all have something in common: They left their job, their circle of friends and their entire life in their native country, upped sticks and moved to Switzerland for love. All four of them chose a similar strategy for integrating in Switzerland.
Integration thanks to working and making friends
Meeting locals and finding a job sums up their recipe for success. Pascal commented: “I wanted to integrate no matter what it cost and so I took on any job, whether it was well paid or not.” Julia also believes that working is positive for integration. “The team at TRANSLATION-PROBST Ltd. makes it easy to feel you belong.” Thanks to her Swiss boyfriend, Verena was able to meet Swiss people quickly, and Floriane made friends during her studies and, thanks to her young son, met other parents, first in his day nursery and then at school. It all sounds easy in theory, but putting it into practice is what counts.
Polite and helpful but reserved
Often newcomers face not only language barriers but also cultural differences. Julia described a communication problem: “Swiss people in general are politer and less direct than Germans. I have to be very sensitive and tactful so that I also understand what is expressed indirectly and do not offend anyone with my directness.” In Floriane’s opinion, the Swiss are much more reserved than the French: “For example, it was difficult for us to find out how we should treat our neighbours without alienating them.” Verena finds that older people in particular are not very open: “I still have problems with older Swiss people because they are often very conservative and narrow-minded and not exactly open to foreigners.” Pascal addressed another topic: orderliness.
The Swiss and their fixation with order
Every single one of the employees agreed that Switzerland is very clean, neat and orderly. Pascal is fascinated by how all of the vehicles near Lake Zurich are parked precisely in their spots in a parking garage. “All of the vehicles are pointing in the same direction in the parking garage. That is crazy and unbelievable for a Parisian.” Verena marvels at the Swiss mania for cleanliness: “I find many Swiss a bit fussy and very clean as a rule.” Julia has the same impression: “The country appears idyllic, orderly and clean, and everything is very efficient here.” Floriane likes it that everything is so orderly in Switzerland: “At the beginning, I was surprised by how many rules there were and that everyone obeyed them. In the meantime, I have come to appreciate this aspect of Switzerland.”
The language, the orderliness, the Swiss mentality – these are all things that you have to get to know and understand before you can integrate fully. The same applies to translations. Only those who are very familiar with the culture of a target country or audience can deliver an accurate translation. For this reason, TRANSLATION-PROBST Ltd. employs only native-language translators who are acquainted with the cultural nuances of the target audience.
Finally, our interviewees offered a few more tips for successful integration:
Pascal: “You have to be punctual in Switzerland!”
Julia: “For me, integration is a feeling. You need to try to create a social network so that you gain a sense of belonging.”
Verena: “The key is language, no matter what. You don’t have to speak Swiss German but you have to be able to make yourself understood.”
Floriane: “Meet people from different social settings, don’t give up and be patient.”