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Integrating and socialising

Women singing in a choir
(Keystone)

Integration remains a buzzword among the Swiss, with proposals frequently discussed on ways to help – even direct – foreigners to find their place.

As a small nation with four national languages, a lengthy naturalisation processexternal link and a high percentage of foreign residents, Switzerland preserves its identity by promoting shared fundamental values and tolerance, and establishing legal boundaries and acceptable social norms.

Asylum seekers and those receiving state support can be required to take language courses, receive job training and follow professional development programmes. To read more about specific integration programmes in French, German and Italian, visit the State Secretariat for Migration website.external link For a list of cantonal educational and training authorities, please visit the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Educationexternal link.

A list of frequently asked questionsexternal link can be found at the State Secretariat for Migration. The charitable organisation Migraweb external linkis a good source for more on numerous aspects of daily life, including family, insurance, taxes and mobility.

The Federal Act on Foreign Nationals can be read hereexternal link.

An animated guide How to make friends with a Swiss person

Misinformed stereotype or stark reality? Whichever way round it is, how to make friends with the Swiss is a topic for most expats.

Settling in

The quickest route to economic integration is to be part of the workforce. But social and cultural integration may seem harder to achieve. Fortunately, there are many ways to get involved in Swiss society.

Swiss communities are very well served by sports and leisure facilities, from playing fields and courts to swimming pools and sports halls. Apart from this physical infrastructure, there is a vast range of clubs and associations for every imaginable pastime.

Expats frequently complain that settling in and making friends is hard in Switzerland, but anyone looking to integrate in Swiss society should be able to find like-minded locals who share the same interests. This online platformexternal link of more than 57,000 sporting, cultural, hobby and charity groups is a good resource for finding a club by canton or theme.

The Swiss are willing joiners, with half of the population involved in at least one voluntary association. The Swiss are also very physically active: 70% of people practise a sport at least one a week.

Language courses

Although English is widely spoken and understood in Switzerland, being able to speak the local national language (German, French, Italian or Romansh) at least conversationally remains important for integration. 

Language courses, from weekly classes to intensive courses, are widely available in every region. Here is a list of language schoolsexternal link around the country. Prices and methods vary so it is worth shopping around. 

Some local authorities, associations and schools offer low-cost classes for migrants. Women’s groups are also active in this area. If you are unemployed, you may be eligible for free language classes. For more information on language learning, see Migrawebexternal link.

Which is the best language course for you? Binational.chexternal link has some pointers and more addresses.


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