Switzerland not racist – second time Oprah accused European country
Should the travel and tourism industry suffer in Switzerland due to a cultural independent view of life of their citizens, or could this be part of a unique experience when visiting this conservative
Should the travel and tourism industry suffer in Switzerland due to a cultural independent view of life of their citizens, or could this be part of a unique experience when visiting this conservative but also liberal Alpine country?
Is it really true that the only safe way for foreigners to travel in Switzerland is with an alphorn protruding at a jaunty angle from your gob and a Swiss Army Knife with a Muslim impaled on it in the other?
In 2007, the Swiss introduced a law meaning that all members of your local community would have to vote on your citizenship application before you could win a passport. Since they did so, Muslims, Jews, Balkans, Africans, and Asians have been disproportionately rejected. In 2008, a disabled man from Kosovo was rejected on the grounds that, a) he was disabled and this would cost his community money and b) he was a Muslim. In other words, the system works well.
Rene, an eTN reader from Canada summarizes the recent spotlight on Switzerland as a racist country:
There are so many people misusing the liberal immigration laws that a political party which wants restrictions won many votes. There are people living on Swiss costs for years, even paid phone calls home. They come in waves tricked in by professional “towers.” An old joke: Do you know the difference between a policeman and an asylum seeker? The latter can choose the color of his free leather jacket… But to conclude from the Oprah case on racism in Switzerland in general, is certainly wrong. It’s a country where 1/7th are “foreigners.”
And what an idiot of a salesperson not to be able to distinguish between a rich woman like Oprah and a beggar! Here in Canada they tell you in seminars for “super host:” check the shoes, and you know who is in front of you (and gives tips)!
Switzerland, like any country, has racists and nationalists of all varieties, but it also has a higher population of foreigners than any country in Europe. People who will tell you how badly they’ve been treated, as a foreigner, are a dime a dozen. So are people who find it one of the most accepting countries around.
This is actually the second time Oprah has claimed a European store was racist after she tried to buy a gift for Tina Turner. She accused an Hermes store in Paris of discrimination in 2005. The gift in question was a watch for Tina, who was her dinner partner that evening. The store manager claimed that they were closed for a private event.
Asylum seekers in Switzerland don’t have an easy time of it and not everyone wants them; the federal office’s efforts to see that encounters go smoothly recognizes that reality.
On a world scale, is Switzerland more or less racist than other countries – enough so to be headline-making? The answer probably has a lot to do with your own experience.
My guess is that Oprah’s remarks turned into headlines for two reasons: her name still drives traffic for media (“Oprah spotted eating apple in Zurich” would have been less hot, but still a story) and her remarks fueled a universal fear that is part of travel:
Somebody might just treat you badly when you’re away from home, when you’re more vulnerable and less likely to be able to master the situation.
Correction on Swiss village and asylum seekers
The Swiss Office for Migration late Friday published the complete agreement it has with the village in question (German only, a sign they were in a hurry) and pointed out that media reports referring to a ban were incorrect: there is no blanket bans on using swimming pools or sports facilities, but sets of agreements, such as this one, where the hours of use of school facilities are limited.
Several of the agreements with towns hosting reception centers for asylum seekers have such agreements, and they often call for those living at the centers to be accompanied, a kind of mutual protection measure to help keep misunderstandings from sparking.
One of many citizens grumbles in canton Vaud has always been that public indoor pools that are convenient if you live outside a city are all in schools, and as a citizen, nothing to do with being a foreigner – you’re not allowed to use them during school hours.