by Alexander Kuenzle, swissinfo.ch
Germans often wonder why they are considered arrogant in Switzerland, when they say all they want to do is to express themselves clearly.
To help overcome misperceptions, the state-owned power company in canton Bern, BKW, has organised integration courses for the many Germans it has hired in recent years.
It’s not news that employees and managers have been moving to Switzerland from Germany. Since the Schengen agreement came into effect in 2008, making it easier for Swiss businesses to hire citizens from the European Union, strong demand for qualified staff has helped fuel migration from the north.
But despite being close cousins, cultural differences between Swiss-Germans and Germans are strong enough to complicate relations. One radio presenter was even forced off-air after listeners complained she didn’t sound Swiss enough, while the arrival of more Germans has been used as a political football to question the basis of the Schengen accord.
BKW, one of the companies that hired more than 100 Germans, asked these employees whether they would be interested in taking an in-house integration course.
“One of our managers wanted to know if there were courses to explain how the Swiss think and how to behave in Swiss society,” said Markus Oppliger, an employee development specialist at BKW.
“We were lucky enough to find an external partner and demand has been so strong that we have had to organise the course four times.”