Switzerland: Language edict found tricky for foreign managers

by Jessica Dacey, swissinfo.ch

Foreign executives in Switzerland are being urged to learn a national language to help them integrate. For some expatriates, it’s an unrealistic expectation.

It’s not the first time language has been raised in the same breath as integration in Switzerland, but it’s rare for the comment to be directed so succinctly at the army of foreign professionals working in the country.

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga recently told public radio that people had complained to her about foreign CEOs living in a “parallel society” in Switzerland; a world in which they send their children to international schools, speak English and are generally unconcerned about Swiss traditions or what’s going on around them, she said.

When it comes to integration, she said learning the local language was the “most important thing”. “If you can’t speak a country’s language, you can’t reach out, you don’t know your rights, you don’t know your duties.”

She urged foreign managers and their spouses to try speaking a local language and learn about the country. Her remarks hark back to plans presented to parliament in November to promote the integration of foreigners.

Read more here: http://www.swissinfo.com

1 reply

  1. Sounds good. If I would have followed this suggestion I would now fluently speak (besides my native Swiss-German): German, French, English, Urdu, Dari, Ga, Yoruba, Thai, Albanian, Greek and Arabic.

    Not sure if I would have had the time to put in a full days work at the same time.

    This class of ‘foreign managers’ are usually fairly ‘mobile’ and will not stay in one country (as was the case with me).

    It seems that this is more politics than anything else. The Minister hopes to gain popularity and votes.

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