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.
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