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Would you pass Switzerland's citizenship exam?
Naturalisation tests can be incredibly difficult, even for citizens. Switzerland is no exception - would you be able to pass?
The testing process for becoming a Swiss citizen can be, well, testing. Not only are the tests slightly different in each canton - but they also vary from commune to commune.
The result can be sometimes odd or absurd, with questions designed to convey a sense of local identity and knowledge instead having the impact of excluding people who have lived there all their lives - and in some cases were even born there.
Becoming a Swiss citizen
Besides living in the country for more than ten years and having at least a B1 level of the relevant Swiss language (spoken) and A1 (written), you'll also need to have no criminal record and a means of income.
From there, you'll have to pass what's called a naturalisation test. According to the Swiss Secretariat of Migration, the goal of this test is to determine whether applicants are integrated, are familiar with the 'Swiss way of life' and understand Swiss culture.
The substance of these tests however will vary from canton to canton - i.e. they can be spoken or written, and the number of questions can vary.
Some cantons such as Vaud publish a list of potential questions so that applicants can read through beforehand, while other cantons do not - forcing applicants to go into the test blind.
Born and raised in Switzerland - but still not Swiss enough
Unlike countries such as the United States, being born in Switzerland will not necessarily be enough to grant you citizenship.
As reported previously by The Local, the story of a young woman - born and raised in Switzerland - failing to satisfy the citizenship test made headlines worldwide.
The woman - born to parents from Turkey, who worked locally in a technical profession, speaks fluent Swiss German and is engaged to a Swiss - was denied citizenship.
Despite passing the written exam, after an interview with local councillors – an important step in the naturalization process in Switzerland, where the cantons and communes have more say than the federal government – Yilmaz was rejected in her canton of Aargau, because she wasn’t “sufficiently integrated,” reported the Aargauer Zeitung at the time.
Apparently, Yilmaz had not given satisfactory answers to a set of over 70 questions that the panel asked her, covering everything from her personal life to her job and her knowledge of Swiss mountains.
Since the transcript of her interview was made public by the magazine Schweizer Illustrierte, many have criticized the arbitrary nature of the questions, which the Tages Anzeiger called an “embarrassment”.
The transcript highlights the highly specific and often bizarre questions that Yilmaz faced, as she is quizzed about her health insurance model, her social life, how often she holidays in Switzerland and whether she likes hiking (she said no).
There have been a number of similar cases over the years which have included odd outcomes or bizarre questions.
These examples include an American professor turned down after 39 years in Switzerland because he didn’t know enough about his local region, a Dutch woman rejected because she complained about cow-bells and had campaigned against hunting and a Kosovan family turned down because they liked to wear tracksuits.
“The fact that arbitrariness plays a role in today’s system is un-Swiss,” wrote the Tages Anzeiger, which called for changes to be made.
A test that reflects modern Switzerland?
Despite the criticism, it appears that Switzerland is not willing to update the naturalisation process. A British man recently had his citizenship denied after he was unable to name where raclette comes from (it's Valais).
The canton of Vaud recently updated its naturalisation process - and has published the list of 128 multiple-choice questions online.
Vaud, the largest French-speaking canton in Switzerland, sought to make the questions more similar across the canton. The process includes taking the 128 questions from the canton, as well as 32 questions from the commune which have a more regional nature.
However, despite these modernisation attempts, many of the questions are still relatively difficult to answer - even for Swiss citizens.
As reported in the Swiss media, not only were these difficult - but one was actually a trick question which was impossible to answer.
While all of the following are difficult, one is a trick question - see if you can pick it.
What is the Röstigraben? A typical Swiss meal; the name of a song; the border between German and French-speaking Swiss; a suburb of Bern.
What is Schwyzerdütsch? A typical Swiss meal; a mountain; a Swiss German dialect; a sport.
Is Ursula Andress on Swiss coins?
What is the capital of Switzerland? Zurich; Basel; Geneva: Bern.
Bern. Image: Depositphotos
Spoiler alert: the Röstigraben is a humorous word for the border between French and German-speaking Switzerland, Schwyzerdütsch is Swiss-German - and famous Bond girl Ursula Andress is not on Swiss coins.
And the trick question? Technically speaking, there is no Swiss capital - with Bern only given the designation of 'federal city' in order to assuage conflict between the cantons, who each wanted to house the capital.
We're unsure if extra points are awarded for calling them out on this error, but if push comes to shove, we recommend you just say Bern.
What about specific questions?
As we said, while the questions vary from canton to canton, we've included some of the ones here that Yilmaz was asked in Aargau. Would you pass?
Do you know the Swiss emergency numbers?
Have you been to the August 1st (Swiss National Day) celebration?
Do you know how your accident insurance works?
What would you do if you had a medical emergency?
Name some local recreation/sports clubs?
What public events are held in your town?
What would you say is typically Swiss?
Do you know any typical Swiss sports?
What museums does the local area offer?
Do you go on holiday within Switzerland?
How many language regions does Switzerland have?
What are the names of your local cinemas?
What do you know about the Alps?
Where is the Matterhorn?
If you want to take the test yourself - no matter which canton you live in - the website Swiss Naturalisation lets you take the test online.
In addition to French, German and Italian, the test can also be taken in English, Spanish and Portuguese.