'A feeling of belonging': What it's like to become Swiss
More than two-thirds of Local readers described their experience of getting Swiss citizenship as positive. Just as many would recommend naturalisation to other foreigners.
The process of applying for citizenship in Switzerland can sometimes be long and frustrating in Switzerland. Unlike in other countries, the decisions here are made from bottom up — first, communal officials must approve the application, then cantonal ones, and federal at the end.
On May 7th, The Local asked its readers to share their own naturalisation stories— shockingly onerous or surprisingly easy.
Participants in the survey
Of those who participated in our poll, more than half — 53.8 percent — got their Swiss passports one to three years ago; 38.5 percent have been naturalised for more than 11 years, and 7.7 percent up to a decade.
The verdict: most responses were positive
An overwhelming majority — 69.2 percent — rated their experience as positive and said they would recommend the naturalisation process to other foreigners.
What was the most positive part of the process, other than the citizenship itself?
For Michael Savage from the United States it was “the feeling of belonging”, while David Forster from the UK said he valued the “community spirit” in his village.
Michael from Finland enjoyed “completing the local integration class and learning about my community and canton”.
What was most surprising about the process of becoming a Swiss citizen?
The reasons cited included both positive and negative impressions.
While for some respondents the process was “traumatising” and “incompetent”, others had a more positive assessment.
“The test was very straightforward and nothing more than a friendly chat with the mayor of the village”, explained Zoran Lalvani from the UK.
For John Smith, also from the UK, “friendliness of the staff” made the experience more pleasant.
Michael Savage was pleasantly surprised that there was “no history/culture test in Geneva for facilitated naturalisation – it was very easy”.
Trevor Kilbey from the UK was surprised that “I did not have to speak Swiss German”.
And Lisa Crump from the United States was surprised to be asked for a “current” birth certificate.
“Strange, you are only born once and that does not change”, she said.
Dr. Robert Schinagl from the USA, however, had the ultimate surprise: "The military has been attempting to recruit me for national service”.
But some respondents were frazzled by the amount of paperwork needed for the naturalisation process and the length of time it takes.
“Months and months go by with nothing seeming to be happening”, said Michael from Finland.
Has getting the citizenship made you feel more Swiss?
Most respondents said ‘yes’, citing reasons ranging from practical to emotional.
“Of course. Now we can vote”, said Lisa Crump.
For Dr. Robert Schinagl, getting a Swiss passport “allows me greater global mobility”, while Jerry Cappellania from Italy said being Swiss “made me feel more part of a community”.
Sometimes, it is a matter of not having to answer too many troublesome questions.
“My parents are Turkish/Indian, and I was born and raised in the U.K. So when I don’t want to explain my life story, it’s an easy answer to give”, Zoran Lalvani said.
And since becoming a Swiss citizen, “I now love fondue”, said Chris from Canada.
Since getting his citizenship, Michael from Finland has a new perspective of naturalisation.
“I am less tolerant of immigrants who spend decades here and don't make any effort to integrate, learn their local language etc.”, he said.
“For someone who has spent years of effort integrating, it's irritating. This is why the citizenship process is special to me. It's difficult for a reason and this is how it should remain”.