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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

Why Covid has made the Swiss ‘more anti-social than ever’

Vaccination and other Covid-related matters are among the factors that make Switzerland’s population less friendly and solidarity towards others, a new study shows.

Social distance: More people in Switzerland ‘focus on themselves’. Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash
Social distance: More people in Switzerland ‘focus on themselves’. Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash

Even in the best of times, the Swiss are not known for being particularly friendly toward outsiders, including foreigners.

But the pandemic has made them less amiable, even to people in their social circles.

Social ties in Switzerland “have sunk to an all-time low”, according to a new survey, the Hope Barometer 2022, conducted by University of St. Gallen on behalf of the Swiss Association for Future Research (Swissfuture) and the Swiss Society for Positive Psychology (SWIPPA).

Covid restrictions and the vaccination have divided Switzerland’s residents in 2021, the study shows.

“On one hand, there was the ‘silent majority’, who got vaccinated and saw the measures as a quick way out of the crisis. On the other hand, the critics of the measures rebelled against the ‘state dictatorship’ and ‘vaccination pressure’. That left its mark on the solidarity of the Swiss”, said Andreas M. Krafft, study author and Swissfuture’s board member.

The willingness to help other people through difficult times dropped to 68 percent in 2021, from 72 percent the previous year.

The burden of Covid-19 has created social tensions, Krafft said, because after almost two years of non-stop pandemic, people are disillusioned and tired of the situation.

While in 2020, they showed a strong sense of solidarity in order to overcome the crisis, “now this fire of togetherness is largely extinguished. This causes people to focus primarily on themselves and expect more responsibility from others”.

The contentious issue of vaccinations has also impacted friendships and divided families, the study found. 

“People trust others less because of differences of opinion on such fundamental issues”.

Is this lassitude and uncaring attitude specific to Switzerland?

While general conclusions can’t be drawn, some countries have managed to “stay together” during the pandemic to a greater extent than Switzerland, Krafft said.

“In Portugal, for example, there is still great social support among people”, he pointed out, attributing this cohesiveness to the fact that “a large majority of the population has been vaccinated and therefore there is less tension”.

But in Switzerland “many people feel left alone, with no sense of community”, he said.

The point of divisiveness was also raised by the new Swiss president Ignazio Cassis in his New Year’s speech, where he mentioned “a strong risk of polarisation” because of the pandemic.

“Coronavirus continues to strain the country. It makes us vulnerable and it carries insecurity. Sometimes it also isolates us”, he said.

Pandemic versus ‘normal’ times

The study demonstrates that the strain of the pandemic made Switzerland’s population less “social”, partly due to divergent opinions among pro and anti-vaxxers.

But what was the situation like before Covid struck?

A number of surveys carried out among Switzerland’s international community reported that many foreigners found it difficult to make friends with the Swiss.

One such poll, conducted by Internations in 2019, showed “perceived unfriendliness towards new arrivals”.

READ MORE: No friends and sky-high costs: The downsides of Switzerland for expats

The Local too has conducted surveys among its readers to find out whether, based on their own experience, the Swiss really are aloof and unfriendly toward foreigners.

One such survey indicates “the Swiss really do remain neutral when it comes to striking up new friendships”.

One longtime resident of Geneva, who is originally from the United States, found that most Swiss are not unfriendly or suspicious of foreigners.

Rather, they approach friendships the same way they do everything else: slowly and cautiously.

“It’s not in their nature to make friends immediately, like Americans do”, she said.

“The Swiss have the innate sense of privacy — their own and other people’s. That’s why it takes them longer to befriend someone and trust them”.

She added that this is more the case with the older generation accustomed to rules of social etiquette; “young people are more open and spontaneous in this regard”.

READ MORE: ‘Suspicious of the unknown’: Is it difficult to make friends in Switzerland?

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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

How to avoid wasps this summer in Switzerland

Milder winters and springs mean we see more wasps in Switzerland this summer. Here is how to legally (and successfully) avoid them.

How to avoid wasps this summer in Switzerland

If you feel like you are never alone anymore – because there is always a pesky little wasp around – and the number of nests has grown significantly this summer, this might be the case.

As the planet gets hotter and winters and springs have milder temperatures, there are more wasps than usual buzzing around Europe this summer.

In France, pest control companies even call 2022 the “year of the wasp”, as The Local France reported.

More wasps are buzzing around – and they are angry

There is an abundance of wasps this summer even in Switzerland and they are not exceptionally good-natured right now, according to Daniel Cherix, a leading insect specialist at the University of Lausanne. The more wasps there are, the more in competition they are for food sources — which includes your outdoor barbecue food or bottle of soda.

The hot weather makes it easier for the wasps to work more hours feeding the larvae. However, the longer and harder they work, the more tired and hungrier they become.

READ ALSO: Why Switzerland is abuzz with ‘tired and angry’ wasps

This means that, just like their human counterparts, they need to rest and eat, making a beeline for the nearest food source.

“If there is no prey, they have to fly longer. So they will start to get tired and angry”, Cherix said, which doesn’t bode well for the nearest available human.

This situation is expected to worsen until the autumn; until then, the wasp colonies will continue to get bigger and presumably angrier and more tired.

How can I avoid wasps?

Even though the number of wasps is rising in Switzerland, only two of the nine local wasp species are attracted by human food. Additionally, they are all peaceful as long as you don’t get too close to their nest, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment says.

The government also states several measures that can be taken to avoid wasps. It reiterates, though, that if any of these animals are nearby, it is vital to “behave calmly and not to make hectic movements that could make the wasps feel threatened”.

wasp nest bee hive

Some nests are harmless and shouldn’t be disturbed. (Photo by Ante Hamersmit on Unsplash)

Wasps can be kept away by insect screens, covering food and drinks served outside, drinking sweet drinks with a straw when outdoors, and removing and cleaning dishes and food after eating out. The Environment office also recommends removing fallen fruits under fruit trees in the garden to avoid attracting was.

People can also spray individual wasps (but never nests!) with water to get them to fly away.

READ ALSO: Swiss study says bee-harming pesticides present in 75 percent of honey worldwide

To prevent nesting, it’s important to close small openings in and around your house. Wasps like to nest in dark, shelter places, such as attics and any holes in the buildings. Recognising a nest early can help you prevent it from growing and adopt the proper measures – such as calling specialised assistance if necessary.

What to do if I find a wasp nest in my home?

There are specific rules of conduct to be followed if you find a wasp nest, especially since wasps will attack if they feel their nest threatened. Wasps stings are usually harmless unless you are allergic, but they can be painful.

A relocation could be necessary if the nest is near homes with children, allergic people or the elderly. If it is harmless or summer is close to ending, though, many specialists will advise you just to wait it out – wasps will die when it gets cold.

A specialised service needs to be hired if the nest needs to be relocated.

The last resort is to kill the nest using chemicals, but this needs to be done by specialists with federal approval to use such biocides. In some cantons, environmental protection rules forbid using chemicals without a proper license.

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