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POLITICS

Why do foreigners in Switzerland trust the government more than the Swiss?

People living in Switzerland have a high level of trust in their public authorities. This pertains not only to Swiss citizens, but to foreigners as well.

Why do foreigners in Switzerland trust the government more than the Swiss?
A flag thrower performs with a Swiss flag in front of the Parliament, one of the institutions the foreigners trust. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Unlike citizens of many countries around the world who mistrust their elected officials, the Swiss are different.

A study published in 2020 by the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) shows that “confidence in the national government in Switzerland is the highest among OECD countries…85 percent of respondents reported trust in government in Switzerland, in comparison to an average of 51 percent among OECD countries.”

This high level of trust can be seen in various areas of life, such as in public finances, healthcare, justice, and education.

The reason for this vote of confidence is that, unlike other countries, the Swiss have a direct say in how their government works. Their system of grassroots democracy allows them to make decisions about what legislation should be enacted and which laws should be rejected — in other words, they create the policies that impact their lives.

READ MORE:  How Switzerland’s direct democracy system works

So this confidence in the government on the part of Switzerland’s citizens is not surprising.

What is surprising, however, is a finding of another study showing that immigrants to Switzerland have a higher level of trust in the state than the Swiss themselves.

Most of the foreigners surveyed said they have either “high” or “very high” faith in Swiss institutions, which include, for the purpose of the study, the Federal Council, the parliament, the government/cantonal administration, the authorities of the commune of residence, and the courts in Switzerland.

The participants included both immigrants and dual nationals — that is, foreigners who have both Swiss and foreign passports.

How can these results be explained?

A more detailed analysis of the responses revealed that the majority of foreigners who placed high faith in Swiss institutions came from countries where the government and the political system are less pro-people than in Switzerland.

On the whole, these immigrants appreciate Swiss system of democracy and the way public institutions function, in addition to all the economic benefits they get when working in Switzerland.

This, however, is not the whole picture.

The survey also showed that even people from northern and western Europe, whose governments are democratic in their own right, also have a high regard for the Swiss system.

As one Swiss media outlet commented, “this suggests that other, more subjective factors are at work. ” 

Like the government, but not so much the Swiss

While foreigners give thumbs-up to Switzerland’s public institutions, they are less enthralled with the Swiss people.

Many foreigners who live in Switzerland say locals are aloof and unfriendly toward them.

While certainly true in some cases, in others it seems to be more of an urban myth than a fact.

In 2021, The Local reached out to readers to ask about their integration experiences – and whether they found making friends to be difficult. 

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 told The Local, based on her own experience.

“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 said this is more the case with the older generation accustomed to rules of social etiquette, adding: “Young people are more open and spontaneous in this regard.”

Others did confirm that establishing social relationships with the Swiss is difficult.

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

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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

How employees in Switzerland can take more holidays in 2023

If you work in Switzerland, you are entitled to take four weeks for holidays, either at once or in smaller time periods. There, is, however, a way, to extend your time off — if you plan ahead.

How employees in Switzerland can take more holidays in 2023

Four weeks (20 days) is the strict legal minimum for people working 41 hours per week, which counts as a full-time position.

However, many companies offer their employees more than the legal minimum; the exact number of days or weeks is outlined in an employment contract.

For part-time work, the four-week period is pro-rated according to the number of hours an employee works each week.

However, there is an astute way of extending your vacation time without taking off too many additional work days. This is how.

The “bridges”

As Christmas Day (December 25th) and New Year Day (January 1st) are public holidays, some businesses close down during the entire period between the two holidays, giving their employees the days between the two dates as holiday time (in addition to the statutory four weeks).

This year, however, both Christmas and New Year fall on a Sunday, so you don’t really gain anything. However, if they fall on, say, Friday or Monday, then in the very least you get a nice long weekend.

There is a movement among Swiss labour unions to provide a compensation day if a public holiday falls on the weekend, as it does this year, but so far there has not been any response from the employers’ associations.

READ MORE: Swiss politicians call for ‘lost’ public holidays to be replaced

Another longish “time off” period is around Easter: Good Friday (April 7th in 2023)  is a public holiday nearly everywhere in Switzerland, except in Ticino and Valais, as is Easter Monday (April 10th), with the exception of Neuchâtel, Solothurn, Valais and Zug.

So if you live anywhere in the country except those cantons, you can take the Thursday before and Tuesday after Easter as two “holiday” days and enjoy an almost week-long vacation which will “cost” you only two days from your 20-day yearly allowance.

You can do the same with other public holidays — for instance, next Ascension Day in on Thursday, May 18th, but many companies don’t work on Friday, making it a four-day weekend.

Again, if you take at least another day off either before or after — that is, Wednesday May 17th or Monday May 19th, you will have a five-day holiday for the price of one day from your yearly allowance.

So far, with the above combinations, you have lost three days out of 20, but have gained six and five days of holidays, respectively.

You can also do the same around other public holidays as well, either national ones or those specific to your cantons.

Why do the Swiss have so little time off anyway?

Many other European countries give their workers longer vacations — in France and Austria, for instance, employees are entitled to five weeks.

But the Swiss themselves are to blame for their briefer leave: in a 2012 referendum, 67 percent of the country’s voters rejected (yes, rejected) the proposal to extend the mandatory leave to six weeks.

They did so because they believed longer holidays would cost the economy billions of francs each year, and the money-conscious Swiss just couldn’t allow that.

As the media reported at the time, the outcome showed that Swiss voters had realised “something which sounds nice at first, on closer look brings many disadvantages” and that “citizens have kept a sense of reality.”

READ MORE : Everything you need to know about annual leave in Switzerland

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