As I strolled along a usually quiet Zurich road, passing by the voiceless bus users and the silent lunch goers, I hear a jubilent singing voice coming up behind me. A young man, who I later find out to be Guinean, rides past singing his heart out, waving his hands in the air as if he has no care in the world. An encouraging site to a foreigner who still has the consequences of the recent vote echoing around his thoughts.
With the recent vote and anti foreigner propaganda in the Swiss public eye, it is easy to forget that the vote does not only effect bilateral agreements with Europe, research funding and the Erasmus scheme. Rich celebs, professionals, spouses, job seekers and refugees all find themselves attempting to eek out a life in this small beautiful country and in this currently uncomfortable climate. How easy is it for people to integrate into Swiss society and do they need to?
The singing Guinean enters into the Autonome Schule, an organisation that supports foreigners from all backgrounds, including undocumented migrants and the socially excluded. When following him inside I expect an awkward greeting, but I am welcomed with open arms. The school is a cultural smelting pot, acting as a meeting point for a wide variety of nationalities, for whom integration is very important. From Syrians, escaped from the troubles in their country, to spouses, recently married to their Swiss partners, the German classes are always packed with people intent on learning another skill and improving their chances of integration.
But, even with the greatest of intentions, some still feel that integration is not an option. Francis, 41. from Ghana, found himself in Switzerland after five hard years in Spain. Struggling to eek out a life in Switzerland and down on his luck, he has found any form of integration difficult here. He understand the importance of integration but he admits he is a little nervous about even conversing with the locals. "I get stopped by the police up to five times a day and asked for my papers" Francis tells me. bemused "so I am not so confident in meeting other Swiss people". It begs the question does the perception of Swiss dislike of foreigners scaring them from attempting to integrate into the Swiss community?
It is not just people like Francis that have had difficulties integrating. People in jobs, working alongside swiss counterparts can find it hard to form a social bond. It is not from lack of trying that Domingos, (39) a...