‘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.

'A feeling of belonging': What it's like to become Swiss
Good experiences trump bad ones in our reader's poll. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

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.

READ MORE: Naturalisation through marriage: How your partner can obtain Swiss citizenship

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.

How to apply for Swiss citizenship: An essential guide

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”.

COMPARE: Which European countries have the toughest rules for gaining citizenship?

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How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

Got an unwanted mattress, fridge or sofa? Here’s how you can legally get it off your hands in Zurich.

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

If you’ve bought a new piece of furniture in Zurich or a mattress, you may be faced with the problem of what to do with the old one. 

This is particularly the case in cities like Zurich, where space is at a premium and you may not be able to kit out your spare room with the old furniture. 

While there are waste disposal centres, even getting there without a car can be a problem. 

One man’s trash…

First things first, think about whether you really need to get rid of the thing in question. 

While you may not want it, there may be someone out there willing to take it off your hands – particularly if you aren’t going to charge them. 

The first point of call is to ask your friends and colleagues if they’re interested, with social media the perfect place to ask around. 

If you live in an apartment complex, you might try placing the item in a common area with a note saying “zu verschenken” (to give away) or ‘gratis’ (free). 

After that, there are several online options like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Free Your Stuff Zurich, Ricardo, Anibis, Craig’s List and Tutti. 

Some of these sites will charge a fee – even if you’re giving something away – so be sure to read the fine print first. 

Another option is to donate the goods to a charity organisation. They will usually charge you money to pick it up and prices can vary dramatically. 

Caritas charge CHF35 per 100kg plus transport costs, while Sozialwerk Pfarrer Sieber will pick up small items of furniture for a flat fee, although you’ll need to send them pictures first before they give you a quote. 

Can I put old furniture on the street in Zurich? 

Although less common than many other European cities, occasionally you will see furniture out on the street in front of homes and apartment blocks in Zurich. 

While it might clutter up the sidewalk, it is technically not illegal – provided you only do so for a maximum of 24 hours. 

You also need to make sure it doesn’t block cars, bikes or pedestrians. If it does – or if you leave it out for longer – you risk a fine.

Entsorgungstram: Zurich’s recycling and waste disposal tram

One option is the Entsorgungstram, a mobile recycling centre on rails for all Zurich residents. 

This tram weaves its way through several parts of Zurich, picking up old bulky waste including electrical devices and furniture. 

If you are lucky to live near an Entsorgungstram line, just check the timetable and bring your waste items along to meet the tram. 

There are some rules, as laid out by the Zurich council. 

“The delivered items must not be longer than 2.5 meters (exception: sofa/upholstered furniture can be no longer than 2 meters) and no heavier than 40 kilograms per item. Separate the material beforehand according to its composition: flammable, large metal and landfill”. 

Unfortunately, only pedestrians and cyclists can use this service, i.e. you cannot drive from elsewhere and deposit the stuff. 

More information including route details can be found at the following link. 

Regular waste disposal

Your next option is to see whether you can get rid of it in your usual waste disposal. 

This being Switzerland, there are a lot of rules about what the waste management company will take and will not. 

If you’re throwing away a mirror, for instance, you cannot put that with your other glass waste and will need to dispose of it elsewhere. 

On the other hand, they may take things like carpets and mattresses – although you’ll need to pay a bit extra. 

The exact rules will depend on your municipality, but generally speaking you will need to buy additional waste stickers – which cost money. 

In Zurich itself, every household receives four coupons for disposal of waste (up to 100kg) each. 

When you run out of coupons, you’ll need to pay by the kilo. 

You’ll still need to bring it to the waste disposal facility, or pay a pick up fee of around CHF80. 

This may sound steep, but they do come to your home and pick it up – which will likely be cheaper than a rental car or van. 

In Winterthur, you will need to buy stickers for CHF1.80 from the council, with each sticker letting you dispose of 10kg of waste. 

Check with the retailer where you bought the new item

One option offered by furniture sellers is to buy your old furniture or whitegoods or accept them as a trade in. 

While this is likely to be more common with second hand retailers who might see potential in your unwanted item, it is also a service offered by retailers who only sell new goods. 

One example is Ikea, who will take your old mattress, furniture or electronic device and recycle it. 

This service is available at Ikea outlets for a cost of CHF10 each. 

It is also available when you get something new delivered, although you must pre-book so the driver can be sure to set aside enough space. 

This will cost you CHF80 for furniture, or CHF50 for electronic devices and mattresses. Keep in mind that (at least with Ikea) this service is only available when you buy something new. 

Several other furniture companies offer a similar service, including Schubiger Möbel, Möbel Pfister and Conforama.  

Electrical item retails will often take your old electrical goods for recycling, whether these are small like iPhones or large like fridges and washing machines. 

More information about which goods can be recycled and how in Switzerland is available at the following link. 

Moving companies

Removalist companies are another option – whether you are moving house or not. 

If you are moving house then a disposal service may be included in the overall fees. 

If not, you can still contact the company and get the item taken off your hands. 

While different companies will charge different amounts, you’ll usually pay per 100kg rather than per item, which can be a better (or worse) option than contacting the local council. 

Swiss comparison site Comparis has detailed info about how to find a moving company here