My Family’s Immigration
written by Diogo (now 20… 1st on the left)
1.1 The reasons, the motivations for the choice
The difficulties encountered can only be enriching. Writing it down represents a culmination in my eyes, a work among many others but a personal (deepening) work. One of the most complex points in this work was to transcribe intangible feelings and possessions.
Here is a summary of my story; In mid 2004, my father left Portugal following the degradation of the economy. After years of success and against all odds; the need to leave was almost mandatory. Leaving before the collapse begins, the beginnings of an economic crisis.
My parents’ goal was and is the same as that of all parents; want the best for their children.
And that’s exactly what happened. White sheet as the only landmark, Switzerland seemed the ideal place to start again.
January 2005, my mother, my sister and I joined him in Renens. After two and a half years, we moved to Domdidier and we still live there today.
1.2 The announcement of the plan
First, the aspect of ethics and identity, socialization constitutes the very architecture of this work. Through my experience and that of my family, I wanted to re transmit the visions and the causes that push people to start from scratch. The reasons for departures and a brief history of the waves of Portuguese immigration are discussed.
Second, perhaps the most soporific but essential aspect; the right. From the departure from Portugal to obtaining Swiss nationality through obtaining the C residence permit, these are the main lines of this aspect. The different residence permits and their means of obtaining are described in particular in this second part.
And finally, the economic and cultural aspect. It traces and compares the similarities and dissimilarities of the Swiss and Portuguese economic systems. The notion of happiness and its correlation with money is also discussed. The habits and differences between the different waves of immigration are notably mentioned and explained.
2. WHAT CAUSES SOME PEOPLE TO LEAVE THEIR COUNTRY? (ETHICS + IDENTITY AND SOCIALIZATION)
2.1 Why leave?
The Portuguese have always emigrated. In fact, as early as the 15th century, at the time of the Great Discoveries, Portugal attempted to expand its colonial empire. Navigators such as Vasco de Gama and Dinis Dias pushed the boundaries of the past and thus marked the beginning of a long history of Portuguese emigration.
With more than 260,000 people in Switzerland, the Portuguese represent the third foreign community behind the Italians and the Germans, respectively first and second.
The beginnings of this strong presence began in the mid-twentieth century, wanting to flee the Salazar regime, a handful of students and intellectuals found a way out in Geneva. But the real starting point is from 1980 when numbers of Portuguese arrive with seasonal status, mainly in the primary and secondary sector.
Switzerland enjoys a radiant image internationally and many Portuguese people are coming. But why ?
The main reason for this Portuguese immigration is work, even today. The minimum Portuguese salary is around 700 Euros per month, or around 760 Swiss Francs. The median Swiss salary is around 5500 CHF.
There is no minimum wage. While the GDP per capita is around 21,000 Swiss Francs, that of Switzerland is almost four times higher with 80,000 Swiss Francs per capita! While this figures seem impressive, they compare the incomparable. The cost of living in Portugal is significantly reduced compared to the Swiss cost, this does not prevent the thousands of Portuguese who arrive in Switzerland in order to improve their living conditions.
“We only leave to be better reborn”
This sentence speaks for itself. The context in the music is linked to the death but it applies, in my opinion, also from the departure of his country of origin which is perceived as a loss for those who remain.
2.2 What workmanship do Portuguese practice and why?
Bricklayer, cleaning lady, discreet, poorly integrated, good worker, apart, hairy … They still lack a lot more but these words represent for many the Portuguese. Clichés, sometimes false images, sometimes just, but often hurtful. Portuguese parents generally have lower educational backgrounds than other immigrant groups. For those who arrived at the beginning of this immigration (early 1980), this can be explained in particular by the school system still affected by Salazar’s policy.
The Portuguese school system has long lagged behind its European neighbors. At the start of the 20th century, there was a literacy rate of 20% and, in 2008, it was 99.7% among young people and 94.9% among adults (according to Unesco in 2008), these results show and prove the change of direction of the Portuguese school system
The construction sector occupied by the Portuguese often does not require any particular qualification, however you have to be skilled and enduring, accidents are frequent. In fact, in occupational accident statistics, the Portuguese occupy first place ahead of the Germans and Italians, despite their numerical superiorities.
2.3 What is an ultimately integrated person?
“Integration is a reciprocal process which promotes harmonious cohabitation and equal opportunities between the Swiss population and the migrant population.”
 This is the idealistic definition of integration. For me, integration does not mean merging with the masses, on the contrary.
The wealth of Switzerland is its multicultural population, to integrate does not mean to lose its roots but to open up to new knowledge and habits. It is extremely complicated to judge an integrated person or not. Actually, multiple criteria define this controversial term. But local language skills remain a big part of integration for me.
Without the minimum proficiency in one of the national languages, it is difficult to feel comfortable on a daily basis.
The problem is that many members of the Portuguese community in Switzerland live between them, the real problem is the practice of the language.
How do you want a worker, who probably has Portuguese or Italian colleagues, to communicate in French? On the construction site, the language is often Italian or Portuguese. Outside of work, he goes out with Portuguese speaking members because he feels comfortable and understood.
At home, he also speaks Portuguese with his wife and children. His wife is a full-time cleaning lady and works at the home of third parties but is still alone. With whom, do you want her to practice her French? Obviously, it’s very cliché, yes, but it reflects a certain reality.
 https://www.fr.ch/imr/vie-quotidienne/integration-et-coordination-sociale/lintegration-en-bref (12.2019)
2.4 Personal appreciation
The current emigration of the Portuguese is only the result, almost logical, of the colonial expansion of the 15th century except that the final goal has changed, we no longer seek to conquer but simply to live better.
The statistics that I found on the Internet on this and as for the rest are often around 10 years old.
When I arrived, the pictures and other comments were well anchored in people and even in children. I find it unfortunate and inappropriate to judge a group of people and an entire people simply on generally ill-founded generalities.
3. WHAT STEPS DO YOU HAVE TO FACE WHEN YOU ARRIVE IN SWITZERLAND? (LAW)
3.1 The employment contract, an essential starting point.
Before even leaving your country, you must make sure you have a work contract or have sufficient financial resources (to stay in Switzerland without gainful employment or you can stay for 3 months as a tourist). This type of stay is rather rare, it is for example affluent people who decide to live permanently in Swiss territory or who spend their retirement in Switzerland.
The duration of the contract is important, it makes it possible to define the type of residence permit granted (this is explained in the following paragraph). For students, a certificate is required.
An employment contract guarantees that people wishing to come to Switzerland participate economically and are able to live without any outside help. By external aid, we understand everything that the state and the districts put in place to financially help the people, for example a pension for people who cannot or no longer work.
3.2 What are the different types of residence permit?
The following information applies to member countries of the European Union as well as to the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland). I chose to take the case of a person X with the aim of gainful activity in Switzerland.
5 different kinds of Swiss residence permits; the booklet L (pink), B (grey), C (yellow), Ci (red) and G (brown)
3.3 Naturalization, an obvious step?
To apply for naturalization it is necessary to live in Switzerland for ten years and have a C permit. For people between 8 and 18 years, the years spent in Switzerland count double.
The conditions at the municipal level differ; the minimum length of stay is between two to five in the municipality and the canton. After having gathered and completed an enormous quantity documents, the cantonal and communal interviews are a crucial stage.
The questions are spread over vast areas; personal motivations, Swiss history, life course, questions on current issues, general culture and so many other subjects.
Between two questions about Switzerland, I was asked a question that challenged me, a really interesting question. “What will Switzerland gain from you? “.
This gives an overview of the variety of questions and the questions are adapted to suit different people. For example my family had sometimes pointed questions unlike knowledge with a lower linguistic level than ours. It’s good, in my opinion, it’s fair for everyone.
There are also courses available in national languages and theoretical courses to learn more about Switzerland. At the start of this long procedure, each individual receives a brochure explaining the steps to take but also essential information about Switzerland.
Few Portuguese naturalize while many are eligible for this dual nationality. With almost 200,000 Portuguese living in Switzerland only 1,725 naturalizations took place in 2008, or 0.5%. Third foreign population in Switzerland but only tenth in terms of naturalization. How to explain such a disparity?
Portuguese consider immigration to Switzerland temporary, coming to Switzerland for a few years and then retiring or even before. Also paying the naturalization fees (between 1500 and 3000CHF, it depends on the canton and the commune) when you know you won’t stay makes no sense.
Also, with the agreement on the free movement of people (ALCP) dual nationality is not necessarily necessary except the right of city and cantonal city is not granted. Perhaps less obvious is that of “pride”, for many Portuguese there is as great pride that reigns in them and naturalize could be seen as a betrayal of their origins and ancestors.
3.4 Personal appreciation
I myself am in the process of naturalization and I did not think that so few Portuguese naturalized. The causes of the non-naturalized are generally much more complex. Currently, the procedures are simpler than before, everything is available on the Internet and in several languages.
4. WHAT IS THE IMAGE OF SWITZERLAND IN PORTUGAL? (CULTURE + ECONOMY)
4.1 How does this image evolve over time?
It’s no surprise to anyone, in Switzerland we are all rich, live in the mountains and eat a lot of Swiss chocolate. Is it wrong ?
Totally. Although Switzerland enjoys extraordinary prosperity and dynamism, we are not all wealthy. Unfortunately many people arrive in Switzerland with these believes.
At first there is a feeling of euphoria, Switzerland is incredibly clean and well cared for. Over time, this euphoric image gives way to doubts and misunderstanding. Why do I only earn 3,500 CHF per month? Why do I pay the monthly Swiss telephone subscription as much as my old Portuguese annual car insurance?
So many questions which often can fuel a feelings of injustice and discrimination. Discrimination is a strong word, a lot of Portuguese I know personally speak to me about that, of being discriminated against at work as in everyday life.
Then comes the idea of a possible return when they arrived. Yes, a lot of people think that their journey in Switzerland is only temporary.
There are a multitude of factors that can explain this, but it is unique to each person. As with many people, even Swiss, living retirement here is complicated. A Swiss individual contributing to the AVS for their whole life can find it difficult to make ends meet. So imagine, a typical Portuguese arriving in Switzerland at 35-40 years old who will contribute half of his Swiss compatriot and often with lower wages than the latter.
4.2 How is current Portuguese immigration different from that of the 1980s-late 90s?
Initially, the Portuguese arrivals occupied the “Portuguese” workmanship; masons, carpenters, cleaning women, cook etc … With the implementation of a total overhaul of the training and education system, Portugal is training many young people in deficit positions in Switzerland but also in Portugal.
For a few years now, a new wave has arrived. A brain migration, the freshly graduated students leave Portugal to try their immersion in the world of work abroad. As with the beginnings of its migratory waves, Switzerland acts as an Eldorado. Nurses, dentists, teachers, the days of unskilled workers seem distant but still remain relevant today. The new generations have an incredible chance of being able to be formed, something more complicated before.
The mentality and future prospects of its young arrivals are very different. Most of them want to stay and no longer already think about returning. Age has a lot to do with it, in my opinion. Having spent most of my life in Switzerland, it seems inconceivable to me to return to my roots definitively. On the other hand, those who disembark at 40 are much more anchored to their roots and habits than young people and children.
4.3 What are the dissimilarities between the world of work in Switzerland and Portugal?
As mentioned earlier, the wage difference and GDP per capita is colossal. But not only that, store and public service hours reflect two very different cultures. In Portugal, shops generally open around 9-10 a.m. and close around 10 p.m.-11 p.m., and Sundays are also open. Inconceivable things in Switzerland, exceptional home openings are already a problem so let’s not talk about closings close to midnight.
The weekly Portuguese working hours vary between 35h and 40h while it is often between 40h and 45h. Going from 35 hours a week to 42 hours is almost equivalent to an extra day of work, which can make adaptation sometimes difficult and problematic.
The working conditions and issues are quite similar in the two countries; casualization, low wages, unfair foreign competition. The unions and general strikes seem to me more present in Portugal, beware this is a personal observation. It’s quite frowned upon in Switzerland to demonstrate I have the impression. Just the returns following the strikes by women and the climate suggest a very Swiss work ideology.
4.4 The impact of his departures on Portugal
The current problem is daunting. Many young people with higher education leave the country after the end of their studies. Shortages in the teaching staff and in the medical world are directly reflected in the emigration of graduates, a third of the nurses trained each year leave.
The transformation in its public fields are the consequences of the numerous budget cuts made by the Portuguese state. Portugal therefore trains graduates, but they leave for lack of favorable conditions.
For example, Ukrainians are going to Portugal to practice their nursing profession. It’s a perpetual cycle; A lack is created, another height is missed, a lack is created … It is a displacement of the problem to which there is no solution, unfortunately.
4.5 Do we live better in Switzerland?
But what is it like to live better? It’s unique to everyone, some favor material wealth over the intangible. The weather, for example, is rather gloomy in Switzerland compared to Portugal and its Mediterranean climate. While the Swiss public transport network has nothing to envy to that of Portugal, which is not very present outside the big cities. There are always positive points in one country if you compare it to another. Afterwards, each person’s priorities are different.
Now a fairly subjective answer that I will share with you. First, no, not necessarily better. The quality of daily life is excellent, punctuality and organization, to name just that, is in order and exemplary for a lot of neighbouring countries.
Many people complain about the conditions in Switzerland but having a glimpse of Portugal, I can only be satisfied. My professional life will probably be more fruitful in Switzerland.
Captivated by our lives, we forget why we live. We focus on our lives and ignore what’s going on right next to us. That’s what I’m feeling right now in Switzerland and it’s probably what I’m going to feel in Portugal too. This is as much a criticism of society as it is of myself.
4.6 Personal appreciation
The world influences Switzerland, Switzerland influences the world. This is how I see it. Switzerland is built around its image, it attracts the elite of all trades and all training in the world.
When I came, for years, I kept making comparisons between these two countries and finally it is impossible to say which is better. My answer is purely personal and every day it evolves. Like all, the disadvantages make more noise than the advantages.
Every year, when I go to Portugal, I get questioned about living here. For many, only the financial aspect counts. When I answer that a mechanic’s salary is around 4500CHF, their eyes are shining. But I tell them that everyday life may be better organized, but it remains no less trying.
5. GENERAL CONCLUSION – SUMMARY – OVERALL PERSONAL APPRECIATION
In conclusion, the migration issue remains and will always remain something complex and sensitive. It is impossible to generalize on this subject, each case is specific.
The why and how about the Portuguese has intrigued me for years, several times I asked my parents why they choose Switzerland. They had already lived in Switzerland for some time during their young years and therefore necessarily they already knew what to expect.
At first glance, all the procedures and documentation for coming to Switzerland seem long and boring. But in the end, I saw that all of this is done on the one hand to ensure that the people who arrive are not “weights” for society but also for asserting their personal rights.
Money does not make you happy but realistic in certain points. Certain external factors that contribute to our quality of life cannot be purchased. With all the money in the world, you can’t swim in the ocean in Switzerland. To some it sounds utterly futile, but it is a fact.
Comparing two countries remains a completely subjective act.
Despite all our current comfort in Switzerland, we are not immune to anything.
Admittedly, the balance in Switzerland seems unshakable, but the future remains more than uncertain everywhere in the world today.
Conditions have drastically changed in recent years and have created a new type of immigration. It was inconceivable to leave your country 30 years ago because of the climate, today people do it every day.
Who knows, are we, inhabitants of Switzerland, still in Switzerland in 100 years? Of course, we have the right to refuse new arrivals, but let’s not forget that one day, it may be us who knock on the door of another.
Title image, personal / family collection (2007, Domdidier)
Image 1, RCE 1983-2008, https://www.swissinfo.ch/media/cms/files/swissinfo/2010/12/diasporastudie_portugal_f-29092438.pdf ( illustration 4, page 20)
Image 3, Keystone https://www.24heures.ch/suisse/permis-sejour-modernisent/story/26684188
Image 4, Admin.ch, Fed Pol https://www.fedpol.admin.ch/fedpol/fr/home/pass—identitaetskarte/pass/preise.html
Image 5, Google.ch, screenshot, 01.2020
Image 6, source photo inconnue, Praia de Benagil, Lagoa, Portugal
Image 7, personal collection, oeschinensee, Switzerland
For the sake of transparency and organization, the sites and sources below are classified according to the question concerned. All of its sources are a web page. It may be that some information is not declared in its sources, so it is information that I had in my possession through people or simply that I knew it before.
Many thanks to
My sister, my parents, my aunt, my grandparents, everyone who has had an impact, positive or negative, on my life. Thank you.