An absurd and awful moment in Switzerland's legendarily bonkers citizenship process

Originally published at:


“I may not know what this Geneva place is you speak of but I loves me some Ikea and hot chocolate!”


They are a very religious and racist bunch. That’s nothing new. But this process of voting on neighbors is only 10 years old. There seems to have been a wave of Swiss nationalism in 2007 that was very very ugly.


No one should be shocked by this. This is normal, throughout the world. Want to become a Chinese citizen? You can’t, unless you’re Chinese ethnicity. Take a look at the constitution of Uganda. It has a list of tribes. If you’re a member of one of those tribes, you’re Ugandan. Otherwise, you are not. Birthright citizenship is highly anomalous in the world. I have an American friend who speaks Thai, has lived there for over a decade, and can’t get citizenship. He can’t even apply for citizenship. Or permanent residence. Why? Because he’s not Thai. I’ve never seen Boingboing run an article about the absurdity of Thai citizenship, or how only 100 Americans per year can even apply for Thai residence (not citizenship, residence). Why should such behavior be acceptable all over the world, but is somehow not ok for the Swiss or other Western Europeans? I’m quite sure that tiny Switzerland accepts more non-Swiss people for citizenship every year than Korea accepts non-Koreans, or Liberia accepts non-Africans, etc etc, but no comment on those, right?


Those situations are also eminently disagreeable. What is your point?


My point is, why doesn’t Boingboing run an article about how impossible it is to get Korean citizenship for anyone non-Korean? Let’s hear some horror stories about Muslim immigrants trying to get Israeli citizenship. Why point out Switzerland for doing something which is almost universal outside of Western Europe? No one comments on how racist the Korean citizenship process is.


See, it was a trick. I already knew your point was ‘won’t someone think of the white people?’


Wieviel Engel können auf dem Kopf einer Stecknadel tanzen?


Seems like the test should be more objective, while this Swiss test appears to be highly subjective and open to interpretation from those asking the questions. It should be fair and not show bias, but you know… xenophobia is a thing i guess.


All of them.


Perhaps it’s because BoingBoing expects better than this from a prosperous Western liberal democracy that has no reason to feel it’s besieged by hostile outsiders.


A jury of Yilmaz’s neighbors flunked her on the citizenship test because she “lives in a small world and shows no interest in entering a dialogue with Switzerland and its population.” As examples of that “small world,” they pointed out that Yilmaz shopped at the chain supermarket Aldi rather than local shops, thought that skiing was more of a typical Swiss sports than Hornussen (“a cross between baseball and golf”) or Schwingen (“a style of folk wrestling”); and that she couldn’t recite, from memory, the process for recycling waste oil.

This actually seems legit to me; they’re claiming she isn’t supporting the local culture, and that is something they explicitly want citizens to do.

But then I read the linked article, which puts a bit of a different spin on the situation than is contained this brief quote. Now I dunno what to believe!

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Do you mean Uighur, or Tibetan?


Fair enough. But I still would have had a different headline. Instead of calling Swiss citizenship process “legendarily bonkers” I would have described it as “not nearly as racist as most of the world, but bad compared to Canada”.

I personally am a dual citizen (EU / US) and have lived and traveled all over so I perhaps have a broader perspective on this.




Why? Is there an objective test one can take to join your family?

And before you say “That’s different!”: Yes, it’s different, but so aren’t venom and poison, unless you make it so.


Is it possible that the lady has a slightly duskier skin tone to the people voting on her future?




I mean Han Chinese, and maybe a few other very closely related groups, excluding Uighur and Tibetan. China allows Han Chinese ethnic people to get Chinese citizenship, such as an ABC, for example, but will not allow a KBU (Kazakh-born Uighur? I just made that up) citizenship. Yes, Tibetans and Uighurs whose parents are Chinese citizens also have Chinese citizenship, but the last thing China wants is any more Uighurs coming there. I feel bad for the Uighurs, no one wants them.

“Legendarily bonkers” seems appropriate enough to describe a process so arbitrary that it allows local xenophobes a strong say in the final decision. In the context of readers from OECD countries, it’s an accurate enough hed.