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

When I was becoming a British citizen, the one thing everyone knew was that the Life in the UK citizenship test was full of weird, arbitrary questions that most Britons couldn't answer, but next to Switzerland, the British process seems downright sane.



In Switzerland, the system of direct democracy means that your neighbors directly decide whether you are Swiss enough to qualify for citizenship, and they get to ask you pretty much any question they want in order to make that determination.


That's why Funda Yilmaz, a 25 year old who was born in Switzerland and lived there all her life was denied citizenship by the people she'd lived among since birth -- a citizenship she was encouraged to apply for by her Swiss fiance.

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.

Yilmaz's parents came to Switzerland from Turkey, a country whose politics she decries. She is not a practicing Muslim, and occasionally attends services at her local church. She fluently speaks the local dialect, and she works as a draughtswoman.


“I was asked whether my parents found it difficult to accept my partner, who is not Turkish. My family is open and moreover I am not a practising Muslim. I have never visited in a mosque in my life, but have several times been to a church.”

Other questions chosen by the jury included “Do you like hiking?”, “Would you rather visit Geneva or the region around Lake Geneva?” and “What kind of fitness training do you do?”

Switzerland puzzles over citizenship test after lifelong resident fails
[Philip Oltermann/The Guardian]

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