Social Life & Integration
Integration occurs on various levels. In addition to work, there are other ways to help you familiarize yourself with your new surroundings and gradually become more involved and feel integrated.
Basel-Stadt and Baselland
Both cantons have developed strategies and organize activities to facilitate integration. The underlying idea of integration here is based on a principle of give-and-take. This means on support and advancement by the municipal, cantonal and state offices but also on new residents taking the initiative themselves to become integrated and involved in their communities.
University of Basel
The university offers a variety of organizations, groups and clubs that provide - depending from purpose and profile - students, staff, alumni and and often also non-university affiliates great opportunities to meet other people in a straightforward way and to foster hereby also integration in the Basel area. These include university sports, the university choir and orchestra, theater groups, religious groups as well as policy development initiatives, special interest groups such as the Osteuropa Forum Basel or the Science Slam Club – the range of options is large.
For member of the University lecturer's associations such as Faculty Net and Dozuba, the Assistants' Association Avuba, the student organisation Skuba as well as the University of Basel alumni association provide excellent opportunities for networking and socializing informally.
Last but not least, througout the year the University offers diverse, to a large extent public and free of charge lectures/events/meetings etc., providing intellectual stimulation and exchange with like-minded people > more information can be found via event calendar. Public offer on behalf of the Botanical Garden, the University Library and special events such as Café Scientifique and Kids Lab are part of the broad spectrum.
Neighborhood clubs and organizations
Each neighborhood has a neighborhood gathering spot or neighborhood association where you can find information about the neighborhood, meet new neighbors, attend events and get involved in what is happening in your neighborhood.
Some neighborhood associations also publish local newspapers offering an excellent way to connect to the local residents and find out about local issues (albeit only in German):
- Gundeldinger Zeitung
- Mozaik Community Paper Untere Kleinbasel
- Vogel-Gryff newspaper for Kleinbasel, Riehen and Bettingen
- Quart Hirzbrunnen
- Neubad Magazin
- Quartierkurier St. Alban, Gellert, Breite, Lehenmatt
- Dialog Bachletten-Holbein
Organizations and clubs for immigrants and expats
Organizations for immigrants have always been important for people who are new to Switzerland. It is still highly recommended to seek out contact with groups who can provide first-hand information on various issues, open doors in many areas and offer a high level of intercultural competence.
As a major center of research and industry in the life sciences as well as in the area of art and culture, Basel has traditionally attracted people from all over the world. Today, there are numerous pan-nationality organizations for immigrants and expatriate associations that offer a wide range of activities, information and meeting opportunities to greatly simplify the process of getting settled. The following are examples:
- ASK – Austausch in Sport und Kultur (Association for exchange in sport and culture)
- Centrepoint Basel
- Basel Connect
- Bâle en français
- InterNations Basel
School and childcare
Experience has shown that it is relatively easy for families to meet people through their children's participation in play groups, kindergarten and school. Moreover, good cooperation between parents and kindergartens/schools is greatly valued in Switzerland – so what could be more natural than seeking out contact with other families on the next school field trip, at the next party in the play group or at a child's birthday party?
Volunteering is very common in Switzerland and a charitable public spirit is greatly appreciated. Many institutions are also structured around a militia-style system (politics, military). The following links can help you find a suitable volunteering activity, not only giving you a way to contribute to a good cause and your fellow citizens, but also a great way to become integrated and meet people:
- GGG-Benevol Basel-Stadt
- Benevol Baselland
- Benevol Riehen-Bettingen
- Benevol Jobs
- Dossier freiwillig engagiert
- Kirchliche Freiwilligenbörse (church volunteer exchange)
- NachbarNET Basel (neighborhood network Basel)
- Canton of Basel-Stadt's Swiss Red Cross
- Directories of foundations
- vitamin B (good connections)
Clubs and associations are very popular in Switzerland; hence the range is tremendous. One of the best ways for sozializing in Switzerland is to join a club. Find more information here.
One of the most important steps towards integration is learning the language spoken where you live. In Northwestern Switzerland, this language is German. While locals speak the Basel dialect of German with each other on almost all occasions, High German is the language of choice in formal contexts (lectures, public events, etc.) or when communicating with people who are native speakers of other languages.
Those who are willing to learn German will make the greatest progress becoming integrated. The official languages of administration are also French and Italian (Romansh, the fourth national language, is not actually an administrative language), which is why all product descriptions and official forms are generally in multiple languages. For this reason, it is quite useful if you can speak one of these languages or have one of them as a foundation to build upon.
English is not an official language, which is why it cannot be expected that all information will also be available in English. However, because public service is a top priority in Switzerland and because Basel, just like the rest of Switzerland, has become more international over the last two decades, all companies and organizations often provide essential information in English for practical or marketing reasons.
Numerous institutes offer opportunities for learning German, such as:
- Language Center of the University of Basel (for University of Basel students and staff, academic level)
- Volkshochschule beider Basel
- Klubschule Migros
Tip: Canton Basel-Stadt offers its newcomers vouchers for free German courses for facilitating integration. The GGG Migration as well as the Foreign Nationals Office Baselland provide information about all options and offer free advice on German courses.
The issue of integration has been on the minds of locals as well as newcomers to Switzerland since well before the passing of the recent initiatives and adopting of political decisions. Switzerland has become a country of immigration. There is therefore a wealth of stimulating and helpful literature on the topic of integration, cultural differences and issues of coexistence. If nothing else, the differences and various cultural facets of Switzerland are fascinating and deserve due attention.
Even those who claim to know Switzerland do not always know everything about Basel's natives, who themselves like to claim that they “tick differently than others.” For this reason, contextual knowledge and helpful information for newcomers acquired through reading is likely to be useful in getting settled. In recent years, many books have been published that are not only highly entertaining but may also provide an eye-opening experience! Here is a brief selection of just some of the books on preparing for as well as wrapping up your stay in the Basel region:
- Christian Eisert: Viele Ziegen und kein Peter. Eine Ferienfahrt zu den Schweizern. Berlin 2016.
- Gianni Haver, Mix & Remix: Swissness in a nutshell. Bergli Books, Basel 2014.
- Margaret Oertig: Going Local. Your guide to Swiss schooling. Bergli Books, Basel 2012.
- Sergio J. Lievano, Nicole Egger: Hoi! Et après… - manuel de survie en Suisse allemande. Bergli Books, Basel 2012.
- Margaret Oertig-Davidson: Beyond Chocolate – understanding Swiss culture. Bergli Books, Basel 2011.
- Franziska Schläpfer (Hg.): Reise in die Schweiz. Kulturkompass fürs Handgepäck. Zürich 2008.
- David Hampshire: Living and Working in Switzerland. A Survival Handbook. London 2007.
- Dianne Dicks, Katalin Fekete: Ticking Along with Swiss Kids. Bergli Books, Basel 2007.
- Susann Sitzler: Grüezi und Willkommen. Die Schweiz für Deutsche. Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin 2004.
- Jürg Altwegg et al. (Hg.): Kuhschweizer und Sauschwaben. Schweizer, Deutsche und ihre Hassliebe. Nagel & Kimche, München 2003. (Amüsante und lehrreiche Essay-Sammlung, die vielfältige Einblicke in ein bisweilen ambivalentes Verhältnis geben.)
- Thomas Küng, unter Mitarbeit von Peter Schneider: Gebrauchsanweisung für die Schweiz. Piper, München 1996