The First-Class Postbuzz - Summer 2016
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Greeetings from the Editor-in-Chief
Daniel Glinz, Editor-in-Chief
In these times of football, national flags can be seen hanging from windows and balconies. National anthems are sung in the stadiums. Supporters gather in bars and public parks to follow the action on giant television screens while hooligans play hide and seek with the police. For a few weeks, children of immigrants, often born and raised in Switzerland, suddenly feel that deep in their heart they are still Albanians, Italians and Portuguese. In these times of football, the Swiss also feel more Swiss than usual.

The fact that many Albanians were playing in the Swiss team and that many players with Swiss passports were in the Albanian team brings us a step closer to reality, away from the national flags. The flags, just like the colored maps in the atlas, are nothing more than mental representations of the world. They are not the world. The “nation state” itself was just an idea that was developed in the eighteenth century. Political leaders and the people gradually espoused the concept of “fixing” neat borders that made it possible to distinguishing between “us”, inside, and “them”, outside. In many ways, the Olympics and football (the new opium of the people?) maintain this cozy illusion.

In this edition of the First Class Postbuzz you will read a few stories from the real world. Stories of migrants, refugees and people on the move, because that is what real people with real lives have always been doing: moving. From times immemorial, the motives of these people have always been the same: to get away from war and misery towards a quieter place where they could feed themselves and raise their families. Their hopes have also remained unchanged: wishing that their children would have a better life than they themselves did. This seems to be an inherent theme in human life.

During the recent months, the media and some government officials have increasingly used the word “crisis” in conjunction with the very old phenomenon of migration. Mixing these terms shows that they have forgotten two important things. First, in world history, migration has always been the norm, not the exception. (One example of the - ugly - exception was when the people from East Berlin were shot at by their own border guards while trying to reach the other side of the wall.) Second, they forgot that every crisis is also an opportunity, not only for the migrants themselves, but for the communities that welcome them. (One example for this is the spectacular growth of Hong Kong in the nineteen fifties, which was due largely to the influx of refugees from Shanghai).

While expressing my warmest thanks to all the members and friends who contributed to this issue of the First Class Postbuzz, I now invite all our readers to look at migration not just as a problem but rather as a chance.

Daniel Glinz
A Corporate Member in the Spotlight: Andreas Földényi
Photo: Andreas Földényi
Born in Switzerland of Hungarian origin, Andreas Jean-Pierre Földényi can look back on a 25-year career as a CEO, chairman and entrepreneur. A university graduate in Education and Business Administration, Andreas has lectured in Switzerland and Vietnam, and been involved in education projects which required regular travel to China, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, UK, and all over North and South America. It’s no wonder that he has been able to gain in-depth insight into the life and culture of these countries.

A private school accredited by the Ministry of Education, allegra! is currently the only school offering a comprehensive, full-time "integration program". "We cover Swiss culture, everyday culture, moral concepts and rules in an environment which fosters trust and respect."
"It is my firm belief that allegra!’s contribution is adding high value to the Swiss economy and Swiss society» says Andreas, «as language skills alone may open doors for our students, but are not sufficient to ensure a full and durable integration of an individual into our society."
"Teaching migrants and refugees does bring its own special set of challenges. Our mission is to ensure the integration of our culturally diverse students into the public school system within 20 to 30 weeks. Some students have never learnt to read or write, others refuse to be taught by women and some students have mental disorders tied to their personal experiences in the war zones."
"It is no secret and it has been proven many times in the past already, that diversity is an asset for every society. Diversity not only strengthens the cohesion of a society but also brings out better and more sustainable solutions and ensures peace and stability between cultures and countries in the long run."
Photo: Allegra
About allegra!
The leading school in the Canton of Zurich for language and cultural integration programs, allegra! operates four different centers ( Zurich, Dubendorf, Horgen and Winterthur.) Its 120 staff trains and supports more than 1,000 students per year (children, teenagers and adults) on their way to a successful social, cultural and professional integration in Switzerland.
Will History Repeat itself for our New Migrants?
by Anne-Claude Lambelet
Italian nationals constitute Switzerland’s oldest post-war migrant population. The Swiss perception and acceptance of this national group have considerably evolved over the last few decades, with the effect of a reduction of discrimination against that group. A recent study on xenophobic behavior and attitudes towards this group in Zurich is a clear indicator of this change.

To the question: "How would you feel if your daughter married an Italian?" the percentage of people who said they would not be unhappy has gone from 44% in 1969 to 92% in 1995! Today Italians and Spanish are the two national groups which benefit from the highest rate of sympathy among the Swiss population.
From a comparative study led between 1960 and 1990 by Hoffmann-Nowotny and his team (Bösch, Romano, Stolz,1997) on xenophobia towards the Italian community in Zurich city

Member Submissions - How can People Trained in Intercultural Communication contribute towards helping Refugees and Migrants to land in Switzerland?

Our Prejudice is our Knowledge

by Dr. Nora Refaeil

The chubby teenage girl with somewhat shapeless clothes thought “hopefully everything is all right” when the customs officer approached her on the train. How uncomfortable she felt, how embarrassed she was, how uneasy she felt in her skin, to be the only pupil out of her entire class picked to be checked by the guards. Visibly frightened, she pulled out the pastel-colored shell of something like a residence permit, hoping that everything was fine.

Yes, it was fine. But the feeling was not. And she would never again get that feeling out of her system.

Only a few years later, she was again stopped at the border as she was walking full of joy and confidence towards her loved ones. This time, it felt like a whole different world when she was picked out from a mass of travelers. This time, she pulled the deep red Swiss passport from her pants pocket, looked into the officer's eyes with a piercing gaze, and said mischievously, if not boldly:

"Hmmm, so you probably did not expect that!”.

The officer, not knowing whether to flirt with or admonish her, waved the young lady on, but she was already long gone, with her head held high.

No, this is not a story with a happy ending.

When these events happened many years ago, the situation seemed harmless. There were no pictures of alleged masses of refugees and ISIS. And the media were not designed to evoke a clash of civilizations every time it became apparent that different groups prioritize cultural values differently. However, what was the same then, as now, was the fear of strangers and the instinct to judge people on appearances.

Today, we speak about profiling in cases where the police stop and control people because of externally perceptible characteristics such as race, religion, language, nationality or national or ethnic origin. Thus, it's not that this person did anything suspicious. Rather, this person is only suspected because of something for which he or she is not responsible and cannot change, namely a part of his or her identity.

Quite apart from the fact that racial and ethnic profiling is not effective, it is discriminatory on the part of the state and degrading for the person concerned. But it is not only about what the police do or do not do. It's about all of us. It's what we think every day when we encounter refugees and migrants. It's about what images we have in mind and how we deal with our fear of the "foreigner". It's about our daily racial profiling.

How often do we think, without knowing the person at stake, that he or she is an Iraqi, Syrian, Afghan, Muslim, terrorist, woman oppressor, a headscarf wearer, oppressed, disrespectful , or someone who benefits from social services? We define, categorize and pigeonhole. We always do this. We do this because we do not know such people well, we have no information about them and no experience with them.

Our prejudice is our knowledge. But how much attribution can a person endure?

We do not see people as they are but as we are, said the American author Anaïs Nin. We do not ask who these people really are or how they see themselves. We define them by our cultural conditioning and our fear. And if one wants real connect with the stranger, one has to overcome fear first. In second place comes empathy and, only at the end, knowledge of the foreign culture might help.

Now, there is also a question about how people who come to us experience our assumptions and how they actually see themselves. A person has several parts to his or her identity that characterize him/her and ultimately constitute the person as a whole. These parts may, in addition to the person's origin, race and refugee status, include characteristics such as gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, religion/spirituality, intimate relationships (father, mother, brother, sister, daughter, son, husband, wife, etc.), professional role, language, moral identity, or disability.

Of course, the combination of the various elements of identity results in the personal uniqueness of every person. Some refugees were asked what parts they were least aware on a daily basis. They did not choose one of the identity-defining features such their intimate relationships or sexual orientation. They did not opt for their professional role that they often cannot exercise or their language that they cannot speak or their personal uniqueness that they cannot unfold. No, what was the least relevant for them on a daily basis was their ethnic origin or that they were refugees.

For them, it was much more relevant that they were a father, mother, daughter or sister. That they were workers or experts. That they were moral people and, finally, personally unique. They are not mainly what we attribute them primarily with refugees and foreigners. They are like us - uniquely varied. It is time, that we also see them that way.

Dr. Nora Refaeil is an attorney at law. She works as a mediator, trainer, and facilitator. This article was first published in German in "Tachles" on 27 May 2016.
Migrants and their new business mentors discussing projects and business opportunities at the kick-off of the Capacity Zurich** Business Mentoring Program for Migrants on 28 May 2016 in Zurich.
Photo: Stephan Benke-Bruderer, Capacity Zurich

How we can Support More Migrants – Start with one!

by Angela Weinberger
Mirza Khan has come to Basel via Italy. His request for asylum in Switzerland was denied. Not safe but you can survive there. His family might be active in politics and might fight for the separatist cause of the Kashmiris, but since this conflict is as old as most of us, we don’t hear about it any more. You have to go there to see the military presence of an occupied area whose people neither feels that they belong to India, nor Pakistan. A beautiful, Swiss-like paradise locked in a conflict between two opponents. Not poor, but still prone to bomb attacks and border shootings.
Lacking a cause for protection, Mirza should be sent back to Italy according to the Dublin agreement. His family has to pay for an immigration lawyer to increase his chances of being able to stay. Mirza has been waiting for this decision for six months. During the processing time, his life was on hold. No studies, no work. He is 26, not married yet.
By the time Mirza will know if he can stay here, the chances to continue his college education will be low. He might find a job in a kitchen as support staff. His Swiss German will probably have grammar errors as he might not have time to attend German classes. He might fall prey to offers for credit and buy a few clothes too many. He’ll never be rich but he might just get by. Some young men in his position start drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana and eventually dealing drugs as a side income.
But Mirza won’t. He is lucky. His cousin is in Basel and will support him through the tough times. He will pay his lawyer and ensure that Mirza stays out of trouble. Not every young man sent away by his family is lucky, though.
The current debate in Switzerland about the revision of the Asylgesetz (#AsylG), the law controlling the treatment of asylum seekers, surprised me. Opponents of the revision are found at the right and left spectrum of the political arena. Without going into the pros and cons, I think it is important, that we “interculturalists” look at the propaganda material and learn more about individuals and how our asylum processes influence their biographies.
A more effective asylum process would make it easier for asylum seekers to continue with their lives, as a decision about their status would be taken faster. We can only discuss integration into the workforce when their work and residence permits have been cleared.
Before we can support migrants, we need to put ourselves in their shoes. We need to also remember that most of us do not have to worry about our daily needs all the time. Providing for the survival of the whole family (including grandparents, uncles, and aunts) is on the minds of many migrants from economically less affluent countries most of the time.
What concerns me is that the expression “migrant” in Switzerland often has a negative connotation while it should be a neutral expression. I pulled up some migration data from the Swiss Federal Office of Statistics for this article and I was tempted to shout out: “Oh my God, we have to be careful. The Italians and Germans are taking over this country”. (Imagine what that means for Swiss soccer.)
In 2014* 15.3% of “migrants” were Italians, and the second largest population were Germans, at 14.9%. We also have to remember that the Swiss count an “Italian" who has been born in Switzerland as a “migrant” as long as he does not have a Swiss passport. It might be a surprise that the figure of 22% “foreign" population includes second-generation immigrants, who do not want to give up their original passport nationality.
I am also worried about the term “economic migrant”. What is that? A person who migrates to Switzerland to earn a living? Or is an economic migrant exclusively a person who comes from a “poor” country outside the EU? Am I considered an economic migrant too?
On 28 May 2016, Capacity Zurich, an NGO, launched their business mentoring program** for migrants. I support this program as a business mentor. My mentee is a female engineer from Serbia. She would like to build a foundation for helping peasants improve their living conditions by building and providing eco-friendly housing for them. In a next step, she’d like to introduce alternative energy power plants (working with biomass) in Serbia. I’m humbled. Her English is fluent. She has three children. Her first challenge is to research with an old computer. I hope I can help her create the business plan for the foundation, attract donors, start crowd-funding and maybe even come up with a case for her power plant, which she could present to large companies such as ABB. At the end of the business mentoring program, the participants were beaming. One comment almost made me cry.
“I have been here for ten years and never could integrate in(to) this society. I will try again now.”
As intercultural coaches, trainers and researchers, we can promote clarity in the discussion about migration, have a voice on social media and work with migrants directly to help them improve their situation in this country.
*Source: Swiss Federal Office of Statistics
**Capacity Zurich Business Mentoring Program 2016 for Migrants
Operation Libero distributed this video (in German).
Angela Weinberger owns Global People Transitions. She offers intercultural career advice to internationally mobile professionals, dual-career couples, and scientists, runs skills-based training, and lectures on IHRM. She consults Global Mobility Professionals on how to improve the international assignment experience and on Global Mobility Transformation.
Ongoing: International Days for Refugees in the Canton of Zurich
NCCR (National Centres of Competence in Research) – On the Move: Conference by Frédéric Docquier

by Anne-Claude Lambelet

On 26 May 2016, Frédéric Docquier, Professor of Economics at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, gave an NCCR conference on “Income disparities, population and migration flow over the 21st century.”

Without minimizing the importance of the current refugee crisis, his analysis adopts a longer-term perspective and focuses on the structural forces that affected past migration to industrialized countries, as well as those which will govern future migration flows. He presented worldwide projections of population, educational attainment, international migration and income for the 21st century. These projections reveal that if current immigration policies continue, immigration rates will remain fairly stable in most high-income countries, except in the 15 members of the European Union, where the average proportion of immigrants could rise from 7.5 to 17.2 percent. More than ever, the management of immigration will become a major societal challenge for Europe.
1. Can you give the SIETAR Switzerland Members a top line introduction of the world economy model you have developed to account for key interdependencies between demographic and economic variables? What scenarios have you considered?
The correlation between demographic and economic variables is high. The general premise of my analysis is that the interdependencies between economic and demographic variables cannot be ignored in long-run projection models. My model accounts for them and I believe this is a major advance compared to existing projection exercises.
My world economy model covers virtually all countries over the period 2000-2100. It endogenizes income disparities, migration, fertility and education decisions. Although the model is stylized and omits many (hopefully second-order) mechanisms, it accounts for the links between skill-biased emigration prospects, investment in human capital, income and population growth. I distinguish between 195 countries, populated by two types of adult workers (the college-educated and the less educated) and their offspring. The model is micro-founded and the specifications used for the utility function (governing education, fertility and migration decisions) and for the production function (governing income disparities within and between countries) are rather consensual and in line with the state-of-art literature.

Some structural parameters of the model are assumed to be time-invariant and identical across countries; they are taken from the existing literature. Other parameters are country-specific and calibrated so as to perfectly match the economic and socio-demographic characteristics of all countries in the year 2000 and/or over the period 1975-2000. I believe such a quantitative theory framework is an appropriate tool to identify the key factors governing the future of the world economy and of migration flows.
Inevitably, this model relies on scenarios. My scenarios are about the evolution of total factor productivity disparities between countries, education and fertility policies, and immigration barriers. In the benchmark, the trajectory of these country-specific parameters is such that I reasonably match the ‘High fertility’ population projections of the United Nations for the period 2000-2100, and the trends in TFP disparities observed during the past decades.

The benchmark foresees Total Factor Productivity (TPF) convergence between high-income countries, and between the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India & China) and high-income countries. Contrary to the BRICs, the other developing countries will not catch up with high-income countries in the long-run. This is not more than one possible trajectory for the world economy, which governs the future of migration. However, I also consider multiple variants involving slower convergence for the BRICs, faster convergence for African countries, faster demographic transition in Africa, greater changes in education, or important immigration policy reforms in the US or in the BRICs.
2. What are the top societal challenges you see for Europe in terms of managing Migration Flows?
Overall, the projections show, that the trajectory of the world economy is sensitive to the technological environment. In particular, the evolution of productivity in transition economies and in Africa will have a drastic impact on the worldwide population size, income level, and global inequality. However, in all scenarios, the model predicts that immigration rates will increase in the 15 countries of the European Union. This is due to the fact that Europe is the main destination of African migrants and that, in all likelihood, the demographic share of Africa and the income gap between Africa and high-income countries will increase over the 21st century.
Population growth plays a key role. My benchmark scenario is totally in line with the projections of the United Nations. Africa represented about 10 percent of the world adult population in 2000; this share will reach 25 percent in 2100 (Africa will account for about one-third of the world population growth). On the contrary, the share of Europe will decrease from 13.9 to 8.0 percent over the same period. Keeping its immigration policy unchanged, the 15 members of the European Union will see their average immigration rate increase from 7.5 to 17.2 percent.
Obviously, the magnitude of the changes in migration rates varies across scenarios. The evolution of productivity in emerging economies and in Africa will have a drastic impact on the worldwide level of population, income disparities and the migration pressure to high-income countries. However, a large increase in the average European immigration rate (between +7 and +11 percentage points) is obtained under all the scenarios. In sum, the futures of Europe and Africa are closely connected.
3. How can countries and their relevant institutions as well as international organizations make the best use of this model to plan for these Migration Flows?
The ultimate goal of this type of exercise is to get the public opinion and policymakers to realize that the forces that governed the past trends in international migration keep going and could even intensify in the future. Generally speaking, if my projections materialize, Europe has three possible strategies to adapt to this situation: (i) improve the effectiveness of border control, (ii) improve the effectiveness of international aid, or (iii) improve the economic and cultural integration of African migrants.

Managing future migration flows is likely to be a complex task for the governments in Europe and I have no magic remedy to offer. I confess I am skeptical about the first two strategies. In a world of increasingly porous boundaries, it is impossible to prevent millions of workers seeking to reduce the gap between their position and that of people in wealthier places. More than ever, I think it is time to better investigate the conditions under which the economic and cultural integration of first- and second-generation immigrants is successful or not. There is an urgent need for better policy evaluations and more ambitious integration reforms.

Anne-Claude Lambelet is a French citizen and an ATCK (Adult Third-Culture Kid). She has been an active player in the global mobility service sector in Switzerland since the early 1980s. She is an Intercultural Competence Expert and a Career Development Coach. She holds a degree in Cultural Competence from the University of New South Wales and is the Vice-President of SIETAR Switzerland.

For further reference about NCCR visit
SIETAR Members and Guests learning and playing the game: "On the Road with Migrants" developed by Caritas France

On the Road with Migrants

by Daniel Glinz

It was a sunny afternoon in May and I was on my way to 'On the Road with Migrants', a SIETAR event, where people would be asked to imagine what it feels like to be an asylum seeker or refugee. I was walking quickly towards the Allegra Sprachschule, conveniently located at Löwenstrasse 51, just a few minutes away from Zürich main station. As I came upstairs I realized that my wallet was gone. Was it lost or stolen as I walked, or on the train? I don’t know. As far as I remember it contained my ID, driving license, credit card, health insurance card, roughly 200 Euros and 60 Swiss francs. Instead of welcoming members and friends of SIETAR Switzerland who started to fill the entrance hall of the language school, I had to busy myself with finding the right phone numbers of the bank and the website of SBB’s lost and found.

Migrants from Afghanistan, Eritrea or the Syria who flee their destroyed homes or shattered economies and get robbed by unscrupulous smugglers while trying to make a better living in Europe don’t necessarily meet a smiling receptionist who, when she saw my annoyed face, immediately gave me the Wi-Fi code of the Sprachschule. This was a relief. I could type in the necessary details on my computer or on my phone, which I always carry in another pocket.

The refugees usually travel in trucks, buses and shabby boats on stormy seas, hiding below potato sacks to avoid the naval police. Others get stopped by Frontex border patrols and taken to camps, from where they are sent back to square one. Fifteen minutes after having finished my various calls, I was just in time to join the SIETAR people in the classroom as they started with the simulation game.

During the next hour, I became 28-year-old Roman. He used to work on a farm in Poland to support his wife and his three, soon to be four, children back in a small Ukrainian town. Seated next to me was Hassan, a Hazara from Central Afghanistan. Having spent several years in a refugee community in Iran with her mother, she was determined to go to England. Opposite me was Natasha, an 18-year-old Moldavian girl. She had followed a job offer in Milano but instead was sold into prostitution by the man who confiscated her passport as soon as they boarded the train to Belgrade.

The police officer at Zurich railway station advised me to wait at least a week before declaring the loss of my ID card. “If you get it back, it will still be valid. Otherwise, you will have to apply for a new one”. Roman’s application for a visa at the French embassy in Kiev was rejected without explanation. I knew I could not go back to Poland either and I started to feel desperate. A middle-man offered me $14,000 for one of my kidneys. When I left the clinic a few days later, I felt very weak. The middle-man gave me $7,000 dollars and vanished. I paid $3,500 to another smuggler who took me on a horrendous trip by truck and boat from Turkey to Greece. I became very sick. The boat never made it to its destination. I was caught by the Turkish police and deported back to Kiev.

I always carry my Swiss travelcard together with my mobile phone and reached home in Geneva the same night. As Roman, I was also back with my family in Ukraine a few days after my ordeal. But I had lost one kidney, all my money, my physical strength and all my hopes.

In the simulation game 'On the road with migrants' you will learn much more about the fate of people who have to leave their homes than by watching TV and reading newspapers. You will also be moved by what you feel while stepping into their shoes, even if it is only for one hour. Feeling some of these emotions are necessary to go from thinking into action. The simulation game exists in various languages and can be played by anybody, preferably above 16 years of age. You can download it free of charge from here:

P.S. It did take me less time to download it than filling in the declaration of my lost wallet online.

Daniel Glinz is a senior adviser and trainer at cinfo. His main task is to develop and coordinate the continuous training offers for partner organisations and customers, with a special focus on intercultural communication and cooperation. Having started his career as a news correspondent in East Asia, he joined the International Committee of the Red Cross ICRC as a delegate. After having spent several years in the field (Kuwait, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, India, Co-lombia, Mexico and Central America) he worked in the Geneva headquarters, where he completely re-designed the on-boarding programme for the new staff. He later took the responsibility for the delivery of learning and development activities. Besides a Bachelor’s degree in sinology, he holds a Swiss Federal Certificate in Adult Learning and a MAS in Transcultural Communication.
Let us introduce our academic partner to you - An Interview with Prof. Jolanta Drzewiecka, Head of the Master of Intercultural Communication Programme at the University of Lugano
Photo: Prof. Jolanta Drzewiecka
Lately, SIETAR Switzerland has partnered up with the University of Lugano, Master of Advanced Studies in Intercultural Communication (MIC). We interviewed Prof. Jolanta Drzewiecka who is the intercultural communication chair in charge of the MIC, asking her about her fascination for intercultural communication, the master program, and the migrant crisis.

Interview by Christa Uehlinger

What fascinates you about intercultural communication? Why did you choose this area of study?

I moved from Poland to the U.S. as a student. I remember landing in New York and walking around. I was fascinated by how vibrant this different place was. Then, in the years to come, it turned out that intercultural communication really was my experience of living in different places and interacting with other people. The incredible kind of vibrancy, creativity and the experience of different values, as well as ways of thinking, drew me to intercultural communication. By the time I started studying it in graduate school, I was also very much aware that while this diversity is so rich and part of our human condition, it also involves exclusion and exercise of power that puts certain groups at a disadvantage. Eventually, it wasn’t only the experience of richness, but also a social justice challenge. Working towards social justice and inclusion, identifying those aspects of intercultural communication that reinforce power and inclusion, became my passion.

What do you want to bring into the world?

I want a world in which we create an inclusive, open society where we recognize that our cultures are actually very fluid, very mixed and very connected, but for a variety of social and economic reasons we build exclusions. I want to contribute to building a more equal and inclusive world.

Could you give us a bit of a background how you grew up and of your experiences in different countries?

Until I became a student, I was just in Poland and had primarily a monocultural experience there. After I entered college and became an English major, I had a great opportunity to study in the U.S, something I didn’t think would be possible to me. It was huge. That really opened up the world to me. Then I met different people and got to know their experiences. For instance, my best friend in graduate school was Chinese-American and after driving me home from graduate seminars she would express her frustration with her experiences of discrimination. At that time, I was still naïve about a lot of those kinds of experiences, but that was a formative time for me. It opened my eyes to a different perspective and helped me to see the world through other people's eyes. Later on, I was doing a project in South Africa and had an exposure to a society which was ravaged by Apartheid. But one could see the potential there, see the kind of vibrancy which was ready if only opportunities would become available. This was also an important experience to me.

What was the biggest challenge for you at the beginning coming from Poland, then studying and living in the U.S.?

Growing up. I was very young. At that time, of course, I thought I was an adult. But there was still a lot of learning to do.  I actually think that doing this in another culture was really beneficial and enriching. It freed me and challenged me to think in different ways. This helped me understand myself better. It was a challenge, but one in the best possible way.

Could you shortly introduce the Master of Advanced Studies in Intercultural Communication (MIC) to us?

This program is directed at professionals who want to enhance their skills by learning about diversity in different contexts. That’s our biggest strength. While our first modules focus on theory, concepts and methods, the other ten modules are focused on specific contexts such as international organizations, law or education. I’m very happy to say that we added a module on culture and health. Our faculty is experts of international renown. We also offer intercultural experiences to our students because our students and faculty are from all over the world. The MIC is an immersive intercultural practicum.

Let’s talk a bit about your work which consists mainly of two areas: immigration identity and public memories. This year, SIETAR Switzerland focuses on migration. Additionally, today's societies are challenged by a migrant crisis. Based on your research and experience, how do you see the situation in Europe? What advice would you give?

The migrant crisis an important challenge. I’m struck by all the comments made across Europe about multiculturalism having failed. I would like us to realize that what has failed is actually not multiculturalism, but practices of exclusion. For the current situation, this means that we need to engage with migrants and open up lines of communication and to accept change as part of the normal process that is always already underway. The approach that “they just need to become like us” won’t work and pushes people away from integrating. First of all, this will never happen. Second of all, it is problematic because one can’t accept people without culture because culture is who we are.

Instead, we need to realize that our cultures are fluid and that they have been changing for a long time. Migration is just one change in the course of human history of ongoing changes. We have to resist essentializing our culture and the cultures of migrants. People are so concerned with security now and security is a kind of a key term. However, if we do want security, then that means talking to people to understand them, rather than closing off and pushing them away. 

I often hear statements such as “we will lose our culture”. What do you tell people who say this?

I don’t believe it. Culture is an open and fluid process. What we don’t realize is that we create fixed ideas about our culture in our head that we use defensively against others. But we are not paying attention to how our culture actually is on the ground and how dynamic and open it is to different influences such as the media. Immigrants are just one part of it. Having people around you doing different things doesn’t make you lose your own culture. Culture is not something that you lose. Actually, fear of differences creates situations that decrease our security. By creating exclusion, we create an environment that is insecure. Again, I believe you have to open up to people, but this doesn’t mean that you personally have to change your culture. That’s not what happens. We have to be thinking about what creates a society where we can live together. That has to be negotiated rather than to imposed.

Is there anything else you would like our members to know?

I would like to get to know your members. Intercultural communication is my work and life. So, I’m very excited to be in Switzerland as this is a new cultural context to me.

Christa Uehlinger was born and bred in Zurich. She studied law at the University of Zurich. She has worked over 10 years in international business and has studied intercultural communication at ICI in Portland. She is the founder of Christa Uehlinger Linking People  ( and works as an intercultural adviser and teaches intercultural communication. Christa is an author and has lived, worked and traveled throughout Europe, Canada, the US, India, Australia and Asia. She is the President of SIETAR Switzerland.
Book Reviews by Christa Uehlinger
The SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence
edited by Janet M. Bennett
SAGE Publications, Inc. 2015

This new encyclopedia is an authoritative source on intercultural competence and related issues. It covers topics such as assessment of intercultural competence, constructivism, cultural distance, culture shock, diversity and inclusion, intercultural code switching, leading global teams, mediation, mindfulness, space or virtual teams and many more. It consists of around 300 entries organized in A-to-Z fashion in two volumes. All of them conclude with cross-reference and suggestions for further readings. The encyclopedia is a great source for whoever wants to look up quickly certain topics around intercultural competence, expecting a short and informative input.
International Migration – a very short introduction, 2nd edition
Khalid Koser
Oxford University Press, 2016
Why has international migration become an issue of such intense public and political concern? How closely linked are migrants with terrorist organizations? What factors lie behind the dramatic increase in the number of women migrating?

This Very Short Introduction looks at the phenomenon of international human migration to reveal that migration actually presents opportunities that must be taken advantage of in light of the current economic climate. The author debunks myths such as the claim that migrants take jobs away from local workers, and that they take advantage of the health care system and western living conditions without returning any benefits of their own, and reveals that society as we now know it can not function without them. Not only do migrants fill a key gap in the domestic labour market, they also have a significant impact on the economies of their home countries — in places such as Mexico and the Philippines, the remittances they send home often exceed official development aid. Using interviews with migrants from around the world, the author presents the human side of topics such as asylum and refugees, human trafficking, migrant smuggling, development, and the international labour force. His goal throughout is to allow readers to see beyond the negative spin usually given the subject by the media and politicians, and come to their own conclusions on the international migration situation today.
Setting up a Directory of Intercultural Mediators
Dear Sietar Members and Friends,

Would you be ready to use your competences in intercultural communication to assist social workers, psychologists, medical doctors, representatives of urban or communal governments and other people interacting with migrants and refugees who have recently landed in Switzerland?

If yes, kindly copy and fill in the template below and send it back to me mentioning that you would be available to act as a cultural mediator, should there be a request for one. The information I need from you is your full name, email address, telephone number, the languages you speak, the area you live and work and maybe your specialization (if any), and any other information you deem important.

At the time of writing we still do not know when and where your services will be asked for. Neither do we know whether your work will be remunerated. But we thought that establishing a Directory of Cultural Mediators is a way for SIETAR Switzerland to offer a service to the community while at the same time giving more visibility to our Association.

Looking forward to your replies, I send you my warm regards

Daniel Glinz

Kindly fill in the template below, then send it to

"I am ready and willing to act as a cultural mediator to help people interacting with migrants and refugees having landed in Switzerland."
  • Full Name:
  • Email address:
  • Phone number:
  • Languages spoken:
  • Area where you live and work:
  • Specialty (if any):
  • Other Remarks:
Thank you!
Are you curious what SIETAR Switzerland will offer after the Summer Break? Have a glimpse here at our upcoming events and mark the dates in your diary!
"The First-Class Postbuzz" - Summer 2016
First published as an electronic magazine on 2 July 2016
Copyright © SIETAR Switzerland, 2015. Individual contributors have the copyright for their article.
c/o Dr. Christa Uehlinger, Stadthausstrasse 77, CH-8400 Winterthur.

Editor-in-Chief: Daniel Glinz
Editorial Committee: Rachel Beacher, Daniel Glinz and Angela Weinberger
Setting & Layout: Angela Weinberger
Photo Credits: Dr. Christa Uehlinger (unless other name is mentioned)
Publisher: SIETAR Switzerland
Responsible: Daniel Glinz

All rights reserved. No reproduction without prior written permission.
ISBN: 978-3-9524284-5-0
Copyright © SIETAR Switzerland, 2016

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SIETAR Switzerland · c/o Dr. Christa Uehlinger · Stadthausstrasse 77 · Winterthur 8400 · Switzerland

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