After I dropped off round two of my application in April, Kay and I went on holiday and I forgot about the whole naturalization process again when I came back to work in May.
One day at work I received a phone call in German. Normally I don’t receive any calls on my office phone unless they are internal and if I do, they are usually in English because we work with a lot of international people, so I was a little startled and was trying to figure out who was calling me. Someone from the Gemeindehaus? Was this about our flat or what?
I had to ask a couple times for them to say it again until the guy was like, “This is about your application, you know… your SWISS NATURALIZATION application.”
Holy F-bomb… it was the Fremdenpolizei!!!! (Immigration police, quite literally.)
These are the people you hear about in the movie Die Schweizermacher, which I have yet to see, and the legends expats tell each other explaining horrifying police visits to check if your marriage is a sham. Pictures of police going through my underwear draw flash through my head. Not knowing any other expats going through the facilitated naturalization process, everything I heard was always a “friend of a friend of a friend” so it’s very hard to separate fact from fiction.
I was quite nervous once I realized who was on the phone, because I knew that meant an inspection was coming up. In fact, the first thing the police told me after that was,
“You are very hard to get a hold of Mrs. Helfenberger.”
Eeep. I wasn’t sure what they meant, but I guessed that they had tried me at home. I realized afterward that they had also tried my cell phone before calling the office and when Kay got home, he found a business card wedged in the crack of our door. So… the police had gotten into our building and now all the neighbors passing by could see that the police were looking for me. Great! I’m now just like that neighbor we had one time who skipped town owing money and the police were looking for him. Lump all us foreigners into one, dirty, non-Swiss category! We’re obviously all criminals. 😉
But really… way to prove a stereotype about the preconceptions of wives in this country guys!! Normally if it’s 2pm and you know someone has a work number, you call that instead of exhausting all the other options first. But nooo, they had to assume I was at home or running housewife errands and they had the gall to give me a hard time for being “hard to get a hold of”. Pfff!
They kindly agreed to meet me again at my house the following week at 7pm, but as I put down the phone I started panicking because I knew Kay had a work event that night and I was terrified of entertaining the police alone. I also had a whole week to daydream about what they would do or say during the inspection.
Luckily, Kay could cancel his event and make sure he’d be there with me and when I freaked out about what they would ask me, Kay sent me “Der Bund, Kurz Erklärt“, a PDF in German about the Swiss Federal Council. This might have freaked me out a little more… but it was helpful to read in the end.
Over the weekend I cleaned the entire flat, tidied and made things ready for their visit. Hell, if this was a sham marriage, they sure gave me a lot of time to prepare the flat! But on the actual day of the visit, two policemen showed up a little late and told me they’d make this quick and wouldn’t even need to come in my house! I think they wanted to go home and eat dinner soon, to be honest.
Instead, they completed a short questionnaire at the door and were gone within five minutes! So… what did they want to know?
1. Do I speak Swiss German, German, French or Italian, and what is the level of speaking?
I’m always bashful about my German, so I asked Kay auf Deutsch what he thought and the police were already like “Ohh that’s great!” and marked “fluent” in both Swiss German and German, even though I just say a few Swiss German words once in awhile. Whatever. Yay!
I had to laugh later on about the French, because Kay has taught me an army joke where they said “Oops, I farted” or “Oops, I burped” a la Française every time they burp or fart. It would have been really funny (and inappropriate) to tell them, “Yes, I know French… I farted!” 🙂
2. What is the capital of Switzerland?
3. What day is Swiss National Day?
4. Who are three Bundesrat (Federal Council Members)?
I answered Burkhalter, Leuthard, and Widmer-Schlumpf. This is why I was glad I read Der Bund, Kurz Erklärt, because the federal council members can change quickly compared to US presidents and congress members. I don’t read about Swiss council members that often since I cannot vote and I always think of Calmy-Rey, who has already been out since 2011 apparently!
5. What are three political parties in Switzerland?
This was also easier to answer with a bit of read-up. I answered SVP (Schweizerische Volkspartei), CVP (Christlichdemokratische Volkspartei der Schweiz) and FDP (Freie Demokratische Partei). And no, I didn’t say the whole name… just the acronyms, thank God!
6. What are three newspapers in Switzerland?
I’m a horrible reader in general, but I answered NZZ (Neue Zürcher Zeitung) although I accidentally pluralized it and said “Neue Zürcher Zeitungen”. Oops. And I said Blick am Abend and 20 Minutes, which are the two free newspapers in the train stations that I read most often, even if they are really poorly written.
7. What is a local language spoken in Switzerland?
Now, I actually got confused on this one because I think too much into things. Of course I know the four national languages of Switzerland, but they had just started this interview asking me if I speak German, French or Italian. Surely, they weren’t going to ask me if I speak one of the local languages and then have that be an answer later on?!
Kay was looking at me like “Come on, you know this!” and I was thinking “God, what do they mean? Züridütsch? Berndütsch??” before skeptically answering Italian? with a question mark at the end.
“Yeah, yeah that’s fine! S’guet!!” they told me… and then they thanked me for my time and were gone. They wouldn’t have even noticed Kay if he hadn’t gotten up from the sofa and introduced himself, so I’m really not sure how that test was supposed to prove that we are not in a sham marriage. It was really just some simple questions to prove my integration in Switzerland.
“All done with tests!” I thought. But I was definitely wrong… more on that later!
And in case you are wondering, here are the costs until now:
Marriage certificate: 35CHF
Wohnsitzbestätigung 30CHF X 4: 120CHF
Betreibungsauszüge 20CHF X 4: 80CHF
Train ticket to pick up Betreibungsauszug: 6.60CHF
Post costs: 4CHF
Total Costs: 320.60CHF ($361.09)
- Facilitated Swiss Naturalisation Part I
- Initial Facilitated Naturalization Application
- Facilitated Naturalization Round Two