Swiss culture has hit the news in a couple of ways this week, so I thought I’d share my experiences. Keep in mind, I can’t possibly explain all Swiss culture because I don’t get all of it, but maybe a few of the things I say will make some sense.

First, there’s the lady described in this article: Left-wing Dutch vegan who moved to Switzerland is denied a Swiss passport because she is too annoying

Now, all of you might be saying, “Hey, that’s a great idea! Let’s deny citizenship to anyone who is annoying!” while fully understanding that “annoying” is a little hard to put into statutory law: Who decides who is annoying and how annoying does it need to be before you get denied due to getting on everyone’s nerves?

The process for obtaining Swiss citizenship isn’t consistent across the country. It varies from canton to canton (a canton is like a state, except because Switzerland is so small, they are quite tiny compared to US standards). The Swiss really believe in Federalism, and so each Canton gets to vary the rules to fit their local culture and needs.

Some things are standard–like the number of years you need to live here to apply. (For US citizens with no Swiss relatives, like us, we have to be here 12 years to apply.) The language requirement is also fixed: You have to have a B1 level in an official language (German, French, Italian, or Romansch.)

But, the wild card is the vote. Some cantons require your town to give you a thumbs up or a thumbs down. To be honest, I don’t know if my town gets to vote on us when that time comes.

As you might expect, in a larger town, this can be used to weed people out by their “undesireable” last names. (I’ve been told we’ll have no problem, because people will think we’re Germans with the last name of Lucas.) However, this woman appears to have lost her town’s support–twice–because she’s annoying.

This does not mean she sings loudly while walking the aisles of the grocery store, or that she paints her house purple (which would also be bad, by the way), but because she is actively trying to destroy Swiss Culture.

I used a capital C for Culture because it is a Very Important Thing in Switzerland. She specifically wants to get rid of cow bells. This is not funny for Swiss people. It eats at the heart of Swiss culture and people don’t want it.

Switzerland is a small country and the cantons are tiny, and the people want to maintain their way of life. I don’t see this as a bad thing at all. Why shouldn’t a country be able to maintain their identity? Cow bells are part of their identity. They just are, and if you don’t like it, you shouldn’t be a Swiss citizen. Notably, they aren’t kicking her out of the country–they are just saying you can’t be Swiss because you reject Swiss traditions.

The other story sounds like a case of religious discrimination, but it’s really another culture thing.  Here’s the NYT article: Muslim Girls in Switzerland Must Attend Swim Classes With Boys, Court Says.

From an American viewpoint, this freaks me out. The girls say it’s against their religion, so dang it, it’s against their religion, and they shouldn’t be required to take the swim classes with boys. The Swiss (and the European Court of Human Rights) see it as a culture issue.

Treating boys and girls the same is part of Swiss Culture–you can be denied a residency permit if you don’t subscribe to that philosophy. This all went down in Basel–I live in suburban Basel–in 2008, but the court just issued the final ruling.

Now, one note of interest: the parents are Swiss and Turkish Citizens, so they weren’t denied citizenship like the cow bell lady, but the community pushed back when they attempted to circumvent a school tradition. (Incidentally, my son’s school does not have swimming lessons, which makes me sad because dragging kids to swimming lessons is one of the worst parts of parenting.)

The court ruled that “The public interest in following the full school curriculum should prevail over the applicants’ private interest in obtaining an exemption from mixed swimming lessons for their daughters.”

But wait, isn’t this a religious thing? To the Swiss, no it’s not. Why? Because the parents admit that Muslim rules would only require that separation after puberty, but they wanted to get their girls used to the separation before that. Since the girls (7 and 9 when this started), had not yet gone through puberty, the Swiss saw it as a Culture issue. Essentially, the policy is you can practice your religion, no problem, but you better make sure it’s actually your religion and not your culture. Since their religion doesn’t officially require separation at this age, they aren’t allowed.

When I wrap my brain around that, it makes more sense than my immediate reaction of “what in the heck?” And it reminded me of growing up in Mormon-heavy Utah and having Mormons saying they want a religious exemption for vaccination when the LDS church has a worldwide immunization program through its charitable arm. It kind of made me want to slap those people. (Also, for the love of Pete, vaccinate yourself and your kids!)

But, I also have a lot of empathy for the parents of these girls. They want to choose the way to raise their children and it’s frustrating to have the government push back and say “you’re doing it wrong.” They could, of course, move back to Turkey, and Turkey is a lovely place that is politically unstable at the moment. I’d pick Switzerland too.

There’s another Swiss rule that’s mentioned in the article–shaking teacher’s hands. The case involving that also involved a Basel suburb. (Basel and her suburbs have an incredibly high immigrant/expat population, which is why these things pop up here.) Hand shaking is so, so, so, important to the Swiss. I still don’t live up the expectation, which is to shake everyone’s hand when you enter a room and shake it again when you leave. I’m known to sneak in and out. Also, they like hugging and kissing on the cheek (3 times!).

When I was working with the children at church (I’m now doing the adult music), every Sunday all the kids would line up to shake my hand. They wouldn’t leave until they had done so. I was a teacher, so they must shake my hand. If I was trying to do something else, they’d wait until I was done, so they could shake my hand. Culture.

Hopefully, this was interesting and helps you understand where they are coming from. Also, more cow bell!




Dilemma of the Month: My Boss Gossips

by Evil HR Lady on January 13, 2017

My boss is a gossiper. She gossips to me about a team member of mine. I’ve worked at this company for two years. The first year it wasn’t bad, but she gradually started to say negative things to me about my colleague. The sad part is I believed all this stuff at first. As I started to hear more, I couldn’t handle it. I told HR the truth and was advised to speak with my boss’s immediate boss. He said it was inappropriate and he would address it with her without mentioning any names. Our team includes only four people, and I feel my boss will know who complained. Do you think this was the right move on my part or should I have not done anything at all?

To read the answer, click here: Dilemma of the Month: My Boss Gossips


Can’t Remember Anything? Blame Your Shared Office Space

by Evil HR Lady on January 12, 2017

We are all about collaboration and teamwork (and let’s be honest) saving money, so open office plans are extremely popular. Your coworkers are always available to share ideas, and in the case of a hotdesking environment, you can easily move to sit next to someone who can help you with your current project.

And yet, lots of us hate it. And it turns out that we’re not just whiners. There are serious downsides to the open office. Bryan Borzykowski, at BBC Capital, talks about many of the downsides of the open office, but this one caught my eye the most: Memory.

[Ce]rtain open spaces can negatively impact our memory. This is especially true for hotdesking, an extreme version of open plan working where people sit wherever they want in the work place, moving their equipment around with them.

We retain more information when we sit in one spot, says Sally Augustin, an environmental and design psychologist in La Grange Park, Illinois. It’s not so obvious to us each day, but we offload memories — often little details — into our surroundings, she says.

These details — which could be anything from a quick idea we wanted to share to a colour change on a brochure we’re working on — can only be recalled in that setting.

To keep reading, click here: Can’t Remember Anything? Blame Your Shared Office Space


The Worst Possible Job Descriptions

by Evil HR Lady on January 10, 2017

The language used to describe something can make a huge difference in our perceptions. Writer and fitness expert James Fell posted a request to “badly explain your profession” on his Facebook Page. He described his own profession as: “I make ‘eat less, move more’ really complicated.”

His followers didn’t disappoint. Fell gave me permission to share some of the best bad descriptions.

Kevin: I convert perfectly good jet fuel into noise and chemtrails

Sunita: I withhold antibiotics from children with colds

Jennifer: I give away tax dollars to compost dead chickens and keep cow [bleep] out of creeks.

Emanuel: I get paid for letting people yell at me from a great distance via telephone-lines.

To read some more, click here: The Worst Possible Job Descriptions


.Melinda Byerley, the founder of TimeShare CMO wrote an offensive tweet calling people in “middle america” [sic] stupid and that’s why there are not as many jobs there. Please read it for yourself:

Clearly, this woman is a woman of diversity and love for people of all backgrounds, except for other, you know, Americans. Oh, and, it turns out, people who are not native English Speakers.

To keep reading, click here: San Francisco CEO Calls Rural Americans Racist; Institutes Xenophobic Hiring Rule


No, Ladies, You’re Not Thinking More Than Men

by Evil HR Lady on January 6, 2017

Let’s just stipulate, right off the bat, that mom is far more likely to be the person arranging dentist appointments, buying toilet paper, and picking out a birthday present for little Kevin down the block, whose mom is going to take it back if it’s not organic anyway, so why bother thinking about it?

Let’s assume this is 100 percent true: It still doesn’t mean that women are being “dragged down” and that men have an easy life, as the write-up of an old study about household duties suggests. Lisa Wade, at Time, writes:

And, to be fair, while women who are married to or cohabiting with men do more domestic work than their partners, husbands spend proportionally more time on paid work. Today the amount of sheer hours that men and women spend in combined paid and unpaid work is pretty close to equal.

But that doesn’t count the thinking.

Husbands may do more housework and childcare than before, but women still delegate:

Wade defines thinking as work, which I one hundred percent agree with. In fact, this knowledge aspect is one reason why I found the Department of Labor’s attempt to classify all employees earning less than $47,476 as hourly workers to be problematic. A knowledge job means you don’t stop working just because you’re away from your desk, but I digress.

To keep reading, click here: No, Ladies, You’re Not Thinking More Than Men


Here’s a confession: I’ve never had a 401k.

Why? Well, when I got my first professional job out of grad school, I had a lot of debt. My then fiance, now husband, had a lot of debt, and we wanted to pay off that debt. So, we opted to forgo contributing to 401ks in order to pay down that debt.

Here’s the stupid part: As a grad student, I earned $12,000 a year. Not bad for a grad student in 1998, but obviously not enough to live a lavish lifestyle. My first professional job paid $40,000. What part of me didn’t think that was more than enough to live on when my rent was $435 a month? The part of me that was financially responsible and did really want to get out of debt and the part of me that thought “Woo-hoo! Real money!”

To keep reading, click here: 30 Million Americans Don’t Have Access to a Retirement Plan (Why That’s a Problem Only You Can Fix)


Why My Child Is Better off Than Your Child

by Evil HR Lady on January 5, 2017

My 8-year-old son entered kindergarten at the ripe old age of 4 and 3 months. That’s a bit early, for US standards. We’d consider that pre-school age in the US, but it’s when Kindergarten starts in Switzerland. Now, granted, he’s the youngest in his class (cut off date was one day before his birthday and we successfully petitioned to have him enter early), but there are lots of other four-year-olds who cross the threshold of the Swiss kindergarten.

You know what he did there? Pounded nails. Went into the forest. Painted. Learned two new languages. Mostly, however, he played. The teachers are loath to intervene in a kindergarten squabble. Unless there is blood, the kids work most things out themselves. A teacher will step in to stop ongoing bullying, but when a child is being picked on, they encourage that child to fight back.

There was no discussion of the alphabet. The kindergarten classroom had no alphabet around the wall, like most kindergarten classrooms. While the teachers read to the students daily, there’s zero expectation that the kids will learn to read themselves.

To keep reading, click here: Why My Child Is Better off Than Your Child


Goat Trees Are Totally Real

by Evil HR Lady on January 2, 2017



We just got back from vacation in Morocco. My husband took this picture. Yes, we actually saw goats climbing trees. It was like a life-long dream had been fulfilled when we saw this.

This has nothing to do with HR, but isn’t it the coolest thing ever?


I’m currently on vacation, so I’m posting this oldie but goodie.

What would happen if job candidates treated you the way you treat them? You might be receiving letters such as this one?

Dear Hiring Manager,

Thank you so much for your interest in me for the position of Senior Technical Analyst for your company. Before we commence with the interview, you will need to do the following:

1. Fill out the application, You’ll find it at my website under the “potential employers tab.” It’s critical that you fill out all the fields, including your personal job history as well as the company’s history. Pay special attention to the government investigations tab. If you’ve ever lost a lawsuit or settled one, I need you to list the details.

2. Complete criminal background. Before I decide if I can work for you, I need to know what my potential coworkers have been up to. Please fill out the form and list all felony convictions. Please make special note, if I will be driving with anyone in the firm, I’ll need to see their driver’s history. This can be obtained by contacting your local Department of Motor Vehicles. (DMV)

To keep reading, click here: Think Your Interview Process Is Fair? Read This Letter.