Chris Hunkeler, USA

Chris Hunkeler, USA


How connected to Switzerland do you feel?

I feel quite connected to Switzerland having travelled there extensively to visit my grandmother and extended family many times as a child. We spent summers hiking in the Berner Oberland and even took a few ski trips in winter. I learned Jass at a farm in Schwyz that my grandmother had taken my dad and aunt to on summer vacations when they were kids. It was a rainy day and the perfect day to be inside playing cards.


When was the last time you felt really proud or ashamed of Switzerland?

In my early 30s, as an adult, I passed through Switzerland on a European exploration with a friend and was ignored by a waitress at a bar while trying to get coins to make a phone call to the hotel we were planning to stay at. This rude greeting led us to skip Switzerland and continue driving on to France where we received an especially warm welcome at a small hotel in the French countryside near the Swiss border. I have at times felt unwelcome by the ski lift operators as well for being a foreigner, despite my Swiss heritage.


A few years later, we returned to Switzerland to visit a Swiss friend we had met in the United States and over the years we made several trips to Switzerland and neighboring countries. Our friend Stephan and his circle of friends were warm and welcoming and I realized that the Swiss people I know and my friendships with them are what brings me closer to my Swiss heritage.


How is Switzerland perceived abroad or in the country where you live?

In the USA, people still associate Switzerland with chocolate and cows but as well, people understand that Switzerland has a modern economy, a large pharmaceutical industry and is known for the quality of their products.


What do the bilateral agreements and treaties bring to Switzerland? What positive or negative experiences have you had in this regard?

I believe that the bilateral agreements are a huge advantage for Swiss citizens to work in other countries and this benefit necessitates reciprocity. I believe that all people have something positive to contribute to society and embrace the new ideas and energy that they bring.


How are these bilateral agreements and treaties seen in the country where you live?

The United States largely ignores Switzerland's bilateral agreements with its neighbors but currently has a very hostile attitude towards immigrants and is trying to renegotiate NAFTA. In general, Democrats are pro-immigration and Republicans tend to be anti-immigration if I was going to simplify the current situation.


What does the free movement of persons bring to Switzerland? What aspects could be dealt with better here? Are you personally taking advantage of this freedom?

I am not personally taking advantage of the free movement of persons through the Swiss and European agreements but it gives me extra peace-of-mind to know that I could potentially work in a European Union country if I lost my job in the US.


What are the benefits of dual citizenship in your view?

Some of the benefits of dual citizenship are the ability to rely on multiple countries for benefits and support should one need it, to travel more freely, to more easily live and work in other countries and to be able to flee in a time of war to a safer place. Last summer, on my way to Rome and Taormina, I passed quickly through Italian immigration with my Swiss ID card. I probably saved less than a minute but it still felt good.




From 10-12 August 2018, the 96th Congress of the Swiss Abroad will take place in Visp on the theme of "Switzerland without Europe – Europe without Switzerland". For the occasion, the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad presents portraits of the Swiss abroad related to the congress theme in order to find out more about their impressions of life as Swiss living abroad and their view of international cooperation between their countries of origin and residence.

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