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Portuguese immigrants celebrate Euro 2004

Casa Lusitania is the only shop in Bern that sells Portuguese products swissinfo.ch

Portuguese in Switzerland maintain close ties with their homeland - especially when it comes to football.

This content was published on June 1, 2004 - 18:06

The 160,000-strong community is looking forward to celebrating Euro 2004 - either in Portugal or at home in Switzerland.

Portuguese football fans are going into the European Championships buoyed up by the victory of top club, Porto, in the Champions League.

Porto triumphed 3-0 over Monaco in this year's final of the most important club competition in Europe.

At the Bern branch of the Associação Portuguesa, the Portuguese regularly get together over a drink or two to watch matches featuring clubs from back home.

Only about 20 turned up for this year's Champions League final but, as the barman explains, that was probably because it was held on a Wednesday.

It’s a very different story when the national team plays, as whole families turn up and the venue becomes one big party.

Community feeling

For the Portuguese, whose migration to Switzerland reached a peak in the 1980s, these get-togethers help them to deal with life away from home.

“The difference between life in Portugal and life in Switzerland lies in the social ties with the family, neighbours and the village,” said Antonio da Cunha, professor of geography at Lausanne University and president of the Federation of Portuguese Associations in Switzerland.

“The Portuguese village is a type of large extended family,” he told swissinfo. “Social ties, especially those formed during childhood, are even more important in Portugal.”

Da Cunha adds that the associations – of which there are more than 130 in Switzerland – show how attached the Portuguese are to their country.

The return home

The Portuguese, more so than the Italians and the Spanish, frequently choose to return home after spending 20 years in Switzerland.

For this reason the Portuguese population in Switzerland is in a constant state of flux and change.

Da Cunha says that those who arrived in Switzerland ten years ago came from rural areas and "didn’t have a very high level of education".

“Nowadays, we are seeing more and more people from urban areas arriving, young people who are well-educated, having completed their high school diploma,” he added.

Despite the lure of the homeland, the Portuguese have been able to create a piece of Portugal in Switzerland, enabling them to find a balance between the two cultures.

This applies to Francisco Aragão, who along with his Swiss wife, Claudia, has opened the only shop in Bern that sells Portuguese products – Casa Lusitania.

Football

Business is booming at the shop. Portuguese wine, which was once unfamiliar in Switzerland, appears to be catching on.

And the clientele is changing too, diversifying away from the original core of Portuguese customers.

“The Portuguese visit our shop because it’s like a piece of home,” Claudia Aragão told swissinfo. “The Swiss, on the other hand, feel like they are still on holiday.”

Sales have risen thanks to Euro 2004, as the Swiss gear up for the football.

“Many Swiss restaurants have ordered Portuguese products which they intend to offer during the championships,” said Aragão.

Those who are unable to get to Portugal for the matches can get into the spirit by enjoying a few typical Portuguese snacks such as il baccalà or i rissóis – rolled pasta containing meat - washed down with a glass of Portuguese wine or beer.

Francisco Aragão will be in Portugal. Not to support the Portuguese – he couldn’t get any tickets – but to cheer on the team of his adopted home, Switzerland.

swissinfo, Doris Lucini (translation: Isobel Leybold)

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