Bureaucracy with a human face

On the left sign, under the canton colors, the names and direct phone numbers of the employees.

One of the things I noticed coming to Switzerland as an Italian, and something that really surprised me, was how personal the relationship with the “bureaucracy structure” tends to be.

Most of the times in Italy one dreads the prospect of interacting with bureaucracy at any level, because it always feels like you are going against a Brazil-like faceless leviathan that not only you can’t relate to, but will screw you up if you did anything remotely wrong, losing a ton of time in the process (assuming you don’t get a fine, too). Many institutions barely have a public contact phone, and it generally goes to a call-center that is either always overloaded (and you get endless horrible hold music) or basically unmanned (the phone rings and rings and rings… And nobody picks up). Or both! Like, you get past the IVR and then the call goes to an unmanned phone. And you will probably interact with different people each time, never really getting to know the person that’s working on your case… The person you are interacting with is probably not the one, either.

Here in Switzerland, the names of the people that work in public offices is written on a sign by the front door, with their direct phone number and email. Yes, really.

Taxes? If you are Swiss, or have been living here for a while, you get to do your own taxes (and there’s a free multiplatform software to help you, my Italian and American friends! And yes, it works quite fine on Linux too!), but that’s not all. You are assigned a “tax person” from the Canton, and they will be your single point of contact: they are the person that will check your filing, will ask for clarifications if you wrote something that doesn’t check out, that you can call if you have doubts about some deductible or another, or whatever. Again… Yes, really!

The whole feeling is much more… Human. And, yes, quite odd.