Switzerland is a mountainous destination that we have all heard and dreamed about. This small, rugged European country, known for its irresistible chocolate, sturdy mountain cheese, and breathtaking beauty, has so many things to offer. Some of them you already know about. But what are the things you do not know? Here are some fun, quirky tidbits about Switzerland to help you see that it is much more fascinating than you ever thought. It may inspire you to fulfill a lifelong dream and plan a trip to Switzerland.
1. Cheese Please! Cheese in Switzerland
If you like your cheese, then you will be happy to hear that Switzerland is home to 450 varieties, ranging from extra hard to soft, with crazy-hard-to-pronounce names like Sbrinz, Mutschli, Formaggini, and Tomme Vaudoise. The Swiss even have proof of how fantastic their cheese is: Out of 2,615 products entered from 22 countries in 89 categories, the Swiss took the first prize this year at the World Championship Cheese Contest.
2. Foreigners at Home in Switzerland
Oftentimes, when visiting or living in foreign countries, you feel like you stick out like a sore thumb with your different appearance, heavy accent, or complete lack of knowledge of the language. But in Switzerland, foreigners compose about 23% of the population! So go ahead and join the Switzerland foreigner club.
3. Marry Late in Switzerland
Once you pass the age of 20, graduate from college, and have an income, the pressure from the parentals about grandbabies and gossip from the aunts about your dating life may increase. But maybe you just want to live life calmly at your own pace! So if this is one of your woes in life, just go to Switzerland where later marriage is commonplace. The average marriage age for men is 31.8 and 29.5 for women.
Swiss Wine Cellar4. Swiss Drink Their Own Wine
It’s always kind of lame when the quality food or drink a country is known for producing never actually stays within the borders. However, only about 2% of Switzerland’s wine leaves the country. The Swiss produce about 200 million liters of wine per year and consume almost all of it themselves. Since it never goes too far, you can always count on a good homegrown drink and good company. In 2015, the average Swiss drank 56.5 litres of beer and 36 litres of wine.
5. The Swiss are Used to Many Languages
Because Switzerland has such a diverse population, it has declared four national languages: French (20.4%), German (64%), Italian (6.5%), and Romansh (just a little over 1%). Just one more reason to feel comfortable as a foreign visitor or resident—it’s perfectly acceptable to not understand what someone says to you, because nobody understands everybody!
6. Watch It!
It’s thanks to the Swiss that we have the handiness of clocks on our wrists. When Calvinists banned jewelry from use in 1541, goldsmiths and jewelers in Geneva brainstormed the invention of watches, since a functional timepiece was acceptable. Since then, it has proven to be one of the most successful industries of the country, reaching the present status as Switzerland’s fourth largest exporter. The Swiss know how to give quality variety.
7. Switzerland is Home to Adventure
Switzerland is home to 208 mountains over 3,000 meters high. What does that mean? Plenty of hiking adventures and places to go be a hermit! A beautiful experience that any in-shape hiker will love is the Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route, a 12-day classic Alpine trek that will bring you straight to the well-recognized Matterhorn.
Swiss Chocolate8. The Swiss Love their Chocolate
Switzerland is internationally known for its high quality chocolate. But do you know just how much chocolate is made there? Between the 18 Swiss chocolate companies, 172,376 tons of chocolate were made in year 2012. Residents help that number by eating approximately 10kg of chocolate annually. As a reference, get this: there were 200,000 tons of steel used in the construction of the World Trade complex. Talk about a lot of chocolate!
9. Take a Hike
Niesenbahn is the longest continuous-cable funicular in Europe, functioning since 1910. You can ascend to the summit of the Neisen mountain in about 30 minutes with the coolest ride out there. It may seem precarious but is really quite safe. And even better, the world’s longest stairway with 11,674 steps, is right alongside the track—so if you really do want to take a hike, you can.
10. Can you Read Helvetica?
When you use fonts in Microsoft Word, you don’t usually think about where they come from. But the widely used sans-serif typeface of Helvetica Font actually originates from Switzerland! In 1957, Max Miedinger with Eduard Hoffman designed this neutral and convenient font. Good thing it wasn’t one of those crazy wingdings.
11. Live Long and Prosper in Switzerland
Switzerland proudly claims the highest percentage of people over 100 in Europe. In 2012, it had the second highest life expectancy after Japan. This extended lifetime is probably in large part affected by the cleanliness of the air, the abundance of walking trails, and the availability of high-quality health care.
Tennis racket 12. Grand Slam
Roger Federer is only one example that the Swiss know how to achieve success. In his years of playing, he has won 20 Grand Slam singles titles, earning him the position as the most successful men’s tennis player…ever.
13. Cantons United
Switzerland is comprised of cantons instead of states. There are 26 of these little “corners” squeezed into the small landlocked country, divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau, and the Jura and surrounded by five countries: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, and Liechtenstein. The close to 8 million citizens are mostly concentrated in the plateau. It’s only fitting though, since the Swiss motto is “Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno” or “One for all, all for one.”
14. Birthplace of the Red Cross
This 97 million volunteer program was founded in 1863 in Geneva, Switzerland where its headquarters still remain today. The Red Cross flag is simply a color switching of the Flag of Switzerland, showing proud Swiss roots.
15. Is it Swiss?
We use “Swiss” in our vocabulary more than we realize. But are these items really from Switzerland? Let’s check it out:
Swiss Steak: This name does not actually refer to Switzerland, but instead to the process of “swissing”, which refers to fabric or other materials being pounded or run through rollers in order to soften it.
Niesenbahn -longest continuous cable funicular in EuropeSwiss Army Knife: In 1891, these really were manufactured originally for the Swiss Army. However, the general term “Swiss Army knife” was coined by US soldiers after World War II due to the difficulty they had in pronouncing the German name.
Swiss Miss: This is an American brand of hot chocolate that simply uses the Swiss Alps as part of its branding to show that this hot chocolate is perfect and portable for cold temperatures and active situations. Also, some say that its flavor is reminiscent of Swiss milk chocolate.
Swiss Cheese: Another term that is generically applied to the family of holey cheeses that simply resemble Emmental cheese from Switzerland. Once again, it is not actually from Switzerland but rather produced in America and Canada.
Swiss Chard: The word “Swiss” was used to distinguish chard from French spinach varieties by 19th century seed catalogue publishers. Although it is native to the Mediterranean region, its scientific name was determined by Swiss botanist Koch and so the name honors his homeland.