Updated: Jul 26
Switzerland, by many, is known for its delightful cheese and chocolates and its stunning mountains as well as being the birthplace of watch manufacturers Rolex. However, there's much more to know about the central European country.
Here are 10 facts you probably didn't know about Switzerland.
10. A Quarter of the Population is Foreign
Switzerland has one of the highest percentages of foreigners living in its country, with 25% of the population coming from abroad. The majority of these foreigners are from nearby Italy (15.1%), Germany (14.4%), Portugal (12.8%) and France (6.04%).
9. It Doesn’t Have an Official Capital City
Bern is largely recognised as the de-facto capital of Switzerland, however, there is no official capital. The Swiss government, made up of the Swiss Federal Assembly and the Federal Council, sit on Bundesplatz 3, 3003 in the Federal Palace in Bern.
The largest city, however, is Zurich which is home to almost 1,500,000 Zürchers
8. Switzerland Has 4 Different National Languages
German is the most spoken language with 62% of speakers, French speakers equate to almost 23% and 8% of the population speak Italian. Romansh, a language that is only spoken by 0.5%, was voted by 90% of the country to be made an official language in 1990.
Preserving Romansh is an expensive exercise for the government who spend over £6million each year promoting it.
7. It Isn’t a Member of the EU, NATO or the European Economic Area (EEA)
Despite being in the middle of Europe, Switzerland who are notorious for being ‘neutral’ are not members of either the EU, NATO or the EEA. It has, however, been a part of the Schengen Zone since 2008.
6. Less Than 15% of the Alps are Actually Swiss
The Alps are often most associated with Switzerland, but you’d be mistaken for thinking they have the largest share of the region. In fact, Austria lays claim to the most Alpine territory with over 28%. Switzerland, on the other hand, possesses around 13%.
5. Switzerland Has the Highest Life Expectancy in Europe
The life expectancy in Switzerland is 84.25 for all genders, which is over 5 years more than the United States and 12 more years than the global average!. This is down to Switzerland’s excellent healthcare system, healthy-eating culture, effective government policies for employment and strong attitudes towards exercise. The Swiss people would walk or ski everywhere if they could!
4. Almost 10% of Swiss Nationals Live Abroad
According to swissinfo.ch, the total number of Swiss nationals living abroad in 2021 was 788,000, an increase on the year before by 2.1%. Over 200,000 of these have migrated to nearby France, as well as Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Spain being other popular places of residency.
3. The World Wide Web was Invented in Switzerland
British Scientist Tim Berners-Lee who was working at CERN in Geneva throughout the 1990s, famously invented and introduced the World Wide Web. Whilst Tim wasn’t Swiss himself, this invention can absolutely be celebrated as one of the most important things to come out of Switzerland.
2. Famous British Actor Charlie Chaplin died in Switzerland
Charlie Chaplin, one of the most famous actors of all time, found himself living the last 25 years of his life in Manoir de Ban, Corsier-sur-Vevey, on Lake Geneva. He left the US after he was subject to allegations of communist-sympathising, during a time where the “red scare” was a very delicate subject in America.
He returned just once to the US, in 1972 to pick up an Academy Award. He died 5 years later and a statue was created on the lake in 1982 by British sculpture John Doubleday.
1. Other than Vatican City, Switzerland is the Only Country with a Square Flag
The flag of Switzerland is a very interesting flag, especially for one that doesn’t look like it has much detail. The cross symbolises success and quality - which completely encapsulates Switzerland. The country’s most established brands such as Rolex and Nestlé pride themselves on sticking to these values with every last bit of energy they put into making their high quality products.
The actual square shape of the flag came about in 1840 because military coats of arms at the time were square, and the Swiss who have always loved perfection believed it made complete sense.