"In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed — they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
— The Third Man
, which fails at history forever
That's not really fair on the Swiss (they didn't even invent the cuckoo clock—it comes from Swabia in Germany), but they do have a strong tradition in making clocks. They also produced the Swiss Army Knife, the Geneva Conventions and the International Committee of the Red C-Thing, among other things.note
They also arguably helped produce the United States, their system of government being one of several that inspired the writing of the US Constitution - and funnily enough they influenced the Australian Constitution
Switzerland (German: Schweiz
, Italian: Svizzera
, French: Suisse
, Romansh: Svizra
), officially known as the Swiss Confederation (Latin: Confoederatio Helvetica
), which is why Swiss cars are distinguished by a CH sticker and the Swiss top level domain is .ch, is a country with four official languages (counting the very small Romansch-speaking population - the others are French, German and Italian), holds referenda all the time on many things and has not been involved in a war anywhere since 1815. It's one of the richest countries (per capita) in the world.
One of the few countries in western Europe not part of the EU, although they often adopt EU regulations in the interest of trade. As a result, they still have their own currency, too.
In an interesting bit of trivia, the Swiss franc has recently become strong to the point of challenging the Euro, in part due to the debt issue. Though it has always been a very strong currency.
There are actually two companies that produce MacGyver
's favourite device
for the Swiss military (who as usual refuse to play favourites between them, and split the order equally);
- Victorinox - the Original Swiss Army Knife
- Wenger - the Genuine Swiss Army Knife
The former now owns the latter, but the two brands remain.
- Bern, in the central-western part of the country, is the Federal City and seat of its government. The vast majority here are German-speakers.
- Zurich, in the northern part of the country, is the largest city with the largest airport and seat to many big companies and many of the famous banks. Also majority-German-speaking.
- Geneva, on the westernmost tip, is home to the ICRC and other international organizations as well as a good number of embassies of other countries. The main language here is French.
- Davos, in the eastern part of the country not far from the border with Austria, is the venue of the World Economic Forum. Primary language is German.
- Lausanne, in the southwestern part of the country, is home to several sports federations, most notably the International Olympic Committee. Primarily French-speaking.
- Basel, in the northwest on the Rhine at the point where Switzerland, France, and Germany meet, is central to the chemical industry and being the host for large art exhibitions and jewelry/watch trade shows. Mostly German-speaking.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
originates in Switzerland, being founded by a Swiss businessman horrified by the lack of basic battlefield medical care during the Austro-Sardinian War.
The movement, also responsible for the Geneva Conventions, is the most famous humanitarian organisation.
The symbols of the organisation are protected under the Geneva Conventions from any other use bar actual non-partial wartime medical provision, which means the ICRC tends to get rather annoyed when they're used as generic medical symbols. This is fairly frequent.
- In The Living Daylights, the bad guys disguise narcotics as ICRC aid parcels. The ICRC reported it to the authorities, but the charges weren't proceeded with by UK prosecutors. One VHS release of the movie has a disclaimer pointing out the major illegality - nay, war crime, of what the bad guys do.
The Swiss Armed Forces (who actually have patrol boats) are a rather unique military. The Swiss military, as well as being pretty high-tech, is a trained militia, who keep their automatic rifles at home. Once people leave, they can keep the guns (as of recently, only until a certain age unless certain criteria are met), but they have to be rendered semi-auto only.
Switzerland thus has a very high gun ownership rate, but you need a permit to buy weapons.
95% of Swiss have beds available for them in a nuclear bomb shelter, and new buildings were required to either include one or have access to a public one. Switzerland is rich like that. (And has a lot
of stone mountainsides to dig into.)
In addition, the country also is said to defend, though no one ever signed a treaty, a mini-state in the form of Liechtenstein
, which the Swiss tend to invade every so often due to navigation errors.
Switzerland is also famous for its tasty chocolate and Swiss Cheese. To a lesser extent, precision machinery, especially watches. With few natural resources, the country has always focused on importing raw materials, making high quality wares out of them and exporting the results.
The place is fairly easy to defend—with the exception of Basel (which is situated in the Rhine valley), Switzerland is surrounded by high mountains and a lake and the few tunnels can be easily closed in a war.
For a very long time in works of fiction, Switzerland was primarily referred to for its "Numbered Swiss Account
", the favorite hiding place of illicit money. Switzerland no longer (as of 2005) protects the confidentiality of numbered accounts from other governments (at least the United States), though it still has control over the matter. This change in policy being one impact of the international pursuit of terrorists.
Switzerland is famous for its love of direct democracy, holding frequent referenda on a wide variety of issues, including a highly controversial one that passed to ban minarets. This is also the main reason why Switzerland hasn't joined the EU, since the idea of giving up this direct means to influence politics didn't sit well with voters.
Famous Swiss People
- Celtic Frost wich is one of the most influental and important bands in Extreme Metal.
- Henri Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross, the logo of which is an inversion of the Swiss flag.
- Roger Federer, 17-Grand Slam-winning tennis player, former World No. 1.
- Stéphane Lambiel, Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion figure skater
- Martina Hingis (though she was born in Slovakia), 5-time Grand Slam champion.
- Carl Jung
- Hermann Rorschach, inventor of the Inkblot Test
- Leonhard Euler
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau (a Genevan who moved to France and became French as fast as he could).
- Le Corbusier (a Neuchatelien who moved to France and became French as fast as he could). Designed United Nations headquarters and many other beautiful buildings; also responsible for the Brutalist style, which developed into something rather different.
- H. R. Giger, surrealist painter and sculptor. Most notably, creator of the Xenomorph design.
Switzerland in Diplomacy
Due to Switzerland's permanently neutral status, they have not been in a war since 1815. Often in games, people can choose to be a "Switzerland". They essentially sit there, disconnected with everything else except selling. They don't get in any trouble and do absolutely nothing except get rich, famous and be a good-two-shoes (peace forces, etc.) Although there are other countries like this, Switzerland is the oldest and most prominent. Often, in games, an accusation is "Don't be a Switzerland!".
Switzerland in fiction
- In Diplomacy, Switzerland is an impassable territory- one of the few in the game, including Ireland. Units may not enter it at all.
- Astérix in Switzerland. Asterix and Obelix go to Helvetia to find and bring an edelweiss in order to save a Quaestor who was poisoned. Along the way, we see several things associated with Switzerland, like the cuckoo clock, Swiss cheese and Lake Geneva.
- The title character of Frankenstein is "by birth, a Genevese."
- Heidi, one of the internationally best known books from Switzerland.
- The Swiss Family Robinson: Doesn't take place in Switzerland, but it is kind of you know, about a Swiss family.
- The Fear Index is based in the city of Geneva. For a couple of reasons, it's a tax haven for the super rich (at least compared to the UK), it's the location of CERN and as such has extremely fast internet connections with the rest of the world.
The Swiss Flag
- In most Video Games where a map of Europe is present, Switzerland is usually deemed neutral territory and cannot be entered. One notable exception being recent Command & Conquer games, both Tiberium Wars and Red Alert 3 have missions in Switzerland
- Europa Universalis is another exception that almost goes without saying; you can indeed play as Switzerland. Of course, the game's timeline antedates the country's famous neutrality. A bug in the 3.0 release would sometimes give huge tracts of New World colonies to Switzerland, much to the amusement of After Action Report writers.
The white cross has been in use since the days of the Old Swiss Confederacy of the 14th century, though its exact origins are relatively unknown. The red field was first used in 1800 and was based on the banner of the Canton of Schwyz, one of the three founding cantons of Switzerland (along with Uri and Unterwalden) and de facto leader, thus giving the nation its name.