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 Central/Western European 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 anywherenote 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, the others being the United Kingdom (although they were part of it until 2020), Monaco (though they do use the Euro) and Liechtenstein, although they often adopt EU regulations in the interest of trade. As a result, they still have their own currency, too. The Swiss also didn't join the United Nations until 2002, though the UN did have an office in Geneva long before them. 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.
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 Geneva Conventions and the International Committee of the Red C-Thing, among other things.note They also arguably influenced federalism, their system of government being one of several that inspired the writing of the US Constitution - and funnily enough they influenced the Australian Constitution as well.
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") and Wenger ("The Genuine Swiss Army Knife"). The former now owns the latter, but the two brands remain. In addition to pocket-knives, Switzerland is famous for the production of finely-crafted mechanical watches by such brands as Breitling and Omega, and the country is also renowned the world over for making some of the finest milk-chocolate anywhere.
- 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. Although the common English name for the lake it sits on is "Lake Geneva", it's actually Lac Leman, no matter what Deep Purple might say.
- Montreux, at the other end of Lac Leman from Geneva, is home to the world famous Jazz Festival, still going strong today. Primarily French-speaking. Has a notable statue of Freddie Mercury on the waterfront.
- 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, though the ammunition is kept in military armories. 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 and a weapon acquisition permit is required.
Switzerland thus has a very high gun ownership rate, but you need a permit to buy weapons and ammo. In addition, concealed carry permits are issued sparingly and with several restrictions.
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.
As of late however, Switzerland has increasingly become known for anonymous and secure data protection, protecting clients' digital information in a similar if updated manner to the old "Numbered Swiss Account".
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
- Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier. An architect from Neuchâtel who moved to France and became French as fast as he could). One of the pioneers of what is now called modern architecture, he designed United Nations headquarters and many other beautiful buildings; also responsible for the Brutalist style, which developed into something rather different.
- Celtic Frost, one of the most influential 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.
- Leonhard Euler, mathematician, physicist, astronomer, logician and engineer.
- Roger Federer, 19-Grand Slam-winning Tennis player, former World No. 1.
- Bruno Ganz, a renowned German language film, theatre and television actor.
- H. R. Giger, surrealist painter and sculptor. Most notably, he is the creator of the Xenomorph design.
- Martina Hingis (though she was born in Slovakia), 5-time Grand Slam champion.
- Carl Jung, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst and founder of analytical psychology.
- Stéphane Lambiel, Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion figure skater.
- Vincent Perez, actor and director.
- Hermann Rorschach, inventor of the Inkblot Test.
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of the leading philosophers of The Enlightenment, was born in Geneva and moved to France.
- American children's author/illustrator Richard Scarry set up his studio in Gstaad in 1972; much of the architecture and clothing in his work (such as Huckle's lederhosen) has an Alpine feel to it.
- Paracelus, full name Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, a Renaissance-era physician, alchemist, and astronomer.
- Claudio Castagnoli, Swiss Professional Wrestler who became famous in the U.S. in CHIKARA and Ring of Honor and competes for WWE as Cesaro.
Switzerland in Diplomacy
Due to Switzerland's permanently neutral status, they have not been in a war since 1815 (when Napoléon Bonaparte invaded the country). Neutrality also keeps Switzerland out of many international organizations; it refuses to join the European Union in part out of respect for its neutrality policy, and refused to join the United Nations until 2002 despite hosting the European offices of many UN institutions.
Switzerland in fiction
- Switzerland is one of the nation-tans in Axis Powers Hetalia.
- Heidi, Girl of the Alps, 1974 anime series.
- In Diplomacy, Switzerland is an impassable territory- one of the few in the game, including Ireland. Units may not enter it at all.
- Asterix 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, William Telling and Lake Geneva.
- Third Man on the Mountain
- Es geschah am hellichten Tag, a Swiss-German crime thriller about a pedophile serial killer roaming the Alps. Scripted (and later turned into a novel) by Friedrich Dürrenmatt.
- In The Bourne Identity, the protagonist makes his way to Switzerland as a Swiss Bank Account is the first clue he has as to his identity.
- William Tell
- 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.
- 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.
- Out to Lunch!: The first world takes place here.
- The first flashback mission in The Bourne Conspiracy takes place at Zurich International Airport as Bourne attempts to assassinate a Turkish war criminal.
- The penultimate mission of Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain takes place in Zurich.
- On AlternateHistory.com, using stereotypes related to Switzerland's neutrality and supposed isolationism in Alternate History stories is commonly regarded as cliché. Notably, one of the most widespread Alternate History clichés is that Switzerland is uninteresting and nothing happens there or that it can't ever be invaded by anyone (á la Diplomacy), no matter the era or reasons.
- Speaking of AH.com, there are several timelines which try to avert the above clichés and feature the country in meaningful ways. A notable example is Protect and Survive: A Timeline, in which the Swiss are among the better off European countries after a nuclear war in late February 1984 decimates civilization. They even try to help the less fortunate European countries as much as they can, providing them with surplus supplies and valuable intel. In the post-war world, they become a power to be reconed with. Another TL that uses Switzerland in an interesting way is The Smallest Difference Possible.
- Totally Spies!: The main villain of Passion Patties is a Swiss cookie maker named Dr. Inga Bittersweet. However, the name Inga sounds more Swedish.
The Swiss Flag