Switzerland: the true, the fun and the imaginary

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The Swiss National Day is celebrated on 1st August all over Switzerland (and indeed by the Swiss abroad) with parties, bonfires and fireworks, singing the Swiss national anthem, illuminating paper lanterns, flag throwing and lots of entertainment.

To mark the occasion, especially as I have the honour of representing Switzerland as their Honorary Consul in Wales, I have put together a little list of three true facts, three fun facts and three myths about Switzerland – some with a distinct Welsh flavour. Enjoy!

True Facts

  • Switzerland is a small country. Its total area is only 41,285 square kilometers (and a lot of this area consists of high mountains and lakes), and its permanent resident population is around 8.4 million.  It is bigger than Wales though – which covers a total area of 20,735 square kilometers and has a population of 3.1 million.
  • Switzerland’s most important economic sector is not chocolate or cheese, but manufacturing – especially specialist chemicals, health and pharmaceutical goods and scientific and precision measuring instruments (yes, that includes watches!). Incidentally, banking and insurance only make up 13% of the Swiss economy.
  • Switzerland offers an extremely high quality of life. It consistently receives high scores for income, healthcare, climate and geography, political stability, safety and security, individual freedom, and family and community life.

Fun Facts

  • Romansh is next to German, French and Italian one of Switzerland’s official languages, spoken by about 60,000 people. It descends from the Latin language spoken in the Roman Empire, and even has some words from pre-Roman Celtic and Raetic languages. Romansh speakers had a literary revival and started a language movement dedicated to halting the decline of the language – a bit like Welsh!
  • Did you know that the World Wide Web was invented in Switzerland? OK, so the inventor was not Swiss – it was English physicist Tim Berners-Lee who came up with this idea, but he did it in 1989 while he was at the Centre for European Nuclear Research (CERN).
  • While we are on the subject of CERN, here’s another Welsh-Swiss connection: the scientist behind the atom-smashing Large Hadron Collider was Aberdare-born Swansea University physics graduate, Dr Lyn Evans.

Myths

  • Switzerland is renowned for its Cuckoo Clocks, but they were not invented in Switzerland. The first Cuckoo Clocks were made in the Black Forest Area in Germany in the 18th century 
  • It is true that the Swiss eat and export a lot of chocolate. In my view, it is the best chocolate in the world. But Switzerland is not the biggest exporter of chocolate by a mile. In fact, that honour goes to Germany. Switzerland ranked as number 10 in 2019, behind the UK!
  • It is not true that you need to know how to yodel to become a Swiss citizen! But the Swiss Embassy in London did recommend yodeling as a way to break the monotony of lockdown…

So, feel free to yodel on the 1st of August – Happy Swiss National Day!