Switzerland may be a small country but it has plenty to say for itself. Nestled between Italy and France, Switzerland measures around 41, 277 square kilometres (25,648 squared miles). To put that into context, Switzerland is around ten times smaller than California. It has a relatively small population too, around 8.67 million people. Despite its size, there’s still plenty to surprise you. But did you know that Switzerland has four national languages, over 7000 lakes and has produced more Nobel Laureates than any other country? Or that it has a square flag? Piqued your interest in this pint-sized country? Here are some interesting facts about Switzerland you probably haven’t already heard.
Interesting Facts About Switzerland
1. Animals have serious rights in Switzerland
Switzerland is the only country in the world that protects animal dignity at a constitutional level. This means that animals are legally shielded from humiliation or other interferences with their appearance or abilities. So, that could mean making them drink alcohol, dyeing feathers or fur or extreme breeding like Sphinx cats. Dogs with docked tails and cropped ears are banned too. If you own a dog, you’ll also have to take a mandatory training course on how to be a good pet owner.
For social species like guinea pigs, rabbits and parakeets, Swiss law states that they must be kept in pairs. Cats must have daily contact with people or ‘views of another cat’ too. The Swiss even held a referendum in 2010 on whether animals should have lawyers. This was ultimately defeated.
2. It has one of the highest life expectancies in the world
People in Switzerland live longer. It boasts the second-highest life expectancy in the world after Japan, as well as the highest percentage of people over 100 in Europe. The average life expectancy in Switzerland is 83 years. Swiss women live even longer, with an average lifespan of 85 years.
Surely something to do with all that clean air and hiking, not to mention their world-leading health care system.
3. They own a lot of guns
This is one of the most surprising interesting facts about Switzerland, a notoriously neutral country. Switzerland has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in Europe, with 27.5 guns for every 100 people. However, it also has one of the lowest crime rates. Compared with the U.S, which has nearly 12 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people, Switzerland has around seven.
Most people own a gun in Switzerland due to mandatory military service. After military service, the Swiss are kept in reserve until age 30–34, if they were an officer — during which time they must keep their service weapon. As a result, many Swiss people own firearms and are highly trained in their use by default.
4. It’s home to the world’s longest stairway
It’s the scariest and steepest staircase too. The steps running alongside the Niesen mountain railway only measure around 3.4 kilometres (xx miles), but reach around 1,668 metres (xx foot) of altitude. In total, there are 11,674 steps to climb. It’s also only possible to climb them all in one go on one day of the year – the Niesen Run. It’s surprisingly popular, with a runner starting every twenty seconds.
If racing to the top of Switzerland’s pyramid isn’t appealing, you can take the longest continuous cable funicular in Europe instead. Built in 1910, it’s a scenic thirty-minute ride to the top of the mountain, with zero steps required.
5. It’s the most innovative country in the world
It’s not just our opinion either, Switzerland has ranked first for ten consecutive years in The Global Innovation Index.
This is largely due to a high concentration of some of the world’s biggest multinational bodies. There are also huge numbers of scientific researchers living in prestigious centres like CERN, the world’s leading particle physics laboratory.
Historically, Switzerland is a nation of inventors. They’ve invented revolutionary tools, like velcro, aluminium foil, the zip – and don’t even get us started on Nescafe. They pump out noble prizes too, having produced 28 Nobel Laureates.
6. Meat is more expensive than anywhere else in the world
Meat in Switzerland is at least 124 % more expensive than anywhere else in Europe and the most expensive place to consumer meat in the world. For two barbecue skewers weighing around 150 grams each, you can expect to pay around 12 Swiss Francs (€11). A kilogram of beef tenderloin will set you back around €54, compared with €2.67 in Colombia, the cheapest place to eat meat in the world.
True, everything is a lot more expensive in Switzerland, around 1.6 times as much as the EU average. This is due to hefty Swiss tariffs on food and drink imports that are designed to protect local farmers who tend to have smaller farms than their international competitors. Other factors play into this too, particularly stricter animal welfare regulations.
7. The Swiss love wine as much as chocolate
Switzerland produces around one million hectolitres of wine per year – and they only export around 2% of it. They are the fourth largest annual wine consumers in the world, knocking back around 36 litres of wine, 56.5 litres of beer and 8.4 litres of pure alcohol per person. Brits get a bad reputation for binge drinking, but in Switzerland, around 20% of people will drink four or five drinks in one sitting at least once a month. Around 3% of the population are reported to be alcoholics.
But they love chocolate too. The Swiss are the world’s biggest consumers of chocolate in the world, consuming around 10.3 kg per person in 2018. We find this particularly interesting given the long life expectancy (see point one). Could chocolate be the secret ingredient for a long life? The Swiss chocolate industry produces some 190,000 tonnes of chocolate per year, worth 1.7 billion. Switzerland produces around 40% of the world’s global chocolate production.
You can even take the ‘Chocolate Train’ in Switzerland, a vintage 1915 first-class train that travels from Montreux to the Cailler-Nestlé chocolate factory at Broc – with plenty of stops for sweet-toothed passengers along the way.