They have more than 30 words for “apple core”, and other things you didn’t know about Switzerland


(Eberhard Grossgasteiger, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Micol Lucchi, Specialist, Swiss Public Affairs, World Economic Forum Geneva

If it’s 1 August, it must be … Swiss National Day. As the Swiss celebrate the occasion as they have since 1891, here are some surprising facts about the country, and it’s not all about mountains, clocks and chocolate.

1) Swiss know-how contributed to the first moon landing, as a then Swiss company, Kern & Co, provided lenses to NASA. The Apollo 11 mission included two colour cameras equipped with the lenses which immortalized the giant steps of the astronauts.

They are not the only Swiss product that has made it into space: Victorinoxpocket knives were standard issue on all NASA space shuttle missions.

2) Switzerland has long been associated with time-keeping, from cuckoo clocks to intricate watches. In the digital age, a pair of Swiss men created Doodle, a simplified online calendar that lets people share their availability – now used by over 20 million people each month. Much further back, Rolex invented the first waterproof watch, in 1927

Switzerland scores highly across the board in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index, coming fourth overall

Switzerland scores highly across the board in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index, coming fourth overall.
Image: World Economic Forum

3) The first patent for aluminium foil was taken out by Swiss businessman Heinrich Alfred Gautschi in 1905 and the first aluminium foil plant opened in Switzerland in 1910. It didn’t take too long before it was put to good use wrapping up chocolate bars. Today, the Swiss eat more than 10kg of chocolate a year each on average.

4) Switzerland borders Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Italy and France, and, because of such a diverse population, it has four national languages: German (spoken by 63% of the population), French (23%), Italian (8%) and Romansh (<1%). There’s a huge diversity of dialects too: Swiss German has more than 30 words for apple core.

5) The Gotthard Base Tunnel, which opened in 2016, runs underneath the Alps and at 57km is the world’s longest rail tunnel. Switzerland’s rail system extends to more than 5,000km and Swiss people travel an average of 2,000km per person every year.

6) The world’s largest nuclear shelter, the Sonnenberg tunnel, is in Switzerland. It can house up to 20,000 people. Most homes also have nuclear bunkers and there is space for the entire Swiss population to shelter from a nuclear attack.

7) Switzerland has more than 1,500 lakes, and you are never more than 16km away from one. More than 60% of the country’s electricity is produced by Switzerland’s 556 hydroelectric power plants.

8) Solar Impulse is a privately-financed long-range experimental solar-powered aircraft project aimed at bringing attention to clean technologies. The aircraft Solar Impulse 2 is the first in the world to fly 40,000 km without using a drop of fuel.

9) Switzerland has some tight laws on animal welfare. In 2008 the government ruled that social animals such as guinea pigs must be kept in pairs. More recently, it was decreed that if cats are kept alone, they must have daily contact with either a human being or visual contact with another cat.

Switzerland is a world leader in the transition to clean energy

Switzerland is a world leader in the transition to clean energy
Image: World Economic Forum

10) The foundation of the Swiss Confederation 1291 created a democracy at a time when most of Europe was ruled by absolute monarchies. Today, referendums are part of that heritage and citizens may challenge laws if they can gather 50,000 signatures within 100 days. But women were not granted the right to vote at the federal level until 1971.

11 Switzerland has some of the most liberal gun laws of any country with over 2 million privately-owned guns in a population of over 8 million. Also, military service is compulsory for all healthy men aged between 18 and 34, and men can volunteer up to the age of 65. Servicemen are required to keep their assault rifles or pistols at home. But Switzerland has a far lower rate of gun-related deathsthan most comparable countries.

12) Switzerland’s neutrality allowed Jean Henri Dunant to create the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva in 1863. Its emblem was a red cross on a white background: the inverse of the Swiss flag. Dunant won the very first Nobel Peace Prize, in 1901.

13) Along with Vatican City, Switzerland is the only other country in the world to have a square flag, a red square with a white cross.

14) Name a famous Swiss woman? Actress Ursula Andress was born in the canton of Bern in 1936. She is best known for her breakthrough role as Honey Ryder in the first James Bond film, “Dr. No”.

15) And a famous Swiss man? Roger Federer has won 20 tennis Grand Slam singles titles – the most in history for a male player – and has held the world No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings for a record 310 weeks, including a record 237 consecutive weeks.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Brexit: The Conservative Party drives the UK and Europe to a perilous road

3 ways we are making an impact on plastic pollution

GSMA Mobile 360 Series –Digital Societies, in association with The European Sting

7 innovative projects making cities more sustainable

The future of energy in Puerto Rico is renewable

Nature is our strongest ally in ensuring global water security

5 facts you should know about the world’s refugees

5 ways to net a sustainable future for aquaculture

Clamp down on illegal trade in pets, urge Public Health Committee MEPs

The West – the EU and the US – is writing off Turkey’s Erdogan

Why the ECB prepares to flood the markets with more and free of charge euro; everybody needs that now

Efforts to save the planet must start with the Antarctic

Zuckerberg, a paella, and the mighty EU questionnaires that would stop Whatsapp acquisition by Facebook?

We have the tools to beat climate change. Now we need to legislate

10 Downing street: Another desperate attempt to unite Britain on Brexit

COVID-19: MEPs debate how to best protect cross-border and seasonal workers

African economies sustain progress in domestic resource mobilisation

Cleantech innovation is being stifled. Here’s how to unlock it

The West unites against Mali desert rebels

It’s time we harnessed Big Data for good

These are the top 10 emerging technologies of 2019

Coal addiction ‘must be overcome’ to ease climate change, UN chief says in Bangkok

The migration crisis is slowly melting the entire EU edifice

Africa’s inspiring innovators show what the future could hold

5 factors driving the Chinese lawtech boom

EU on track to end use of chemicals harming the ozone layer

DiscoverEU: 20,000 more young people will explore Europe in 2020

Hunger in Yemen: WFP considers aid suspension in face of repeated interference by some Houthi leaders

4 simple ways to make your holiday season more sustainable

“One Belt One Road”: Its relevance to the European Companies

Abu Dhabi is investing $250 million in tech start-ups

Coronavirus: Commission unveils EU vaccines strategy

4 ways sporting events are becoming more sustainable

How the ‘California effect’ could shape a global approach to ethical AI

Statement by Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager on State aid measures to address the economic impact of COVID-19

Landmine casualties high for third consecutive year despite record funding, latest monitor reports

One in three fish caught never gets eaten

A young person’s perspective on the Paris and Beirut attacks and aftermath

Building a stronger Europe: new initiatives to further boost role of youth, education and culture policies

COVID-19: What you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic on 9 April

COP24: green, gender focus, as UN’s crucial climate change conference gets underway

‘The best-selling brand today is fear’: UN chief highlights urgent need to address global ‘deficit of trust’

Historical success for the First ever European Presidential Debate

Here are 3 ways venture capital can fund a better future

UN envoy says he ‘is ready to go to Idlib’ to help ensure civilian safety amid rising fears of government offensive

Here’s what I learned at Davos 2020

These countries are making ‘travel bubbles’ for post-lockdown tourism

It’s not your imagination, summers are getting hotter

These countries have the most nuclear reactors

A clean energy future with hydrogen could be closer than we think

Further reforms can foster more inclusive labour markets in The Netherlands

UN rights office calls on Zimbabwe Government to end ‘crackdown’ in response to fuel protests

The ASEAN Community sees the light: the genesis of a new powerful economic and political bloc and EU’s big opportunity

Quality coffee can boost local economies and benefit farmers – here’s how

Water pollution is killing millions of Indians. Here’s how technology and reliable data can change that

Monsoon rains turn millions of children’s lives ‘upside down’ across South Asia

Western Sahara: a ‘peaceful solution’ to conflict is possible, says UN envoy

European Commission launches infringement proceedings against the UK following its failure to name a candidate for EU Commissioner

MEPs agree on new rules to tax digital companies’ revenues

This is how COVID-19 is affecting informal workers

More Stings?


Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s