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Ep 15-18: Switzerland - Where Nature, Democracy and Tradition Reign Supreme

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

Surrounded by mountains on four sides, Switzerland is renowned for its picturesque landscapes, serene lakes and charming villages.

With a population of 8.6 million distributed across 26 cantons or provinces, Switzerland is a nation where unity is interwoven with linguistic diversity. 70 percent of the country is

Roman Fischer was born in Seon, small town in northern Switzerland

covered by the Alps and Jura Mountain range, although only 11 percent of the population lives there. The country boasts four official languages—German, French, Italian, and Romansh—reflecting its regional and cultural diversity. There’s another hundred (approximately) Swiss German dialects which further exemplifies the diversity of the country.

Equally fascinating is Switzerland's governance. The country is renowned for its principles of neutrality, federalism, and direct democracy in which every Swiss citizen votes directly on policy initiatives.

“In villages, you have a gymnastic hall or a town square, and you vote on issues by raising your hand,” explains Roman Fischer, who grew up in a small town with only 5,000 people in northern Switzerland. His father was a forestry engineer and civil servant for the city of Seon and his mother was a German teacher for immigrant children.

Way of Life

Life in Switzerland is peaceful, quiet and comfortable. Living in Switzerland offers a number of advantages including low unemployment and inflation rates, a robust social safety net and an exceptional healthcare system.

In rural areas, a strong sense of community fosters connections among neighbors, creating a supportive environment where close-knit relationship flourish. A hallmark of the Swiss lifestyle is the remarkable work-life balance that residents enjoy. The nation's commitment to outdoor activities is deeply ingrained in daily life from school to family activities. School children bike to lakes in Switzerland instead of the traditional indoor physical education classes. In winter, they switch it up to tobogganing in the snow.

Roman recalls spending a lot of time in the forest as a child, building huts and climbing trees. His parents took him out hiking and skiing on a regular basis. The latter is often touted as the first sport one learns after learning how to walk. The Swiss government's high subsidization of skiing camps makes skiing accessible to many youths.

The other, less fun part about being a Swiss is the nation’s emphasis on punctuality.

“Day to day, everything’s on time. If the train’s late by three minutes, they’ll make an announcement to apologize,” says Roman. And if you're late to work or school by just a minute, you'll be punished. The stress on punctuality inevitably makes many Swiss stressed out.

The origin of this cultural trait perhaps comes from the nation’s unique apprenticeship program in which individuals as young as 16 years old are put to work. From nurses to accountants, the apprenticeship program teaches young people practical skills after high school through a blend of classroom education with practical experience in a diverse array of fields.

Each year, about 65% of high school grads in the country undergo the apprenticeship program and officially enter the workforce by age 19, often bypassing the burdensome debts that accompany traditional higher education. The young age in which Swiss people enter the workforce perhaps explains its highly responsible and orderly culture.

Culture & Customs

Switzerland was formed in 1291 and has its own customs and etiquettes that reflect its heritage. For example, when visiting someone’s home, it’s customary to remove your shoes as a symbol of respect for the space and its occupants. Another custom is the 'apéro,' a cherished pre-dinner tradition in which guests gather for a convivial drink, setting a relaxed tone for the evening ahead.

Switzerland's cultural heritage also embraces age-old traditions such as "schwingen," a highly popular form of Swiss mountain wrestling identified by a special type of wrestling shorts worn by the contestants. The Swiss National Championship, held every four years in different regions, draws immense crowds of up to 50,000 enthusiastic spectators.

"Schwingen" or Swiss mountain wrestling (Photo credit: Switzerland Tourism)

“It’s impossible to get tickets,” says Roman. “It’s absolutely mad.”

Another visual spectacle is the "Alpabzug" or cow parade, held during the Alpine Descent in September. This charming end-of-the-summer tradition marks the return of cows dressed in embroidered traditional clothing from their summer months spent grazing and making dairy products up in the mountains. "The celebration accompanying the descent is to thank the men for their hard work," Roman explains.

Swiss culture also places an importance on being forward thinking. The nation has a strong focus on research and development and innovation, and is an early adopter of new technology.

The country's renowned engineering prowess is deeply rooted in its history emerging from a scarcity of natural resources. The lack of resources forced the country to create industries that convert imported raw material into high-quality finished products for export, Roman explains. Today, Swiss-made products are synonymous with quality and precision, a legacy of this resourcefulness.

Travel Recommendations

For an unforgettable vacation in Switzerland, Roman recommends an itinerary that captures both the iconic landmarks and hidden gems:


· Zermatt – visit the majestic Matterhorn, a mountain of the Alps straddling the border between Switzerland and Italy. Gaze upon its magnificence from various vantage points and savor the alpine atmosphere.

· Lauterbrunnen – home to over 70 enchanting waterfalls that cascade from steep cliffs, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.

· Wengen and Jungfraujoch – Explore the glaciers. It’s truly a journey into a frozen wonderland.

· Lavaux vineyards – a UNESCO World Heritage site to indulge in both scenic beauty and the rich history of wine cultivation.


· Gisliflue, Aargau – a quiet spot to watch sunrise in all its splendor.

· Seealpsee in Appenzell Innerrhoden – in this lesser-known corner of Switzerland, nature's beauty and tranquility reign supreme. Reach this secluded mountain lake through a picturesque hike, surrounded by quaint farms and grazing cows. Take a refreshing dip in the lake's crystalline waters.


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