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10 things that only exist in Switzerland

Published: 16 February 2020

The fact that Switzerland likes to go its own way and is very successful in doing so is not only evident in European policy. But there are a few things that are quite unique in Switzerland and which amaze emigrants and tourists alike. Ten selected examples that make Switzerland unique are shown in the video.

In the following you will find the content of the video also in text form. Of course, the video is more entertaining and richer in images Do you know of any other unique or unusual things in Switzerland? Write it to me on YouTube in the comments. If you liked the video, I would be happy about a Like and a subscription.

Crazy ways to bring cows to the alp

The impassable terrain and the remoteness of some mountain pastures require sometimes very unusual ways of bringing the cows to the mountain pasture or, as in the video, to organise the return transport with Air Zermatt in case of emergency. But the transport by cableway or by boat is almost nothing unusual. Even if it looks very funny.

No country in the world has so many official languages

Switzerland has four official languages. However, it is often mistakenly assumed that all Swiss people understand these languages. However, most of them have only one mother tongue and speak at most one other national language. Only the federal state as an institution is truly quadrilingual. One encounters the multilingualism of Switzerland again and again in everyday life. Whether it is the multilingual train announcements or shopping with packaging in three languages. Many things are written in German, French and Italian. Rhaeto-Romanic is only spoken in parts of the canton of Graubünden and is therefore less common in everyday life, unless you live in Graubünden. German or Swiss German is the most common language in Switzerland and is spoken in about 2/3 of the country. French is spoken in French-speaking Switzerland, Italian in Ticino and parts of Graubünden.

Drinking water quality in all wells

Drinking water from the tap is nothing special, but Switzerland goes one better. Water from wells can be drunk without hesitation. Unless it is explicitly stated that there is no drinking water in a well. Also in general, the water quality in lakes and rivers is very good and not only in the mountains.

The Bise

In Switzerland, the Bise is a unique wind system that you won't find anywhere else in the world. For its formation, there must be a low pressure area in northern Europe and a high pressure area in the Mediterranean. As a result, the Bise wind develops, which brings cold air from north-eastern Europe and blows from Lake Constance through the Central Plateau via Geneva to Lyon in France. Due to the Jura mountains in the northwest of Switzerland, the wind tunnel becomes increasingly narrow and the wind speed higher and higher. This speed effect and its consequences are particularly noticeable on Lake Geneva. In winter, very unusual ice sculptures are created here by the bise and water. You probably know the effect when two opposite windows are open in your apartment and there is a draught, this is the best way to imagine the bise. The cool and above all strong wind causes a particularly clear wind chill effect. The felt temperature is then significantly lower than the actual temperature.

Square flag

Switzerland has always been proud of its independence and likes to go its own way. No wonder then that the flag does not follow the typical rectangular pattern of most other countries either. Together with the Vatican State, Switzerland has the only square flags. Although the square shape is very practical for the popular sport of flag-waving, this is not the real reason. The shape comes from Swiss military history: originally, the white cross was a distinguishing mark of the soldiers. Later the red ground was added. The square shape was common for such military symbols. With the constitution of 1848, the white cross on a red background was established as the official flag of Switzerland. It has retained its square shape to this day. With one exception: the flag at sea for Swiss ships, which is rectangular.

Direct democracy

Of all democracies, Switzerland has the most far-reaching direct-democratic elements and is familiar with direct-democratic instruments at all political levels. Each year there are usually four voting Sundays on which several proposals from all political levels are usually put to the vote. The votes range from decisions on building projects at municipal level to decisions on increasing the minimum holiday entitlement. The fact that the decisions are made more responsibly than some politicians can be seen in the fact that the aforementioned vote on one week more minimum leave was rejected by the people. Or do you know parliaments that voted against a diet increase or more holiday for themselves?

Several thousand francs for a car number plate

For low and special car numbers, one has to pay a lot of money in Switzerland. Almost all cantons sell popular or low numbers or auction them off to the highest bidder. The German-speaking cantons of Switzerland thus raise more than ten million francs a year. A lucrative business for the cantons. The record for car license plates is held by the car number ZG 10 (Canton Zug) with a price of 233,000 Swiss francs. The record price for motorcycle license plates is considerably lower. But with 22'000 Swiss francs for GR 1 (canton Graubünden) it is still an expensive undertaking. For this reason, special and low number plates are often inherited or passed on within the family when they move away.

In Switzerland, speeders can lose their car

The high density of speed cameras and the high number of buses in Switzerland has now spread abroad. Notorious speeding or, in cases of extreme speeding, the driver is now threatened with confiscation of his or her car as well as revocation of his or her driving licence and imprisonment. This can even lead to the car being disposed of or destroyed. Very painful for most car lovers. Switzerland has already proven several times that the speeding law is not a joke and is also being implemented.

Especially large and nicely designed roundabouts

Switzerland is a country of roundabouts, affectionately called roundabouts. Not only the frequency is impressive, but also partly the size and its design. On motorways you can even find roundabouts with a diameter of up to 450 m. A particularly large roundabout is the Betzholz roundabout near Hinwil, which connects the A52 motorway with the A53. This roundabout has a circumference of about 1.5 km. A TCS traffic practice area has been set up in the middle of the roundabout. Only a few roundabouts in Switzerland are simple green grass islands or round hills made of granulate. Often the open spaces are beautifully decorated with plants, art or with a reference to local trade. If you pay attention to the design of the next roundabout in Switzerland, you can discover true works of art.

Unique vending machines (cheese machine, tartar machine, fondue machine...)

In Switzerland, there are all kinds of curious vending machines that will satisfy the most unusual wishes, even outside opening hours. Milk and egg vending machines are nothing special here any more. Apart from the well-known vending machines, there are also a few bizarre ones, which are not too often found, but those who know them are prepared around the clock. 

Would you like a fresh and delicious tartar? That's what the tartar machine is for. In addition to beef tartar, the vending machine also offers a choice of toast and sauce. The vending machines for tartar are more likely to be found in French-speaking Switzerland. One of them is in Pully in the canton of Vaud, for example.

For anglers who want to go fishing at short notice, there is the perfect automat. The bait machine offers not only hooks but also live meat and bee maggots. What doesn't sound particularly appetizing to laymen, is simply a must for anglers and saves the spontaneous Sunday fishing trip. Such a vending machine can be found for example at the Emmer Fischerei-Fachcenter (Sprengimatt 8, 6020 Emmen).

For cyclists there is a vending machine that will save your tour despite flat tire and closed shops. At the vending machine there are bicycle tubes in all possible sizes. Probably every two-wheeler friend is glad about this offer, so that the trip does not fall into the water. A vending machine for inner tubes can be found for example at Stadi Velos + Motos Robert Stadelmann (Baldeggstrasse 18A, 6280 Hochdorf).

If you run out of light instead of air, the automatic circuit breaker and light bulb switch can help you. Imagine it's Saturday evening, the fuse blows and there is no replacement at hand. You could of course put up candles now and wait until Monday to buy a new fuse or you know the nearest automatic circuit breaker. A fuse and light bulb automat is for example at the EWL Lucerne (Industriestrasse 6, 6002 Luzern).

Even ordinary vending machines conceal articles that are strange to non-Swiss people. These include canabis iced tea and champagne, for example.

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