20 New Surprising Facts about Switzerland

Traditional Swiss House

I spent my entire childhood and teenage years in Switzerland, and I thought that I knew this place pretty well. After having lived abroad for a decade, I catch myself stunned almost on a daily basis as I find out new surprising facts about Switzerland.

Thanks to our awesome community and my own observations, I have collected an immense number of interesting and surprising facts about Switzerland. Today, I am going to hit you with some facts from the worlds of real estate, food and everyday life:

Only one-quarter of Swiss own their own homes.

Swiss Home Door with Newspaper Slot

This makes sense because a single family home will easily cost $1 Mio., with lenders requiring a 20% down payment.


Most homes and almost all apartment buildings have bunkers, a result of the Cold War concerns of nuclear war.


Along the same lines, every citizen is required by law to own a bomb shelter or have access to one. For instance, our apartment building has one in the basement next to the bicycle storage room.


Windows are not screened. But then again, mosquitos are few.


There are virtually no door knobs. Instead, most doors have handles which are easier to "handle" when you are hauling stuff - no pun intended!


"Unfurnished" apartments are what the term implies. We found out the hard way as we had to live in the dark before finally installing light fixtures!

Light Fixtures in Swiss Apartment

Outgoing mail cannot be left in the mailbox - it has to be dropped off at the postal office or in a yellow postal box.


At grocery stores, fruits and vegetables have to be weighed and labeled prior to checking out.


Virtually every household is charged a monthly tax for receiving of radio and television broadcasts. Even if you do not own a TV set or radio, it is assumed that you have access to one somehow, somewhere!


ATM's will not dispense cash unless you take your card out of the machine first.


Tips are not expected. I usually only leave tips because I cannot stand change in my pocket...

Kornhaus Cafe in Bern

Milk can be bought in bags, Tetra packs, and plastic bottles. You can also fill up your own container when you buy it fresh from the farm.

Milk Cans in Switzerland

A tall moccha at Starbucks costs $6, while a draft beer is half the price.

Starbucks - Newly Swissed

Groceries are priced fair, but restaurants make out like bandits!

Typical Restaurant in Switzerland


There are no free refills, which explains why Europeans do not like to have their sodas dilluted with ice!


The best quality cheese is labeled for export. Nonetheless, the remaining cheese is very delicious...

Swiss Goat Cheese For Sale

Switzerland has no national flower, animal or tagline. However, most cities or towns have taglines, and Zürich used to claim to be "Downtown Switzerland"!

Zurich Street Poster Downtown Switzerland

The typeface Helvetica was created in Switzerland, which might be surprising unless you knew that "Confoederatio Helvetica" is the original Latin name for this country.

Swissness - Confoederatio Helvetica

Swiss army knives are red so they can be seen in the snow.

Victorinox Swiss Army Knife


Got you stunned? Now, download our e-book with 77 interesting facts about Switzerland:

77 Facts about Switzerland - e-book from Newly Swissed

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As the founder, editor and community manager of Newly Swissed, Dimitri owns the strategic vision. He is passionate about storytelling and is a member of the Swiss Travelwriters Club.

Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.
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  • Besides the bomb shelters, I find the bicycle storage areas equally noteworthy. Prior to moving here, I had never lived in an apt. building where there was a special covered place/room for my bike. Since I never wanted to keep that greasy thing in my house and dirty the carpet, I left it outside. to rust. not so here! Am very grateful for bike storage area!

  • Olivia

    About point Nr. 9: I had to get used to this fact after returning from Australia a few years ago. The cashier was quite annoyed when none of my fruit and vegetable bags was labelled with the price. So I had to explain that I was still used to the Australian (and American etc.) way of shopping. 🙂

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  • Guest

    Just so you know, the Latin name for the country is actually ‘Confederatio Helvetia’ (without the ‘c’ in Helvetica). I hated Latin, but that’s one thing I actually cared about. 😉

    • newlyswissed

      Note taken, thanks! I actually liked Latin and took an entire six years of it… However, this typo still slipped through! ^Dimitri

    • Wesley van Drongelen

      No it is not. It is well and truly Confoederatio (with oe, sometimes written as a ligature) Helvetica – see http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/helveticus#Latin .

  • Dawnli

    You pay for each grocery bag and you must have change for the shopping cart, usually 1 Sfr. You get your change back when you return the cart. No grocery boys/girls to help take groceries to your car. I always had to pay a meter to park in the grocery store parking lot. Not very customer friendly.

  • Wesley van Drongelen

    Some points (ATM behaviour, free refills, weighing and labelling fruit and veg, and the outgoing mail thing) are more typically non-American than typically Swiss – as they are customary throughout most, if not all, of Europe. Nonetheless, an amusing list – we love lists like these!

  • Dee Keller

    I think the dislike of ice is more that they believe it’s bad for your stomach.