Here are some disturbing and shocking facts about Switzerland: not everything about the country is rainbows and unicorns...
Like any country, some shocking Swiss facts and societal taboos are lingering in a dimly lit back alley. They are out of sight for those who do not care to inquire, but they are there nonetheless. I find it important that we shed light on Switzerland from every angle. So this article is not meant as a critique but as a way of fulfilling our duty as unbiased online journalists.
Here are some quite disturbing and shocking facts about Switzerland you should be aware of:
The world's oldest operating power plant, Beznau, is located within 10 km of the Rhine river and 30 km of Zürich.
In 2009, 300 people chose Switzerland to end their lives legally.
Active euthanasia, or assisted suicide, is legal in Switzerland, but only under certain conditions. According to a 2017 report, more than 5000 people have used assisted suicide services in Switzerland since the practice was decriminalized in 1942.
(Sources: Statistik Schweiz, Wikipedia)
Women in Switzerland have fought for equal rights for 100 years.
Despite the tradition of direct democracy, women were only granted the right to vote in national elections in 1971 (66% of men voted "yes" at the time). It took another 20 years until the last canton, Appenzell Innerrhoden, extended local voting rights to women.
(Source: Wikipedia, pictures copyright Keystone/Photopress)
Nearly 40 years ago, women were also prevented from running in races.
In 1973, Marijke Moser - who signed up as "Markus Aebischer" — was pulled off the traditional Morat-Fribourg course before she could cross the finish line. It took four more years before women were legally allowed to participate.
(More information in our article about the Swiss Women's Run in Bern)
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the authorities removed half a million children from their families.
These indentured child laborers were placed on farms where they had to work for free. The generations of Swiss Verdingkinder have provided an estimated 20 billion francs worth of free labor. An official government apology followed in 2013.
Peace-loving Switzerland is a major weapon exporter.
In 2019, the country exported 728 million francs worth of weapons. Among other things, Swiss manufacturers are exporting assault rifles, sniper ammunition, and tanks to countries like Denmark, Germany, and Saudia Arabia.
Switzerland exported tobacco products worth 555 million francs in 2015. Cheese exports were just slightly higher at 614 million francs.
(Sources: Swiss Statistics)
The price of a single Big Mac at McDonald's is 6.50 francs.
This puts Switzerland at the top of the global Big Mac Index. (The annual salary of a supermarket cashier is 48'000 francs.)
The Sonnenberg tunnel in Luzern is also a nuclear fallout shelter. There is space for 2000 civilians, just in case...
What appears to be a quaint Swiss chalet or barn might be a fully stocked artillery bunker.
Apparently, the Swiss like to eat horse meat.
Some butcheries specialize in this:
(Photograph copyright Google Maps)
And in Bern, there is a centuries-old statue of an ogre eating babies out of a sack. Not even tour guides are sure why it is there.
Switzerland has a high rate of gun ownership.
Switzerland has a long tradition of firearms ownership, dating back to the days when every able-bodied man was required to serve in the militia. Today, gun ownership is still relatively common, with an estimated 28 firearms per 100 residents, according to a 2018 survey.
This is partly due to Switzerland's militia system, which requires able-bodied men to undergo military training and keep their weapons at home. While this may seem alarming, it's important to note that Switzerland has a low rate of gun violence, thanks in part to strict regulations and mandatory gun safety training.