11 Quite Shocking Facts about Switzerland

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but not everything about Switzerland is rainbows and unicorns.

Just like in any country, some shocking facts and societal taboos are lingering somewhere 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 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 within 30 km of Zürich.

Beznau Nuclear Power Plant in Switzerland(Source: Wikipedia)

 

In 2009, 300 people have chosen Switzerland to legally end their lives. Active euthanasia has been legal since the 1940's.

(Sources: Statistik Schweiz, Wikipedia)

 

Women in Switzerland had 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.

Women's Voting Rights Switzerland Posters(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, and 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)

READ
Some Silly (but Real) Questions about Switzerland

 

In the 19th and 20th centuries, half a million children were removed from their families by the authorities. 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.

(Sources: SIPRI Database/, Wikipedia)

 

 

Peace loving Switzerland is actually a major weapon's exporter. In 2014, the country ranked #2 when it comes to weapons exports per capita. Among other things, Swiss manufacturers are exporting assault rifles, sniper ammunition and tanks to countries like Saudia Arabia, Ukraine.

(Sources: SIPRI Database, IFOR Schweiz)

 

Switzerland has exported tobacco products worth 555 million francs in 2015. Cheese exports were just slightly higher at 614 million francs.

(Sources: Swiss Statistics 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.)

Mac Donalds Switzerland - Big Mac Index(Sources: Big Mac Index, Lohnbuch 2015)
 

The Sonnenberg tunnel in Luzern is also a nuclear fallout shelter. There is space for 2000 civilians, just in case...

(Source: Wikipedia)

 

What appears to be a quaint Swiss chalet might actually be a fully stocked artillery bunker.

(Sources: Messy Nessy Chic, and this incredible video footage)

 

 

Apparently, the Swiss like to eat horse meat. In fact, some butcheries actually specialize in this:

Horse Butcher "Pferdemetzg" in Uster(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.

Bern - Chindlifresser Statue
 

READ
Coolest Vehicles Spotted on the Streets of Zürich

Now, download our e-book with 77 interesting facts about Switzerland:

77 Facts about Switzerland - e-book from Newly Swissed

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Dimitri Burkhard

Founder, Editor-in-Chief at Newly Swissed GmbH
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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12 replies
  1. SchoggiKuh
    SchoggiKuh says:

    So a few things on this list may be genuinely shocking, but most of them are not. You are perpetuating ridiculous cultural norms (e.g. horse meat = bad, death with dignity = bad, nuclear power = bad) or just posting things that shouldn’t be shocking (e.g. Big macs are expensive, minimum wage in CH is high, CH has a strange statue). This article is mostly clickbait.

    Reply
    • Dimitri Burkhard
      Dimitri Burkhard says:

      It probably comes down to being a matter of perspective whether something is good or bad, shocking or normal. For those who grew up here, these facts are likely as normal as the name “Müller”. (We have all walked by the Chindlifrässer fountain in Bern without thinking much about it, right?) From an outside perspective and keeping in mind the clean image Switzerland maintains in the world, these tidbits of information come as a surprise – or even as a “shock”. No?

      Reply
  2. PhilLC
    PhilLC says:

    one of the silliest posts of yours. what’s the issue about horse meat?why ‘shocking’? is having a fallout shelter such a bad idea? each hose had to have one till recently…anyway, enough said.

    Reply
    • Dimitri Burkhard
      Dimitri Burkhard says:

      Just for clarification about the fallout shelters: Are you saying each “horse” or “house” had to have one until recently? ;-)

      Reply
      • PhilLC
        PhilLC says:

        just for you Dimitri…each house. And did you know that a lot of that horse meat gets imported from Canada? And what is different about horse or ‘cow’ meat?

  3. Eleanor Arrivas Merkl
    Eleanor Arrivas Merkl says:

    I concur with the other readers’ comments. It is one of the silliest and most ignorant posts from you. SMH

    Reply
    • Dimitri Burkhard
      Dimitri Burkhard says:

      It’s just that I love to be silly sometimes… But would you mind explaining the ignorant part? I am trying not to be ignorant about it.

      Reply
  4. bellevita
    bellevita says:

    what a cheap article! first if you are Schocked and do not like it here, you are most welcome to go back to Russia , is that where you come from or some ex-Russia part. as for you SCHOCKING FACTS…OMG get a life, horse meat is the best it is also very healthy for you research this , it is an animal why eat beef and not meat if u do not like it tuff luck it is your choice , i do not like porc it is a personal choice and nothing choking about it !, about the weapons, business is business , we can export weapons but not deal in with the internal affairs of a country or bombard it civilians that is a huge difference , as for the nuclear power, yes it is a bad fact but look at the latest votes on energy and then you can understand the shift …so ..umm next time u want to write something spares us time waste and do your research .

    Reply
  5. Jacqui Lithgaw
    Jacqui Lithgaw says:

    ….. I think it’s a good way to get rethinking the way the world views Switzerland…happy people eating chocolate. Uh, no. Dimitri, you barley touched the tip of the iceberg. Many people complain about the loss of the middle class…the have and the have not’s. Many Swiss jobs are given to Italians because they can take the low wages-the cost of living is much cheaper in Italy. Sky high prices on all of their food, poor wages, no minimum wage and the constant harassment by the police & unfair laws. I was certainly shocked to learn many things about “happy” Switzerland, causing me to wonder how they can even call themselves a democracy. How about it has the highest suicide rate in Europe? Oh it might look good on paper, but truth is the government does what it wants period. The part about being a neutral country is also very profitable for them, as you say, export weapons of war to both sides…all sides, regardless of who they are. The more I learn the more I think….something is rotten in Switzerland. If you are well to do, it might be a place you would visit, perhaps Zurich, but after learning information from reliable sources of people who actually live in other poorer places there…no thank you. But if you want some silly,.. did you know they can fail your car for inspection if they it has rust on it…too unsightly, or refuse to renew your drivers license…just because they can, and give no reason? (and this for a drivers license that costs on average $750 to obtain) The best thing I have heard so far is that it is a very “clean” country.

    Reply
  6. Taju Tsundru
    Taju Tsundru says:

    Why Swiss Helping or Supporting for another Country. Do they Scary another country ? Can ever Swiss Accept any Help or Support From another Country ? i don’t understand , why every Year office name Changing and location and worker. Can Swiss trustble Country ?

    Reply

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