About Switzerland

Nestled in the Alps, the landlocked country of Switzerland has a long and rich history and is one of the oldest countries in Europe. While it is famous for its neutrality and the banking sector, they are only part of what makes this country unique. Despite its small size, Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world with a GDP PPP of $67,557, higher than most countries in Europe and the US. 

So how did Switzerland manage to prosper and become one of Europe’s most developed countries. Read on and we will cover what makes it special and why it is one of Mundo’s favorites.

Some numbers at a glance.

Population: 8.5 million

Language: German, French, and Italian widely spoken

GDP PPP: $67,557 

Currency: Swiss Franc

Gini Index: 29.7 (low)

HDI: .955 (very high)


History and General Overview

Founded in 1291, Switzerland has a long and storied history and it is one of the oldest countries in Europe. Part of its development had to do with the relative isolation as the country is surrounded by rugged terrain. As a result, the small cantons that would become known as the Swiss Confederation had to depend on each other and defend themselves from the larger European empires of the time. Aside from being invaded (and occupied) by the French under Napoleon from 1798 until 1815, the Swiss have largely maintained their independence. 

Since then, Switzerland has proclaimed its neutrality and they have not been actively involved in any war, including the two world wars of the 20th century. 

Here are some interesting facts about Switzerland you may not have known.

  • Neutrality: Aside from not being involved in any wars for over 200 years, Switzerland is not a member of many international organizations like the EU, European Economic Union, or NATO. In fact, the Swiss did not join the United Nations until 2002.
  • It is home to many organizations like the World Health Organization, International Labor Organization, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In addition, many international forums like the World Economic Forum are hosted here.
  • Military service is compulsory even though it is a neutral country. At the same time, it has one of the highest levels of gun ownership and a very low crime rate.

  • The Swiss love their chocolate and some of the world’s finest is produced here.

Economy

Switzerland has a unique history and despite some challenges, the country managed to prosper. Not only that, they managed to carve out a few niches for themselves and today the Swiss are regarded as a world leader in the production of watches, fine chocolate, and financial services. 
This success can be attributed to several factors, among them are the free-market policies that were adopted in the late 19th and 20th centuries and the fact Switzerland was not devastated by the world wars of the 20th century. In addition, they have a diversified economy and below are some industries where Switzerland is regarded as a world leader.

    • Watches: This area does not need an introduction as Switzerland is the world’s watchmaker, especially in terms of high-end watches. Among the most notable firms in this industry are: Rolex, Patek Philippe, Swatch, and Richemont
    • Food and Health: Switzerland is also home to Nestle, one of the largest food processing companies in the world. In addition, the pharmaceutical firms Novartis and Roche.
    • Manufacturing: The country is also a world leader in machinery and robotics and some notable Swiss companies are ABB, Bobst SA, and Stadler Rail.
    • Tourism: With high mountains and plenty of natural beauty, Switzerland is a popular tourist destination. 

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    Swiss Banks

    Like watches, Switzerland is famous for its banking sector. However, this actually dates back to the 1700’s as many European monarchs often deposited their funds here. Likewise, the tradition of bank secrecy long predates the law of 1934 that made it a crime to reveal any information about a client’s bank account. It should be noted this is no different than the privacy afforded to a doctor and patient or lawyer and client. 

    Bank secrecy is often misunderstood, and this has led to a negative perception of Swiss banks. Many people believe they are only used by criminals or those with something to hide. While some of that criticism is justified, such as Swiss banks being used by the Nazis to store stolen and looted treasure, it is often overstated. In fact, Swiss banks do extensive Know Your Customer (KYC) backgrounds on prospective clients to ensure they are not sanctioned or involved in criminal activity.


    Geography and Climate

    Switzerland is a landlocked country that shares borders with Austria, France, Germany, Italy, and Liechtenstein. It also has a diverse geography that consists of mountains, plateaus, along with many lakes and forests. The climate can be described as temperate with warm summers and cold winters. The cooler temperatures are more common in the mountains and higher elevations, and they can often be below freezing in the winter. At lower elevations the average temperature typically ranges from a high of 20 to 27C to a low of -1 to -6C


    Doing Business in Switzerland

    As an advanced economy Switzerland gets decent ranks when it comes to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index. This is especially true for starting a business, registering property, getting electricity, paying taxes, and trading across borders. At the same time, there are some areas that are less than stellar like getting credit and protecting minority investors and here Switzerland lags behind some middle-income countries. 

    That is not to say Switzerland is a bad place to do business and overall, it is better than average. Likewise, levels of corruption are very low and unlike many developing countries you are unlikely to have to pay bribes or be subject to extortion by corrupt government officials.


    Lifestyle

    Suffice to say, the standard of living is very high in Switzerland, and it consistently ranks among the best places to live in the world. It gets good marks in terms of safety and security, infrastructure, and natural beauty and here are some facts about the lifestyle in this beautiful country.

    • It has one of the healthiest populations in the world. This not only has to do with the excellent health care but the Swiss have a culture of eating healthy and exercising regularly. 
    • Innovation: The Swiss are very entrepreneurial and innovative and according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor they are among the top ten in the world in this category. Good news for anyone that wants to break free from the typical 9-5 Monday through Friday routine.
    • Excellent public transportation: Switzerland has one of the most extensive rail networks in Europe. As such, owning a car is not a necessity in many urban areas

    • Punctual: Being known as the world’s largest watchmaker this should not come as a surprise but it is also cultural. The Swiss are punctual and on-time.
    With a long and storied history, Switzerland is a story of perseverance and success. While it was invaded (and occupied) by the French under Napoleon, they have managed to maintain their independence and neutrality. Likewise, Switzerland avoided the devastation of two world wars and managed to prosper in the post-war era. At the same time, they are a country of innovators and home to recognizable names like Nestle, Rolex, and the pharmaceuticals Novartis and Roche. In addition, the history of neutrality has made Switzerland home to many of the world’s international organizations.
    When it comes to the quality of life and standard of living, there are few countries that are better than Switzerland. It has one of the highest GDP PPP in the world and it is a land of natural beauty that is covered with forests, lakes, and mountains. Likewise, protecting it has always been a priority for the Swiss and they are a leader when it comes to renewable energy and environmental protection. In addition, they are a country of innovators especially in terms of pharmaceuticals and financial services, read on and we will go into more detail about what Switzerland has to offer.




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