For members


Cuckoo clocks and Toblerone: The ‘Swiss’ products that are not actually Swiss

It used to be that Swiss chocolate, watches, cheeses, and other products were, well, 100 percent Swiss. But that is no longer the case. We unravel the mysteries of what is actually manufactured in Switzerland and what isn’t.

Cuckoo clocks
Remember to change the time on your cuckoo clock. Image by Regina Basaran from Pixabay

The chocolate and cheese saga…

What is this world coming to?

The Toblerone, which as every chocolate lover knows, is made in Switzerland, will soon no longer be. 

While it is still partially manufactured in its city of origin, Bern, some of the production activity is being moved to Bratislava, Slovakia, which means that from July 2023, Toblerone will have a more international flavour — figuratively speaking.

It also means that the iconic Matterhorn will no longer be depicted on the packaging, and will be replaced by a generic mountain image instead.

READ MORE: Why is Switzerland’s famous Matterhorn mountain disappearing from Toblerone bars?

But that’s not all.

The Gruyère which, as everyone in the world (except in America) knows, is the quintessential Swiss cheese has been stripped of its ‘Swissness’ by a US appeals court. The court ruled on Friday that the word “gruyere” is a common label for cheese and cannot be reserved just for the kind made in Switzerland.

READ MORE: US-made cheese can be called ‘gruyere’ too: court

Sorry, you are no longer Swiss. Photo by ELIOT BLONDET / AFP

The reason for all this is that we live in society, where national lines and identities are becoming blurred by globalisation.

READ MORE: When is something from Switzerland officially considered Swiss?

What are some of the other things widely believed to be Swiss that actually aren’t?

Let’s start with Heidi.

While the 19th-century novel was written by a Swiss author Johanna Spyri, and her fictional heroine Heidi lived in the Swiss Alps, the orphaned girl was born in Frankfurt.

So the quintessential “Swiss” girl was actually an immigrant, way before Switzerland had become home to approximately 2.1 million foreign nationals — most of them from Germany.

Cuckoo clocks

Switzerland is known for its watch industry, but cuckoo clocks were not actually invented here. 

Just as Heidi was German, so are the cuckoo clocks – they originally came from the Black Forest in Germany.

Now, however, many are manufactured in Asia; either way, very few are hatched in Switzerland on a massive scale.

But they were originally embraced by the Swiss and are loved here in Switzerland. 

Swiss Miss chocolate drink

Despite its name (possibly a nod to Heidi, who we already know wasn’t Swiss), there is nothing even remotely ‘Swiss’ about this chocolate drink made by US manufacturer Conagra Brands, and sold in America.

Despite the company’s claim that “farm-fresh milk” is used to manufacture the chocolate mix, no Swiss cow has ever been involved in this process.

chocolate drink

Chocolate drink.. but is it Swiss or not? Photo by Giancarlo Duarte on Unsplash

Swiss roll

Again, no.

This very sweet jelly-roll cake filled with whipped cream and jam is purely an American invention.

Why its’ called ‘Swiss’ is anyone’s guess. It is delicious though, so we’ll give them that! 

Now let’s look at products that are actually made in Switzerland.

The army knife

Though imitations abound, the iconic, multi-bladed army knives with a Swiss cross logo are as much part of Switzerland as cheese (except Gruyère) and chocolate (except Toblerone).

Initially made by a Swiss manufacturer, Wenger, they are now produced by another Swiss company, Victorinox.

Still Swiss. Photo: Pixabay

In fact, Victorinox has branched out into decidedly unmilitary products like Swiss Army perfumes, watches, and luggage.

And speaking of armed forces, a range of other ‘military’ products are being manufactured in Switzerland as well.

Among them are ‘Swiss military’ watches, produced by a Biel-based company, Hanowa.

For a neutral country, Switzerland sure manufactures a lot of military-based products.

However, be careful while buying: not everything that has a Swiss flag logo on it is actually made in Switzerland. A lot of these products are manufactured elsewhere.

Food and drink

While not exactly known for its cuisine the way the French and Italians are (though you shouldn’t necessarily say that to the Swiss), a lot of culinary inventions were, in fact, born in Switzerland.

These explainers detail some foods that are ‘typically’ Swiss:

Why the Ovomaltine drink is a true Swiss classic

How can we explain the Swiss obsession with the drink Rivella?

Why the Swiss love their iconic Alpine candy Ricola

Le Parfait: How Switzerland fell in love with a pork liver spread

Raclette – the Swiss winter dish you have to try 

Also, just because Gruyère and Toblerone have lost their exclusively Swiss label doesn’t mean that Switzerland doesn’t have other great offerings. 

Chocolate manufacturers like Lindt & Sprüngli, Cailler, Bloch, Läderach, and many others continue to be manufactured in Switzerland.

And hundreds of Alpine dairy farmers and thousands of Swiss cows work hard to produce a variety of cheeses that proudly display the ‘Made in Switzerland’ label.

We saved the best for last…

…Roger Federer!

The tennis legend, who was born in Basel, is Swiss!

The star, who is sometimes referred to as simply ‘Roger’ in Switzerland is a hero in his home country. And he still embraces the Swiss way of life. He lives in a lakeside mansion in Zurich (although he has homes in a few other places too). 

Member comments

  1. Lindt manufacturers many of its chocolate bars in other countries (for example, France and Germany) and they too are very, very good (and some are not even for sale in Switzerland and we have to go into France to buy some of these wonderfully delicious chocolate bars).

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For members


Five things that reveal Switzerland’s unique attitude to prostitution

Given Swiss organisational skills and knack for efficiency, it is not surprising that the world’s oldest profession is micro-managed as well.

Five things that reveal Switzerland's unique attitude to prostitution

Prostitution has been legal in Switzerland since 1942, though, like everything else in this country, it is heavily regulated.

However, the rules are intended to protect sex workers and allow them to work freely — that is, to rule out any attempts by third parties at foul play (read more about this below).

Today, there are more than 20,000 prostitutes of all genders registered in Switzerland.

Interestingly, the trend in this ‘profession’ mirrors the one observed in the country’s labour market in general: because of the high earning potential, Switzerland is a mecca for foreign sex workers, mostly from South America, Eastern Europe, and EU nations.

All of them are considered to be self-employed contractors and can choose venues where to ply their trade, such as brothels, clubs, or streets.

According to Aspasie, the Geneva-based advocacy group for prostitutes, “any person from abroad who wishes to legally practise sex work must obtain work permit L, B, or G” — in other words, just like any other foreigner.

These are five examples showing that Switzerland’s pragmatic attitude toward prostitution makes a lot of street sense.

No stigma attached to sex work

In Switzerland, sex work is considered to be a legitimate service job like any other, and there is absolutely no shame or disgrace attached to it.

In fact, when a small Zurich NGO launched a campaign in 2018 to ban prostitution, it sparked an outcry against this move from other Swiss organisations, which upheld the rights of sex workers.

As the Zurich daily newspaper, NZZ, stated at the time, if sex work were to be banned, “there is no existing evidence that prostitution wouldn’t just disappear underground and women would be forced into an illegal existence.”

Sex work is regulated – and prostitutes pay taxes

A tolerant attitude is pervasive in Switzerland.

That is why the pragmatic Swiss prefer to bring prostitution out into the open, so it can be regulated and controlled to prevent exploitation, human trafficking, sexually transmitted diseases, links with criminal networks, and other problems that are rife in nations where sex commerce is forbidden.

In fact, like all the other independent contractors in Switzerland, sex workers must pay taxes on their income, and contribute to their Social Security funds.

The only rule they have to follow, unlike their counterparts in other sectors, is that they must register with public health authorities and undergo regular health checks.

Prostitutes have their own union

Like members of many other professions, prostitutes in Geneva have had, since 2012, their own trade union.

It not only represents the interests of its 800 members, but also liaises with city authorities and police (yes, you heard it right) to improve work conditions and the earning potential of the city’s sex workers.

… and their own government-sponsored digs

In the past, Zurich streets were getting crowded with sex workers, so the residents turned to Switzerland’s unique system of direct democracy to solve this problem.

In 2012, the majority of city voters approved a municipal plan to set aside 2 million francs of taxpayers’ money to build several drive-in structures in a safe and discreet environment, away from the residential neighbourhoods. Another $800,000 was earmarked for annual operation costs, which include security and on-site social services. 

As the city noted on its website at the time, the premises were intended to “improve the working conditions of sex workers – their health, physical and mental integrity”.

Switzerland values that sex workers meet a need

In 2018, a dispute erupted in a small town of Arbon in canton Thurgau.

It concerned the local brothel, located in the town’s historic center.

As the local newspaper reported, several residents who live in the brothel’s vicinity wrote a letter to the city officials, complaining about the sights and sounds emanating from the facility, and asking authorities to shut it down.

“Almost every day, the women stand naked by the windows,” the neighbours wrote, adding that “the ladies wait for their customers and start loud music as soon as they arrive”.

But municipal officials responded that the brothel will be allowed to operate because of the valuable service it provides. “This establishment has a right to exist, as it fulfils the social need of the population,” authorities wrote in a letter to the complainants.

They added that the disturbances have a “neighbourly character” and are accidental rather than intentional.

Leave it to the Swiss to be thoroughly pragmatic.