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


Unwritten rules: 10 things you shouldn’t do in Switzerland

In Switzerland, there are many unwritten rules that the Swiss follow in their daily lives. Knowing these 10 can help save you time, money, and stress, writes Swiss national Sandra Sparrowhawk.

Unwritten rules: 10 things you shouldn't do in Switzerland

Assume that every Swiss is a multi-lingual

While Switzerland has four official languages – German (Swiss German), French, Italian and Romansh – the Swiss are not required to be proficient in all four, and are far more likely to be conversational in one additional national language as well as English.

Take it from me, as a native of German-speaking Aargau, French was the mandatory ‘foreign’ language I was taught in secondary school and if you were to approach me in Italian, I’d have to say non parlo molto bene l’italiano.

And what little Italian I do know, I learned in Italy – not Ticino. Scusa.

READ MORE: Swiss Italian vs standard Italian: What are the key differences?

Underestimate nature

One of the first things my foreign friends told me upon landing in Switzerland was that they cannot wait to go hiking in the Swiss Alps.

But while Switzerland is a perfect place to go hiking with its thousands of marked trails, every year, hundreds of people get into accidents while trekking, and some even die.

So, my advice to you if you do want to explore Swiss nature is to stick to hiking trails at all times, make sure you wear appropriate clothing (specifically shoes), pack enough water, and download the Meteo Swiss App to stay informed on severe weather forecasts and other natural hazards.

READ MORE: How to keep safe and avoid problems when hiking in the Swiss Alps

Shop on a Saturday

For many Swiss people, Saturday is hailed as the perfect weekday to stock up on all your food supplies to avoid running out of food on a Sunday, despite the store Avec being a perfectly reasonable (and open) plan B.

But while shopping on Saturdays spares you from having to hit the shelves right after work, Swiss food stores are notoriously packed with shoppers on the weekend – one of the few times a week you should really prioritise winding down.

In general, when out shopping in Switzerland, be sure to greet shopkeepers when entering a store and paying for goods. However, don’t expect fellow shoppers to queue up. The Swiss, while polite, do not have a queuing culture and will absolutely step in front of you if you let them.

Take a long time to order at the bakery

If you happen to be a morning person who enjoys a yummy pastry in the morning, remember that hitting the bakery in Switzerland will require you to make up your mind about your order fast – and ideally before you get there.

Unlike in some European countries, the Swiss like to get on with their day’s work and prolonged chats paired with indecisiveness are generally not encouraged. That said, always feel free to ask for recommendations.

Sit in a (train) seat without asking

You may look at the empty seat before you and ask: “But there’s no one sat here?”

And yet, even if a passenger is occupying a four-seater on a train all by themselves, in Switzerland, it is common courtesy to ask if the seemingly empty seat(s) is still available before you get comfortable – and not just because their friend(s) may be using the toilet.

If you are invited to take a seat, remember to keep quiet on Swiss trains so as not to disturb other travellers.

Attend a dinner without bringing a small gift

If you have been invited to a party or home-cooked dinner by a friend, colleague, or acquaintance, the etiquette is to bring a small gift as a thank you. In Switzerland, most people choose to bring a bottle of wine or a seasonal bouquet of flowers. In a business setting, it is not necessary to bring or exchange a gift.

And while on the topic of dinner, never ring a Swiss person at dinnertime as we consider that time sacred, especially in today’s busy world. You’re welcome.

READ MORE: The dos and don’ts of Swiss social etiquette

Spend a small fortune on water

Switzerland is repeatedly recognised as a country with the best quality tap water in the world, according to the United Nations. In fact, eighty percent of the water comes from natural springs and groundwater, the rest is taken from the lakes.

The same (usually) goes for fountain water.

Except for the winter months when the water is prone to freezing, drinking fountains can be found practically everywhere in Switzerland.

The quality of water in the fountains is inspected by each municipality to ensure that it is clean and safe to drink.

If this is not the case, a label with the note “no drinking water” must be visibly attached.

In the summer, I would recommend carrying a reusable drinking bottle wherever you go. This will not only keep you hydrated, but also save you money.

Hold a feast on a Sunday

While you are perfectly allowed to activate your weekend mode on Saturdays (though extreme noise is never welcome, because this is Switzerland), come Sunday the Swiss expect everyone – with the exception of newborns – to switch to silent-mode for the entire day. But what exactly counts as a disturbance of one’s peace? Luckily, that’s a bit of a grey zone and largely relies on a person’s common sense to decide just what is an appropriate level of noise.

On a wider scale, unwanted noise can include anything from playing instruments, slamming doors during arguments, using a drill for home improvements, or emulating Heidi Klum in some fancy high heels.

Small tip: If you’re set on hosting a party on a Sunday, notify your neighbours first, and good luck – you’ll need it.

Don’t push in

While the Swiss may not have a queuing culture when waiting on a train, they do consider it good form to pay attention to your surroundings and give way to whomever arrived first – be it when entering a lift or when trying to snag the last available parking space.

Expect public transport to wait for you

The Swiss public transport system is known for its reliable punctuality and the latter is actually a big part of local culture.

With that being said, if you happen to arrive at the platform ‘just a tad late’ for your train and make a run for it hoping the train operator will spot you and show you mercy, know that in Switzerland this will not be the case.

Since Switzerland’s rail network is very busy, even a small delay in a waiting train can cause a chain reaction and lead to many more delays.

The same (usually) goes for buses, though they are known to occasionally turn a blind eye if traffic and schedules allow.