For members


What do the Swiss do better than anyone else?

Yes, there are watches and chocolate, but the Swiss like to think that they excel at many other things as well. And they truly believe nobody in the world does it better than them.

What do the Swiss do better than anyone else?
The Swiss like to think they do things better than everyone else. Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

This holier-than-thou attitude may at times smack of arrogance; after all, the Swiss truly believe they are superior to anyone else — maybe not so much in the culinary arts (where they grudgingly accept being trumped by neighbours France and Italy), but in just about everything else.

And they do have a point. For instance, the Swiss are very skilled at:

Keeping the peace

While other countries  have been involved in various armed conflicts and episodes of unrest and upheaval, Switzerland has been successfully using its shield of neutrality to — literally — dodge the bullet(s).

This longstanding policy has not only kept Switzerland out of two world wars, but is still used as an excuse why the country prohibits the sale (and resale) of its military equipment to nations  at war, such as Ukraine.

Whether neutrality is a good thing or bad, there is no doubt the Swiss have benefited from it.

Its army has not fought, or invaded, any other nations — except for Liechtenstein.

READ ALSO: How the army attacked Liechtenstein three times — by mistake

Democracy/political system

No other industrialised country has the same (or even similar) system of direct democracy as Switzerland.

The frequent referendums mean that the people, rather than politicians, have the last say in how the country is run, and what laws are passed (or not).

Also, the Swiss system of having a collective, rather than just one, head of state, results in an enviable political stability.

Rather than settling for one president from one political party, Switzerland has a government made up of seven ministers from all four of the country’ biggest parties. And while there is a rotating presidency, with one member of the council elected Swiss president each year, all of the government ministers have equal —and equally important — say in all matters.

And that unique feature leads us to the next point…

Compromise and negotiations

This system of having multiple parties in the government means that politicians are forced to constantly negotiate and seek middle-of-the ground solutions, rather than get at each other’s throats. 

And this kind kind of mindset explains why the Swiss are so good at mediating and arbitrating international conflicts.

The Swiss may not have invented the art of negotiating, but they have certainly perfected it.

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Geneva in 2021. Photo by DENIS BALIBOUSE / POOL / AFP

Crisis-proofing the economy

While Switzerland’s economy has certainly has had its ups and downs, it has never reached the desperate lows experienced by other countries.

It is certainly true that Switzerland’s economy is robust.

Its inflation rate, now and generally, is lower than across the eurozone, and its unemployment rate is far below the EU’s as well.

READ ALSO: Why Switzerland’s inflation rate has stayed low compared to elsewhere

Even during the Covid pandemic in 2020, Switzerland’s economy, while certainly weakened, was still “the most resilient” in the world, according to research conducted at the time.

The reason is that Switzerland “combines world class governance with high levels of social capital and high social resilience. It also has strong financial systems, manageable debt levels and good health system resilience,” research shows. 

Other countries can only envy that.

Shifting from rags to riches

This may be difficult to believe, but Switzerland was once so poor, a large portion of the population struggled to survive. In fact, many of those living in the countryside or in mountain regions suffered from widespread famine.

In the 1950s, however, Switzerland shifted from industrial to a service economy; its financial sector started to flourish by offering confidential — and not always totally legal — services and protection to the wealthy. (However, new laws have been enacted in past years, making Swiss financial institutions more transparent and compliant with international regulations).

But its success story goes far beyond banking.

Other industries, such as pharmaceutical, watchmaking, and tourism, have been growing and boosting the economy.

And let’s not forget the aforementioned direct democracy and political stability, both of which have contributed greatly to transitioning Switzerland from a pauper nation to a very prosperous one.

READ ALSO: Why is Switzerland so rich?

Healthy population

According to the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD), the Swiss have the world’s highest life expectancy.

Experts attribute this to a variety of factors, including wealth, healthy lifestyle, and efficient and accessible healthcare system.

Perhaps because they have such a high life expectancy, people in Switzerland feel healthier than residents of any other country in Europe, according to a report  by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO). 

Speaking more languages than anyone else

As they sometimes like to point out to assert their superiority, the Germans speak German, French speak French, and Italians speak Italian. But the Swiss speak all three — and then some.

While it is true that not every Swiss speaks all three national languages (though some do), most have varying levels of fluency in two, plus at least some English.

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For members


From condoms to vaccines: The most controversial rulings by Switzerland’s highest court

The Swiss Federal Court, the highest judicial authority in the country, has ruled on some highly contentious issues over the years.

From condoms to vaccines: The most controversial rulings by Switzerland’s highest court

Before we get to actual cases, it is important to understand how Switzerland’s justice system is set up.

There are different court levels.

When people file their cases with the legal system, their first contact are district courts, which group together judiciary authorities by local areas.

Many Swiss towns are too small to have their own courts, so a district court is just that — a court that covers several neighbouring communities.

If, say, you become involved in a civil lawsuit, a divorce case, or any kind of litigation or dispute, the case will be first be heard at the district court.

Most often, its rulings are final.

However, if you are not happy with the verdict of your district court, you can appeal it within 30 days, at which point your case will go to the higher judicial level, that is, the cantonal court.

Each canton has its own high court — Switzerland’s second most important judicial entity hierarchically.

Besides criminal cases, cantonal high courts hear civil claims, and there are also courts on cantonal level for administrative cases.

The next is the Federal court, the highest judicial authority in Switzerland.

Headquartered in Lausanne, it is the final instance on all appeals against decisions of the highest cantonal courts, as well as the three other federal courts, which deal with criminal, administrative and patent cases, respectively.

This chart shows how the judicial system is organised in Switzerland. 

READ ALSO: What you should know about Switzerland’s courts

This means that by the time a case (that is to say, the appeal) comes before federal judges, it has already been ruled on by lower courts.

This is what happened in these three recent controversial cases as well.

The condom

You might think that taxpayer-funded federal court should not spend its valuable time (and public money) on a case involving a condom, but it has done so nevertheless.

As Swiss media reported, on September 14th, the highest court ruled on a case that has been heard in the lower courts in Zurich since 2017.

It involved a young man (19 at the time), who took off his condom during sex with an 18-year-old woman, without, however, informing her or asking for her consent to do so.

This practice is called ‘“stealthing’ in English.

The woman filed a complaint in a district court of Bülach (Zurich) and, after a series of rulings and appeals through higher courts (see above), ended up before the federal tribunal.

The case took so long because it had many twists and turns.

Stealthing is not punishable by Swiss law, which is why both the district and cantonal court acquitted the young man

The Federal Court  also acquitted him, but reassessed the case from the perspective of sexual harassment. That ruling had stuck, and the young man must now pay a 2,500-franc fine, in addition to 7,200 francs in court costs.

Forced vaccine

In the most recent case, which The Local reported last week, the Federal Court sided with the man who wanted his ex-wife to be forced to vaccinate their two children against measles.

The mother, an anti-vaxxer, had refused to do so, and the long-winded battle between the parents, which made its way through the lower courts, eventually landed in the federal tribunal.

As it had done in several previous similar cases when parents didn’t see eye to eye about vaccinating their children, the court followed the  public health guidelines, which are clearly in favour of childhood immunisations.

Therefore, judges sided with the father, giving the mother an order to immunise her children against measles.

Parents can be made to vaccinate their children court ruled. Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

Assisted suicide

In another recent case, from June, the court acquitted a Swiss doctor, Erika Preisig, who was charged with homicide for helping a mentally ill patient die in a Basel assisted suicide clinic. 

Previously, predominantly people suffering from physical ailments could benefit from voluntary suicide, which is legal but well-regulated in Switzerland.
However, Preisig was charged because she had violated the previous Federal Court ruling, from 2006, which required a psychiatric evaluation on the patient before helping them die.

In June, the court overturned its old decision, finding that although Preisig had not obtained a psychiatric report, she had studied the medical records, had intensive discussions with the patient, questioned relatives, and obtained a second opinion. The mentally ill person was understood to have made a well-considered decision and was capable of judgement. 

The Federal Court had therefore confirmed that Preisig could assume, even without a psychiatric expert opinion, that the patient had a permanent wish to die, as she suffered from an incurable, permanent, severe mental impairment.

READ ALSO: What to know about Switzerland’s latest court judgement on assisted suicide


While obtaining Swiss citizenship is a long and complicated process, and rejections at communal level are often made arbitrarily, the Federal Court had sided with applicants on several occasions.
For instance, in 2018, the court ordered the commune of Trimmis in canton Graubünden to grant Swiss citizenship to an Iranian refugee who had lived in the community for 30 years. 

It reversed a ruling made previously by the lower court, which sided with local authorities who denied the man the right to become Swiss.