We were lucky to be able to spend five weeks in beautiful Switzerland in 2015. It’s an extra special place for us because Kevin’s family is from Switzerland and he has many relatives that still live there. Our visit was a wonderful and rare opportunity to visit those relatives, and to learn much more about Swiss culture.
We had quite a few questions come up while traveling in Switzerland. Thankfully through the process of traveling around the country, interacting with kind strangers, and getting insight from family members, we got those questions answered. As a result we’ve come away with some very fun facts about Switzerland.
We’ve picked out the most interesting to share with you here!
Our Favorite Fun Facts About Switzerland
1. Switzerland Has Four Official Languages
It’s crazy that a country with a population around the same size as New York City has four official languages. German, Italian, French, and Romansh are all spoken within Switzerland’s borders.
Another interesting insight is that in Switzerland, German speakers actually speak a dialect called Swiss German that varies significantly from High German (which of course is what we’d been studying before our trip). We were extremely confused when people greeted us with the word “grüezi” instead of the German “hallo.”
If you’re interested more in Swiss language (or want to prepare yourself for your trip!), check out our article on how to say hello in Switzerland.
2. All Grocery Stores Are Closed On Sundays, Except…
We arrived in Switzerland on a Sunday and we surprised to find all the grocery stores closed. It turns out that it’s illegal for grocery stores to be open on Sunday.
We learned from Kevin’s Swiss relatives that there is an exception to this rule. The grocery stores located in major train stations are the only ones allowed to be open on Sundays.
Bottom line, if you’re looking for groceries on a Sunday in Switzerland, make your way to the nearest train station.
3. The Abbey Of St Gall Library Is Home To A Mummy
The Abbey Of St Gall Library looks straight out of Beauty and The Beast. The baroque style of the library is beyond enchanting.
The library is home to Switzerland’s oldest library collections, and it houses thousands of historic manuscripts. That’s not surprising.
What is surprising is that the library houses a 2700 year old Egyptian mummy.
We still aren’t quite sure how it got there, but it was certainly an odd sight to see in a historic library!
4. The City Of Appenzell Holds Very Unconventional Votes
Appenzell is remarkably like a fairy tale land. Beautiful rolling hills, clear rivers, cobblestone streets, and picturesque cottages are the norm. It’s also the origin place for the tasty beer Appenzeller.
We learned that the vote here is held by Landsgemeinden, meaning outdoor democratic assemblies. Each citizen older than twenty must personally attend these assemblies, and vote by raising their hands.
Apparently not too long ago this process was limited to only men, and instead of raising their hands to vote they would raise swords. That’s some old world stuff!
Do you have any fun facts about Switzerland to share? We would love to hear what you’ve learned. Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this article.