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Archive for April, 2010

It’s not surprising that most Canadians know very little about Switzerland. Sure, there are the common stereotypes – watches, chocolate, gnomes, Ricola, neutrality, banking – but that’s as ridiculous as saying that Canada is all about cold weather, hockey, RCMP, and wilderness (and believe me, that’s about as much as people over here know about Canada).

This is the first of a two-part series that I will write on comparing and contrasting Canada to Switzerland, for the benefit of friends, family and strangers back home.

government federal parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy federal state with parliamentary system and direct democracy
languages english, french german, italian, french, romansh
established 1 July, 1867 1848*
area 9,984,670 km2 41,000 km2
population 34,055,000 7,782,900
density 3.41/km2 188/km2
gdp $1,300,000,000,000 $315,768,000,000
borders United States of America Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein
country code CA CH
currency canadian dollar (CAD) swiss franc (CHF)

* The current Swiss federal state was established in 1848, but the ‘founding’ of Swiss territory dates back to 1291.

Many people don’t know that the country code for Switzerland is ‘CH’, not ‘SW’ as they might assume. The code ‘CH’ stands for ‘Confederatio Helvetica’, which is the historical name of Switzerland.

The code ‘SW’ is, in fact, the country code for Swaziland, which is very different from Switzerland.

The Helvetii were a Celtic tribe or, probably more accurately, a confederation of Celtic tribes. Although originating in what is now Germany, they occupied most of the Swiss plateau at the time of their contact with the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC. They feature prominently in Julius Caesar’s commentaries on the Gallic War.

Other Quick Facts about Switzerland

  • Not part of the European Union
  • Provides military security for the Vatican (the Swiss Guards)
  • Has mandatory military service for men from ages 20 – 35 (if you are found unfit for service, but are not disabled, you pay 3% income tax until you are 30!)
  • Agricultural industry is one of the most protected in the world, being heavily subsidized by the government to ensure they meet 65% of domestic need.
  • If you think that Switzerland is the home of Ikea and is populated with vikings, then you are confusing it with Sweden. Sorry.

Next time, I’ll take a micro look at comparing Victoria with Basel.

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