So it has happened again: Switzerland has once more been named the ‘best country’ in the world in the annual Best Countries report – a joint project by digital news service US News & World Report, marketing company Y&R and the Wharton School.
Giving their reasons, the people behind the survey-based ranking cited the usual suspects like the country’s enticing tax rates and its excellent public health and education systems.
Bur while there is no denying factors like these are key in making Switzerland a great place to live, we at The Local believe there are plenty of other reasons why Switzerland deserves the “best country” crown.
Here we take a (sometimes tongue-in-cheek) look at seven of them.
1) Best national dish
While the debate around fondue is beset with thorny issues like the question of what sort of cheese you should use, or if you should add white wine or kirsch schnapps (cherry brandy) to the mix, the underlying three-step principle is pretty basic: buy some fondue cheese, melt it, then eat it. In short, fondue is Swiss efficiency and simplicity at its best. It could just be the easiest national dish in the world to make. Plus it is fun to eat.
2) Best national hero
Did William Tell actually exist? Was there really a Swiss hero of that name who launched a folk rebellion in the 14th century by assassinating the dastardly Hapsburg overlord Gessler? Or is he just a convenient foundation myth for the modern Swiss Confederation? We will leave such discussions to the experts. His status as the best national hero chiefly rests on one remembered fact only: he shot an apple off his son’s head with a crossbow. Take that Abraham Lincoln.
3) The best army (at accidentally invading neighbours)
Switzerland’s largely non-professional armed services are primarily concerned with self-defence – not surprising given the country’s powerful neighbours. And because Switzerland is famously neutral, the military does not get directly involved in international conflicts. Even better, it now participates in international peacekeeping missions.
Laudable as Swiss neutrality may be, however, the country’s soldiers have managed to accidentally invade neighbouring Lichtenstein twice in the last three decades. In 2007, Swiss soldiers mistakenly marched into the principality because it was “too dark”, as one soldier told Swiss tabloid Blick at the time. However, an earlier accidental invasion in winter 1985 had far more serious consequences after stray rockets inadvertently started a serious forest fire in the diminutive country.
4) Best military installation
Switzerland has what must be one of the prettiest military fortresses in the world. Dating from 1940, The Villa Rose was one of a dozen such installations located along the Toblerone line – the name now commonly given to the anti-tank defences that stretch from the Jura mountains down to Lake Geneva and which were designed to stop the Nazis in their tracks.
5) Best setting for spy movies
While the Swiss authorities have made giant strides to clean up their banking system in recent years, and the Swiss themselves often get annoyed about their reputation as little more than a haven for the ill-gotten gains of despots, there is no denying that the country – with its blend of glamour, amazing scenery and lingering air of Cold War mystique –remains the spy movie location par excellence.
Read also: On location – 12 famous movies shot in Switzerland
Whether it is Matt Damon as Jason Bourne picking up a few spare passports in a Zurich bank vault or the George Lazenby-version of James Bond in a ski chase near the iconic Schilthorn restaurant, no spy film is complete without its little piece of Switzerland.
6) Best political system
Putting the pros and cons of direct democracy aside, the Swiss system of having a collective head of state is an amazing (and amazingly stable) political construction.
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 seven government ministers are actually equal.
Read also: How Switzerland’s direct democracy system works
This system of having multiple parties in the government means politicians and parties are forced to constantly negotiate and seek compromise solutions. This can slow things down (a lot) and make change difficult, but, when the system is working properly, it also means multiple opinions are views are represented in the decision-making process.
Could this work in another country? Just looking at the United States, this means you could, in theory, have Donald Trump, both Hillary and Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George Bush junior and senior, and Jimmy Carter all acting as presidents at the same time.
7) The best mountains
Need we say more?