Xenophobe's® Guides: Swiss character

Xenophobe's® Guides: Understanding Swiss characteristics

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Mountains dominate both Switzerland and the Swiss-mindset – the Swiss treat their daily lives as if they were farming an isolated mountain cliff.

Xenophobe's® Guides: A book series that highlights the unique character and behaviour of different nations with insight and humour.

The terrain of their land exerts a big influence – mountains dominate the landscape and the Swiss mind-set. The Swiss are unable to override their origins as a tough, mountain people. Though less than 4 percent of the population work in agriculture today, the Swiss have lost none of their ancestors’ grit and determination.

Eking out any kind of existence from farming vertical slopes requires a special kind of character. It’s a lonely life on a mountain farm where relationships with others are more difficult to cultivate than potatoes. Swiss farmers are tough, independent, hard-working, resilient, and, above all, staunchly conservative. These characteristics are shared by Swiss town-dwellers, who go about their daily lives as if they too were farming a lonely mountain cliff.

Swiss thinking tends to be isolated and valley-like – always worrying what is over in the next valley and whether the grass is greener. Combining the natural introversion of an essentially mountain people with an educational system that does not encourage individualism, you can see why the Swiss remain deeply suspicious of those who display great self-confidence and who are articulate in public.

Like farmers’ reputation as the world’s greatest complainers, nothing is ever right for Swiss farmers. When it is not too dry for crops, then it is too wet, or the prices for their produce are never high enough. The non-farming sector of Switzerland was quick to latch on to this characteristic and so produced a nation that is in constant pursuit of unobtainable improvement.

The Swiss have perfected this negative mental attitude so that it works positively. They have the happy knack of seeing the downside of any situation. The happy-go-lucky attitude that says ‘it’ll all come out in the wash’ is not for the Swiss. They would much rather avoid getting dirty in the first place. Müller’s Law, the Swiss version of Murphy’s Law, states ‘Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong – but we will be more than prepared for it’.

For more, read The Xenophobe's Guide to the Swiss.

Reproduced from Xenophobe's Guide to the Swiss by kind permission of Xenophobe's® Guides.

Updated 2016.

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