For members


16 things that only happen in Switzerland

We've been scouring social media for the next wave of the most uniquely Swiss 'things' we can find. Have we missed any?

A friendly(ish) cow stares into the camera on a mountain pass in Kandersteig Switzerland.
"Mooo shall not pass". A friendly(ish) cow stares into the camera on a mountain pass in Kandersteig Switzerland. Photo by Frank Holleman on Unsplash

1. Trains waiting for chickens to get off the track

Switzerland is proud of its rural heritage. So much so, that chickens – along with cows and occasionally goats and sheep – get right of way. 


#sbb #schweiz #svizzera #hüehner #dummshuen

A post shared by canonicamarco (@canonicamarco) on Oct 4, 2018 at 4:23am PDT

2. People racing powered up lawn mowers 

A great way to encourage the kids to do their chores is to make it fun – so why not supercharge your lawn mower to encourage housework and freak our your neighbours at the same time. 

Hey, if you’re going to do something, why not do it fast? 

Photo credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

3. Being encouraged to get active – while climbing a mountain

Slackers are not appreciated in Switzerland – especially on the hiking paths. 

4. Sharing an elevator with a cow

OK, so you might see this in India as well as Switzerland, but the treatment of cows in Switzerland is positively Hinduesque. 

As we delved into in the following article however, the Swiss have a close personal bond with cows. 

EXPLAINED: Why are cows so important in Switzerland?

This bovine was lucky enough to take an elevator ride, which I guess is a little easier than taking a cow up the steps. 

But if an elevator isn’t available, then your cow can always…

5. Get your cow to take the helicopter

Yes, this really happened. Check out this video from the Irish Farmers Journal.

6. Simply how much people trust each other

Whether buying from an actual store or even online, the level of trust people place in each other in Switzerland is particularly special – as illustrated by this tweet. 

7. Unicorn warnings 
“Sorry Urs, your unicorn is gonna have to wait around back. Rules is rules. Don’t make me tap the sign.”
8. Vending machines filled with cheese
Several varieties of delicious Swiss cheese available on a 24-hour basis? There are certainly no holes in this idea. 
9. More vending machines with cheese
Fear not, humble tourists, you will not encounter a cheesemergency while on vacation in Switzerland. 

10. Being interrupted by a gang of Alphorners

“Sorry guys, gonna be around five minutes late, the Alphorners have taken over the roads and I’m going to have to take the long way around.”

11. Using a raclette grill to make popcorn

What? How do you make popcorn?

12. Being allowed to ride your bike naked

Bike safety is paramount in Switzerland. As it should be. 

13. Bargain hunting with a difference

If your chair costs less than this, are you even sitting at all? 

READ MORE: Why is Switzerland so expensive?

14. Seeing ‘unique’ missing animal posters 

Perhaps putting a picture on the side of a milk carton would have been in bad taste…

15. Cows hiding out on roof tops

Photo credit: Metro/CEN

“She always was one of my most cantankerous beasts, always wanting to do it her way, not mine,” owner Dieter Mueller told Metro newspaper.”

“She would have stayed up there for eternity if she had wanted to. I tried to coax her off when I first saw her but she wouldn’t budge. She had to do things in her own sweet time. And I am left with the bill for replacing the tiles she smashed.”

16. Eating fondue while surfing

For members


How Switzerland can force you to run for public office

Having Swiss citizenship brings with it all sorts of benefits - but also the possibility that you could be forced to run for public office. Here's why.

How Switzerland can force you to run for public office

In most cases, when an election for a public office is held, several candidates compete and campaign for the position.

But if you are a Swiss citizen your name can be added to the ballot against your will – even if you have no knowledge of or interest in politics.

One recent example of such “coercion” comes from the town of Buchrain (population 6,000) in canton Lucerne.

As reported by Blick, the municipality must fill a position of social director, which is an elected rather than appointed role, but no candidates have come forward to fill the vacancy on the town council.

The town has solved this conundrum by adding names of all the residents eligible to serve — Swiss nationals over the age of 18, who have lived in the community for at least five days — to its election roster.

Whoever gets the most votes in the September 25th election will be constrained to serve on the municipal council, no matter how unwillingly or reluctantly.

While  this move is undoubtedly extreme, it is not unique in Switzerland.

Another such example comes from Spiringen, Uri (population 903), where Tobias Imhof was elected to the municipal council against his will in 2017.

If elected, these people must serve, but they do have the right to appeal the voters’ decision.

Objections against one’s own election must have valid grounds, though. Other than suddenly dying (a cast-iron alibi if ever we heard one), they include being over 65 years of age or providing proof that serving in a public office would be detrimental to the person’s health or the local economy.

READ MORE: How Switzerland’s direct democracy system works 

Can you be elected to a public office against your will?

This is not a widespread or common practice, as in most cases there are enough candidates who are eager, or at least willing, to serve, but it does happen, especially in smaller places.

However it only happens at a local, rather than national, level, so you don’t need to worry that one day you will wake up and discover that you are the president of Switzerland.

Also, for your name to be added to the list of candidates, you must be eligible to stand for election in the first place.

This means you must be a Swiss citizen, whether from birth or naturalised. And being a dual national — that is, of Switzerland and another country — doesn’t exempt you from this civic obligation either. That is because in the eyes of the law, you are considered to be Swiss, regardless of what other nationalities you hold.

Each town could have its own specific eligibility criteria as well, such as the length of residency in the community, for instance.

Additionally, fluency in the language of the region (that is, German, French or Italian) is certainly a requirement too, as no municipality wants councillors who don’t speak and understand the local language.

 READ MORE: Switzerland rejects voting rights for foreigners