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‘We made a mistake’: Five blunders that prove Switzerland isn't perfect

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 21 Feb, 2023 Updated Tue 21 Feb 2023 12:19 CEST
‘We made a mistake’: Five blunders that prove Switzerland isn't perfect
Some mistakes the Swiss made are truly embarrassing. Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

The Swiss are well organised and detail-oriented, so it is hard to believe they sometimes make mistakes. From geography mishaps to military gaffes, here are five blunders that have left Switzerland red-faced.


It is difficult to imagine the meticulous Swiss, who like to micro-manage everything from the rules of daily living to the way hedges are trimmed, blundering.

But these ‘oops’ moments just go to prove that the Swiss are merely…human.

Wrong China

In January, a company from the canton of St. Gallen sent devices used for the Taiwanese army's missile defences to their enemy — China.

“Amid heated tensions between China and the island of Taiwan, the company has made a big mistake: it has sent detection devices for the Taiwanese army's Hsiung Feng missile defence system to China for repair,” Swiss media reported

Fortunately, China forwarded the devices to Taiwan, apparently without tampering with them.

While this faux-pas did not lead to any diplomatic repercussions, Taiwan asked the Swiss company — which did not issue any comments regarding the blunder — to be more careful in the future.


Switzerland finances a German sports club — by mistake

This is what happens when you don’t know geography: for four years, from 2018 to 2021, the Swiss government offered financial support totalling 60,000 francs to a sports organisation in Büsingen, Germany.

According to media reports, the Federal Office of Sport (FOSPO) had provided grants meant to promote youth sports programmes in Switzerland to the wrong country: apparently, “federal officials thought that Büsingen was a Swiss municipality".

Had they looked at the map, they would have known the city is located in the Baden-Württemberg region of Germany which, in their defence, is located very close to Switzerland.

In November 2022, however, “FOSPO noticed that Büsingen actually belonged to Germany,” the Schaffhauser Nachrichten newspaper, which broke the story, reported.
The office sent a letter to the sports clubs concerned, telling them that because their headquarters are on German territory, they would no longer be entitled to financial support from Switzerland. 

FOSPO said they will not ask the German club to return the money.

Someone forgot to look at a map. Photo by Luca Nicoletti on Unsplash

‘Hey, this isn’t Switzerland!’

A number of geography-related goofs had to do with Liechtenstein.

As The Local reported, Switzerland ‘invaded’ its even tinier neighbour three times.

The first one occurred in 1985, when, during a training exercise in the proper use of ground-to-air-missiles, Swiss artillery launched rockets straight into Liechtenstein, igniting a massive forest fire along with a diplomatic snafu.

Then, in 1992, army recruits were on maneuvers when they received orders to set up an observation post in Triesenberg. The soldiers obliged, until local residents started to ask what the Swiss military unit was doing in their town. It was only then that the recruits — and their commanders — realised that Triesenberg is located in Liechtenstein.

In the last incident (so far) in 2007, 170 Swiss troops armed with rifles (but apparently not with a GPS) stumbled into Liechtenstein. They marched on for more than a kilometre until someone exclaimed, “Hey, this isn't Switzerland”! (“Hey, das isch nöd d Schwiiz”)!

At this point the soldiers turned around and hot-footed it back home.

READ MORE: Swiss history: How the army attacked Liechtenstein three times — by mistake 


Other than that, the Swiss have been good about not invading foreign countries. However, this was not the last time Switzerland’s armed forces faced ridicule...

Out of step

On July 14th, 2020, members of Switzerland's military were invited, for the first time ever, to march in a parade commemorating France's Bastille Day.

This gesture was to thank Switzerland for the help it extended to France during the Covid-19 pandemic, when Swiss hospitals took in patients from France, where there was a shortage of beds.
So far so good, but for some inexplicable reason, Switzerland sent to Paris four soldiers who were not able to march in formation.
When they marched among their French counterparts along the Place de la Concorde, carrying a Swiss flag, their walk was uncoordinated, prompting Swiss media to say that: "Army embarrasses itself at the parade in France."

Members of the public also took to social media and other online forums to offer their tongue-in-cheek perspectives on the uncoordinated soldiers.

"They are just four tourists strolling in Paris," one person quipped. "Swiss army is made up of clowns," while another commented that “"Switzerland owes France an official apology."

Even army spokesman Daniel Reist conceded that the march "didn't go as planned." 

Here’s the video of the walk. 
Too bad the four soldiers didn't learn to march in formation.Photo by Filip Andrejevic on Unsplash


It costs how much?

Electricity prices have skyrocketed in Switzerland in recent months, with all communities big and small experiencing record-breaking increases.

But quite not as much as the municipality of Oberlunkhofen in Aargau, where costs have risen by an eye-watering 263 percent. For an average household, this means additional annual costs of over 2,000 francs.

No, this is not because its 2,000 residents use electricity like it’s still 2021.

Rather, local officials made a huge mistake when they forgot to order the supply at a cheaper rate, and by the time the error was discovered, the price of electricity had soared.

“By the time the error was discovered, the price of electricity had tripled,” said Hans Hagenbuch, president of the local electricity distribution cooperative. 

READ MORE: 'We made a mistake': Swiss town sees electricity prices soar by 263 percent


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