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National pride: Just how patriotic are the Swiss?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
National pride: Just how patriotic are the Swiss?
This is what the Swiss do with their flag. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

With their National Day on August 1st only days away, the question about how patriotic (or not) the Swiss really are is very relevant.

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If the definition of ‘patriotism’ is love for and loyalty towards one’s home country, then yes, the Swiss certainly fit that description.

However, as you may have noticed by now, Switzerland’s brand of patriotism is different from that found in many other nations, likely because the Swiss are generally different in the way they tick.

For instance, while in America you will see a lot of flag-waving and anthem singing on its Independence Day on July 4th, Switzerland celebrates its National Day on August 1st in a more subdued way.

In fact, the only time the Swiss actually wave flags with earnest conviction is when its national football team, the Nati, wins a game. Other than at those occasions, flag-waving is kept to a minimum—though flag throwing is more common.

 

Also, the Swiss don’t make a huge deal of singing their national anthem too often.

That could be because many don’t even know it.

Several years ago, there was a push to change the anthem, regarded by many to be too heavy on God and Alpine vistas, but failing to reflect modern values.

Unlike America’s ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ or France’s ’La Marseillaise,' Switzerland’s anthem has never been etched into the national psyche.

"Nobody knows the words!" Pierre Kohler, who presided the jury holding an unofficial competition to choose a new anthem several years ago, said at the time.

"Anyone who tells you they do is a liar. Or else they manage the first few and afterwards they  go 'la, la, la'," 

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What complicates the matters is that the anthem, like all official texts in Switzerland, has four versions, one for each linguistic region.

Another reason for the indifference could be that Switzerland has not fought in any wars, so its anthem, unlike that of USA or France, doesn’t have a battle spirit in it — the kind of spirit that usually rouses feelings of patriotism.

You can hear and see the lyrics of the Swiss anthem in this video below.

 

Yes, but does all this mean that the Swiss are not patriotic?
 
On the contrary — based on the definition of patriotism mentioned above, the Swiss are, indeed, patriotic, because there is no question that they love their country and are fiercely loyal to it (read more about it below).
 
The difference is that — perhaps because they didn’t have to fight for their freedom and independence on a battlefield — patriotism here is not manifested with as much zeal and passion as is the case in other countries.
 
You could say the Swiss are patriotic in a more toned-down manner, which is consistent with their innate dislike of public displays of affection (except when the Nati is playing).

 

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National pride
 
If you expand the definition of patriotism to include national pride, then the Swiss have plenty of it.
 
They genuinely believe they have the best country and take pride in their efficiency, economic stability, beautiful landscapes, Roger Federer, and generally the way their country works.

Fans Switzerland watch the live broadcast of the Qatar 2022 World Cup between Brazil and Switzerland Photo by EVARISTO SA / AFP
 
When international surveys show that Switzerland has the highest quality of life, or the most innovative economy, they don’t even flinch — for them this is a given, something they take for granted.
 
Sometimes, that national pride goes to extremes and morphs into arrogance — the Swiss enjoy looking down at other countries, believing that they are better than others in many areas.

READ ALSO : Why do the Swiss think they are superior to everyone else? 

Let’s just say that the Swiss don’t believe they are inferior to anyone, least of all to the French and Italians.

If you say otherwise, they will point out that they have managed to create a neutral, sovereign, politically and economically stable, and prosperous nation while many others haven’t. You can’t really argue with that.

This national pride, though you may argue it’s a tad overblown, can be taken to mean that the Swiss really are patriotic.

As Alain Berset, who held the country’s rotating, one-year presidency in 2018 (as he does now) said at the time, “We are lucky to live in Switzerland.”

And that sentence alone best expresses the love, loyalty, and pride the Swiss feel toward their country

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