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Photo courtesy of the kind people at Global Grasshopper: www.globalgrasshopper.com




  •  Switzerland is the home of the Red Cross. Its symbol is the reverse of the Swiss flag in honor of the country that started it.

  •  Teachers are some of the highest paid workers.

  •  Switzerland is where the system was started that gave us the world wide web.

     Switzerland was one of the last countries to give women the right to vote.


      Switzerland is also one of the most peaceful countries in the world. But it’s very different from other peaceful countries. This country is not surrounded by water or far away from other countries.  Switzerland is in the middle of Europe. But it’s rarely had the social conflict and war that Europe has known. Switzerland gives us much to think about as an example of unity and peace.    


SWITZERLAND’S motto [words they live by] is “One for all and all for one.” These words have special meaning when you discover [find out] that there are 26 cantons [regional states] and four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansch. The system of government is called a federal system. It includes a central government that governs the whole country. But each region, or canton, also has its own officials who govern and take care of problems in their own region.

     The Swiss say that their county was not formed by one group of people or by a common language. Their country was formed by a strong feeling of community [of different people and languages working together]. The people come from different cultures, but they share a love for the most important things in a country: honesty in government, quality of life for everyone and quality of work for everyone. Maybe this is why the Swiss people are the richest people in the world. The Swiss have the least [the lowest amount of] business and government corruption in the world. 

    A terrible civil war [war between people in one country] in 1847 helped the Swiss understand the importance of unity. The war lasted only one month, but it shocked them to think that people within one country could fight and kill each other. After that, people from all parts of society knew they had to find a way to work and live together if the country was going to be safe and successful. The people wrote a constitution [a plan of government] that created a central government, but gave the cantons the right to make decisions about local problems. The constitution does not allow their soldiers to be sent to fight in foreign wars. 

This video helps explain what direct democracy is.



GPS Photo : (Global Photos by Susan) PARLIAMENT BUILDING IN BERN

SWITZERLAND’S Constitution, written in 1848, does not allow [let] their soldiers fight in foreign wars. But the country does have an army to defend its own land. Military training is required for all young men. After their training, the soldiers must keep their weapons at home. The Swiss say that the key to freedom is the ability to be able to defend yourself. Switzerland is also very active in worldwide groups that work to find ways to protect peace.

     Q. Do you think it was right or wrong that Switzerland did not fight in World War I or WWII ?  If other countries did not fight against the Nazis in WWII, would Switzerland be free today?  (Hint: this questions does not have any easy answer!)



Jean-Henri Dunant.  Photo: public domain


THE Red Cross was started 1) to protect human life and health, 2) to respect life and 3) to help all who are suffering from war or from weather disasters. The organization was started in 1863 by Jean-Henri Dunant, a Swiss businessman. In 1859, he was traveling through Italy. He arrived in a small town the day after a large battle between French and Algerian soldiers. Over 40,000 soldiers were killed or wounded [hurt but not dead]. After the battle, there was no one to help the wounded soldiers. Dunant was shocked by the suffering he saw. After that, he devoted his life to helping soldiers wounded in any war. He believed there should be people to help care for their wounds, bring them food and water, and help them write letters to their families. His organization was called The Red Cross. From the start, the people who work for The Red Cross help all soldiers, not just soldiers from one side. Dunant worked hard to make sure that governments passed laws to protect Red Cross workers so they would not be hurt in battles. Some people thought The Red Cross was a bad idea!  They said that each government should care for its own soldiers. They said that if other people cared for their soldiers, governments would not have to think about the real suffering war causes. Today The Red Cross is the biggest humanitarian [work helping humans] organization in the world.  It has 186 member countries.



GPS Photo : (Global Photos by Susan)

THERE are more than 1500 lakes in Switzerland. That means you are never more than ten miles from a lake and its quiet beauty. In addition, 70% of Switzerland is mountains. In the summer, most of the country is covered with green forests and valleys. In the winter, it becomes a world of deep, white snow. But there is another type of beauty a visitor quickly notices: there is a high standard of quality in all that they make—from their famous cheeses and chocolates, to the finest watches in the world. 


     Q.  If you’re always surrounded by beauty, how do you think this shapes a country or its people?

Listen to some fun Swiss yodeling!



Photo: Wikipedia, free use.

Photo: public domain

SWITZERLAND’S GOTTHARD BASE TUNNEL is over 35 miles (56 kilometers) long and is dug through the hardest rock on earth under the Alps. When it is finished, it will be the longest train tunnel in the world. There will be two tunnels and two train tracks in each tunnel. Work on the tunnel began in 1996. The goal is to finish the tunnel in 2016. When it is finished, it will be the most difficult tunnel built in history: 20 years of work, 24 hours every day!

     To drill [cut] through the rock, the workers are using the largest drills in the world. Each drill is as tall as a 3-story building and longer than 4 football [soccer] fields. One drill can dig only 130 feet (40 meters) a day. Each drill has 90,000 parts. After every 7 feet (2 meters) the workers must stop and check the drill. One tunnel is 21 miles (34 kilometers) long. The other tunnel is 35 miles (56 kilometers) long. Together, this is three times longer than any other mountain tunnel.  To build the tunnels, workers are starting from the north end of the tunnel and the south end of the tunnel and will meet in the middle. If they miss by even 6 inches they will have to redo [dig again] many, many miles of tunnel.  

     The workers making the tunnel promised that it will last at least 100  years, will cost what they said it would cost [and not more], and will be finished on time.   

     Q.  What does such a project tell you about the Swiss people? 

     Q.  Finally, of all the things you learned about Switzerland, what do you respect the most? 


 ©InterestEng. July 2013 - July 2021 §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff photos or used with permission.  §  To contact us:  go.gently.on@gmail.com