Switzerland, We Thank You

Switzerland is known as the country that gave us milk chocolate and Victorinox Swiss Army Knives. For those two things alone, we should be eternally grateful. But the Swiss have given us so much more over the years, and some of those things might surprise you.

  • Velcro: Legend has it that George de Mestral came home from a hike in the Swiss Alps with his clothing covered in small, prickly burrs. Once he’d plucked them off his clothes, he took a few to his microscope to see how they attached themselves to each other. His microscopic research led to a giant idea and worldwide phenomenon: Velcro!

–    Helvetica Font: Yes, the font widely regarded as the most popular and widely-used of all time is the brainchild of Swiss designers Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffman who gave us Helvetica as far back as 1957.

  • Absinthe: Anyone who has suffered from an absinthe hangover might not be so grateful that this was ever made at all. Absinthe is a very intoxicating liquor which is sometimes called ‘The Green Fairy’ for its supposed ability to cause hallucinogenic episodes. The liquor was first distilled in the late 18th century by Doctor Pierre Ordinaire, a Frenchman living in Switzerland. Unsurprisingly, both countries claim the notorious and often-banned spirit as their own.
  • Muesli: We tend to think of the Swiss as clean-living, healthy people. Maybe it’s something to do with all that fresh mountain air? So it’s no surprise that muesli comes from there, courtesy of Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss doctor who combined oat flakes, raw apples, condensed milk, nuts and lemon juice. Heard of Bircher muesli? Now you know where the name comes from.
  • Antihistamines: New Zealand has one of the highest rates of hayfever in the world, not to mention other allergies. So Kiwis owe a lot to Swiss-born Italian scientist Daniel Bovet who formulated the first antihistamines in 1937.
  • Fondue: Melted cheese in a pot. Who doesn’t love the sound of that? So we give huge thanks to the Swiss who introduced fondue to the world centuries ago. The first recipe for everyone’s favourite comfort food, and 70s classic, dates way, way back to 1699.
  • Roger Federer: We can’t end any discussion about the good things Switzerland has given us without mentioning Roger Federer. One of the greatest tennis players of all time without a doubt, and one of the most popular thanks to his on-court behaviour and off-court courtesy.

We have a lot to thank Switzerland for. Just ask MacGyver, who used his Swiss Army Knife in almost every episode to get out of a pickle. (And no, pickles do not come from Switzerland. Either China or Mesopotamia hold that particular claim to fame.)