Our last meeting’s journal prompt was asking us what about the Switzerland presentation surprised. To be completely honest, not much. This isn’t as much a commentary on Switzerland being boring or unsurprising as much as it is a commentary on how much of an avid reader/traveller I am. But I digress. There were still a few things that actually surprised me. Three things in particular really struck awe in me, one more than the others.
The first fact that surprised me was the fact that there were so many municipalities and “states” within the county (called cantons). The country is small with a relatively small population and yet there are 26 cantons, over half as many as the US, despite being a fraction of the size.
I had originally thought there would be 3, or at most 5 or 6, split up by language or ethnicity. Which brings me to the 2nd fact that surprised me about Switzerland, which was the idea that people have some pride in their ethnicity/language (which I had known) but it wasn’t linked to the country of origin. However, it has ties to that country. An example of this is that there French-Swiss pride and German-Swiss pride, so if Switzerland is playing France in soccer, then the French-Swiss and the German-Swiss will root for Switzerland. However, if Germany and France play each other, then the respective groups will root for their respective countries.
Lastly, and most relevant to our topic of study was the fact that the ruling of the country is left to a 3-person presidential committee as opposed to a president or prime minister. This is interesting as it appears to trickle down to the academic realm where the department heads and university presidents are peer selected and serve limited terms. I like the idea that it is seen as a position of service and not a position of power or prestige and that many people sitting in the same room can be former department heads or university presidents. This is a great example for out times where power hungry despots, dictators, CEO’s, and perhaps university officials and football coaches refuse to leave their posts when they are beyond their prime and ability to effect positive change.
A few other things that were new to me were the 4th language of Romansch, which is unique to Switzerland, the acceptance and embrace of certain stereotypes despite not holding true for a large part of the population (ex. Chalets, mountain Alphorns, leder-hosen, etc.), Cantons with as few as14 people in them, and the popular referendums for major national policies.