How is Switzerland viewed by the rest of the world?

How is Switzerland viewed by the rest of the world?

From mountains to chocolate to cheese; it is often interesting to think about how Switzerland is perceived around the world. Now, a new study from the Swiss government has given an insight into how the country’s image has changed over the last year and which local stories made the global headlines.

2023 Credit Suisse crisis leads to huge coverage of Switzerland

Writing in the report, the Federal Council noted that Switzerland got an unusual amount of global media attention in 2023. Much of this was caused by a series of crises and events that diverted the eyes of the world to Swiss cities, cantons and institutions.

The most crucial moment was the crisis, bailout and subsequent merger of Credit Suisse with UBS. Officials noted that the events of March through June led to “historically extensive reporting in foreign media” and a deep analysis of Swiss banks as a whole.

Crisis brought Swiss banking culture into question

When it came to the nature of the coverage, the Federal Council noted that it was a game of two halves. First, “The view was often expressed that the decline of Credit Suisse also meant serious damage to the reputation of the entire Swiss financial centre.” For example, during the crisis, The Guardian wrote that “Now the banking sector’s reputation has been tainted, [there are] fears that “Swissness” as a whole could lose its value-enhancing shine.”

On the other hand, “The actions of the Swiss authorities in dealing with the crisis... were assessed in a more differentiated manner,” the Federal Council wrote. This was shown by the Financial Times, which named Finance Minister Karin Keller-Sutter as one of the Women of the Year for 2023 due to the way she effectively handled the crisis.

Swiss policies on Ukraine still a source of scrutiny

Like in 2022, Switzerland’s attitude and policies towards the war in Ukraine have been the source of debate and scrutiny. The Federal Council wrote that the country’s reluctance to provide military assistance to Ukraine, neutrality policy, sanctions and the reliability of Switzerland as an international partner were all discussed, “Often with a rather critical tone.”

Outside of the big stories, the government noted there were several other moments when Switzerland broke through on the global stage. These included an innovation in Lausanne that allowed a paraplegic patient to walk again, when Toblerone was forced to ditch the Matterhorn logo due to licencing violations, a series of court cases and university, scientific and research discoveries. The idea of “Swissness” was also more widely discussed among international media.

What does the global public think of Switzerland?

When it came to the global perspective, the Federal Council wrote that “the image of Switzerland among the general population abroad continues to be very positive and largely stable for the vast majority.” They added that the Swiss system of government and quality of life are the main sources of praise across the globe.

However, the country’s reputation and likeability have taken a hit in some countries, especially among those that support Ukraine, like Germany, France and the United States. Interestingly, the Swiss position on the conflict is not popular in Russia either. 

Finally, public perceptions of Switzerland declined most in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. “The reasons for this significantly worse rating for Switzerland are not obvious at first glance. There were no events in Switzerland during the studied period that made negative headlines in the Islamic world," the government noted.

In their view, "The most likely hypothesis is that the deterioration in the perception of Switzerland is due to confusion with Sweden,” the report suggested, given that Sweden saw several anti-Islamic demonstrations and burnings of the Holy Quran earlier in 2023. For more information about the study, check out the official report.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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