How well do you know your neighbors? We looked into the Alpine Republic’s special relationship with each of them
Right in the heart of Europe there is a country where four languages are spoken as a matter of course. It is Austria’s richest neighbor. The white spot on maps of the EU, Switzerland is a big foreign investor in Austria, last year investing €167 million.
But it’s not only the money that ties the two countries together. Language plays a big role too, although it can be tricky. “I find it funny,” says Swiss-born Leandra Nef, who recently moved to Vienna. “I can only speak Hochdeutsch here – Austrians don’t understand my Swiss-German.” Also, she was surprised by some of the similarities. “Austrians are the same as Swiss [in many ways] – polite and welcoming. And the landscape is the same,” she adds. Not just yodeling down the mountain, but a kind of cultural mentality, including obsessive punctuality.
But perhaps their strongest tie lies in history. The Habsburgs, who succeeded the ruling Babenbergs in Austria in the 13th century, were originally from Switzerland, in the present-day Canton of Aargau. Ever since the Swiss established their federation in 1848, the border between the countries has been one of the safest in Europe. For canny Swiss living close to the border, shopping in Austria is cheaper, despite the lack of specialty cheese shops for fondue and the limited selection of chocolate.
There were 7,800 Swiss nationals calling Austria home last year, but they are far outnumbered by the roughly 64,000 Austrians living in Switzerland. With both countries counting populations of about 8 million, the countries are similar in their shared admiration for neutrality, support for international peacekeeping missions and a distinct protective attitude toward the alpine way of life.
Border with Austria: 158 km, bordering Vorarlberg and Tyrol
Population: 8,417,000 people
Size: 41,285 km2
Trade volume with Switzerland:
Imports from Switzerland: €7.1 billion
Exports to Switzerland: €7.2 billion
Balance: €62 million
Fun fact: Switzerland can accomodate more than its entire population in bunkers.
Click here to read up on Austria’s next neighbor.