Schwyz, 10.05.2019

Where does the biggest Swiss National Day celebration take place?

This very website has been set up for the benefit of expats, many articles indicating how much is done by the cantonal authorities and others to help integration. But what of the 760,000 Swiss people who live abroad. How do they get on? What help are they given? At least if they have moved to Austria, Italy, Germany and France, or any of their former colonies, they can still carry on speaking their native language.



Many may wonder why Swiss people would ever want to leave their own country, bearing in mind its picturesque cities and stunning alpine scenery. In fact a survey conducted in 2017 showed that on a scale between 0 (not happy at all) and 10 (very happy) most people here assessed themselves to be at 8.


The 760,000 who live abroad today actually account for 11 per cent of all Swiss people, which means if this diaspora were a separate canton, it would be the fourth largest, population-wise, after Zurich (1.5million), Bern (1 million) and Vaud (800,000), and unlike with expats the United Kingdom, these Swiss people have the right to vote no matter how long they have lived abroad.


All of these interesting facts were pointed out by journalist Flavia Bonanomi in writing about an exhibition about Swiss people who have moved abroad over the centuries which is currently on at the Schweizer Landesmuseum in Schwyz. It is here where it can be discovered that Swiss people left, for example, because they just could not survive here any longer, hence they applied for jobs abroad advertised in the newspapers, while others sought out better education opportunities, left to help huge engineering projects, or for charitable purposes, or purely to seek adventure. “Of course,” as Pia Schubiger of the afore-mentioned museum said, “not all stayed away; some returned.”


Of those who left to help in major engineering project, Jacob Müller of Lucerne left his job on the Nordostbahn railway in1877 to take up a post on the Oriental Railway in Constantinople, eventually becoming in charge of the project. Some of his medals and a poster of the Orient Express on display at the museum. And Karl Krüsi of Appenzell left Switzerland in1874 to work on a tobacco plantation in Sumatra run by his cousin (photograph).


From tablets available at the museum, it can be read, for example, how a farmer from Bern, Eva Hefti, left her home canton to emigrate to New Zealand, while Daisy Gilardini of the Ticino left for Canada. Even as late as the Fifties several thousand people from the canton of Schwyz left to start a new life in the United States. Indeed, in 2015, there were hundreds of families with the (Swiss) surnames, Fuchs, Kälin and Zehnder living in Kentucky.


As mentioned, some people left for charitable purposes, such as Olympe Rittener who left Switzerland for Siberia in1883 to teach French. While Thomas Davatz left his home canton of Graubünden for Brazil in1855, he returned home two years later. And it was Cäsar Ritz of Wallis who set off for Paris in1867 who worked his way up from a waiter to directing the renowned hotel which bears his name there.


Furthermore, the agricultural colony of Baradero in Argentine was not set up in1856 by locals, but by Swiss people.


As to where the largest 1 August celebration takes place, the answer is in Canada.