Swiss abroad

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Swiss people living abroad (German: Auslandschweizer; French: Suisses de l’étranger; Italian: Svizzeri all’estero ; Romansh: Svizzers a l’exteriur), also referred to as "fifth Switzerland" (German: Fünfte Schweiz,[1] Italian: Quinta Svizzera, French: Cinquième Suisse, Romansh: Tschintgavla Svizra), alluding to the fourfold linguistic division within Switzerland) account for some 10% of Swiss citizens.

In 2006 (on 31 December), Switzerland had 645,010 citizens registered as residing abroad. 71% of these had dual citizenships. Of these, 389,732 (60%) resided in the European Union. About 498,395 of Swiss residing abroad were adults, 146,615 were minors 18 years old. Of the adult population, 58.2% were female, 41.8% were male. Distributed by continent, 415,000 live in Europe, 169,000 in the Americas, 35,000 in Asia, 28,000 in Oceania and 19,000 in Africa.

Swiss expatriate communities[edit]


The largest number of Swiss immigrants arrived in France between the 1850s and the 1930s. Many of these Swiss settled in Alsace and in the cities of Paris, Marseille and Lyon.[2] There are currently 170,000 Swiss citizens residing in France.[3]

Swiss immigration to France, from 1851 to 1936
Source: Quid 2003, p. 624, b.
Nationality 1851 1891 1901 1921 1926 1931 1936
Swiss 25,485 83,117 72,047 90,000 123,119 98,000 79,000


Significant emigration of Swiss people to the Russian Empire occurred from the late 17th to the late 19th century. The late 18th and early 19th century saw a flow of Swiss farmers forming colonies such as Şaba (Bessarabia, at the Dniester Liman, now part of Ukraine). The Russian-Swiss generally prospered, partly merging with German diaspora populations.


Main article: Swiss Canadian

United States[edit]

Main article: Swiss American

The first Swiss person in what is now the territory of the United States was Theobald von Erlach (1541–1565).[4] Before the year 1820 some estimated 25,000 to 30,000 Swiss entered British North America. Most of them settled in regions of today's Pennsylvania as well as North and South Carolina.

Most Swiss preferred rural villages of the Midwest and the Pacific Coast, where especially the Italian Swiss took part in California's winegrowing culture.[5] Swiss immigration diminished after 1930 because of the Great Depression and World War II.

In 1999 New Glarus, Wisconsin was chosen as the future home of the Swiss Center of North America, a cultural center dedicated to the preservation and celebration of Swiss culture. New Glarus was chosen because of its central location and the large concentration of Swiss Americans in the vicinity. Funds for the centre came from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, State of Wisconsin, Canton of Glarus, and corporations, including General Casualty Insurance, Nestle USA, Novartis, Phillip Morris Europe, and Victorinox.

Latin America[edit]

Main article: Swiss Argentine

By 1940 some 44,000 Swiss had emigrated to Argentina, settling mainly in the provinces of Córdoba and Santa Fe, and to a lesser extent, in Buenos Aires. In 1856 the colony farm of Esperanza was founded in Santa Fe becoming the mother of agricultural colonies in Argentina, and thus beginning a long process of European colonization and immigration on Argentine soil. Current estimates state 150,000 Swiss descendants residing in Argentina.[6]

Main article: Swiss Brazilian

The history of Swiss immigration to Brazil began with the foundation of the colony of Nova Friburgo[7] in 1819. Nova Friburgo was the first colonial company contracted by the Portuguese government. The immigrant colonists wrote letters for publication in Swiss newspapers of the period, and these documents reveal the migrants' perceptions, information and expectations.

On 4 July 1819 1,088 Swiss, including 830 from the Canton of Fribourg, departed from Estavayer-le-Lac on Lake Neuchâtel. They included Jean-Claude Marchon, his wife Marie Prostasie Chavannaz Marchon, his brother Antoine Marchon and fiancée Marieanne Elizabeth Clerc. They travelled first to Basle, the meeting point of the Swiss Transmigration for Brasil. And then 2.000 Swiss, by the Rhein River, go to Holland and after a lot of peripetia they depart from St. Gravendeel, near Dordrecht, in the Daphne, for the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, on September 11. Their arrival in Rio de Janeiro was on November 4, spending 55 days, a very good time for the epoch. And, finally, they arrive in Morro-Queimado (Burnt Mount) on November 15, 1819 – about 12000 kilometers in 105 days, approximately 114 kilometers a day.

Main article: Swiss Chilean

The percentage of Swiss in Chile is small, despite having a relatively large number of members. This is because their linguistic and cultural characteristics are commonly confused with Germans, Italians and French. Swiss migration to Chile took place at the end of the nineteenth century, between 1883 and 1900, particularly in the area of Araucanía, especially in Victoria and Traiguén. It is estimated that more than 8,000 families received grants of land.[8]

Between April 1876 and May 1877 a contingent of Swiss immigrants comprising 119 families came to the area of Magellanes (Punta Arenas and Fresh Water), mostly peasants from the canton of Fribourg.[9]

Later, during the period from 1915 to 1950, was the last recorded mass exodus of Swiss to Chile. 30,000 people settled in the central area of the country, primarily in Santiago and Valparaíso.[10] There are currently 5,000 Swiss citizens residing in Chile and 90,000 Swiss descendants.[11]

Main article: Swiss Venezuelan

Joaquin Ritz and Melchor Grubel arrived in Venezuela in 1529 and 1535 respectively - the first Swiss who came to South America. As of 2009, 1,900 Swiss citizens lived in Venezuela.[12]



Suzanne Rahaman Aeby (b. 1954 Freibourg), a former nurse, is the mother of Pengiran Anak Sarah, the wife of Brunei's Crown Prince, Al-Muhtadee Billah.


Dr. Beat Richner (b. 1947) is a Swiss pediatrician, cellist, and founder of several children's hospitals in Cambodia. Richner worked at the Kantha Bopha Children's Hospital in Phnom Penh in 1974 and 1975. When the Khmer Rouge overran Cambodia, he was forced to return to Switzerland. In 1991, Richner returned to Cambodia and re-opened the children's hospital after a request by the King. He has opened four children's hospitals in Cambodia, Kantha Bopha I and II in Phnom Penh and Jayavarman VII in Siem Reap. Kantha Bopha IV was opened in Phnom Penh in 2005. A 5th hospital is currently being constructed (also in Phnom Penh). He performs free concerts at the Jayavarman VII hospital in Siem Reap on Friday and Saturday nights. During the events, he asks the younger audience members for their blood, the older ones for money, and the ones in between for both. The Kantha Bopha hospitals treat half a million children per year free of charge. Approx 100,000 seriously ill children are admitted. Japanese encephalitis, malaria, dengue fever and typhoid are common, often exacerbated by the presence of TB. Dr Richner's hospitals are primarily funded by donations from individuals in Switzerland. Richner was named "Swiss of the Year" in 2003.

Sri Lanka

“Schweizerischer Hülfsverein in Ceylon” was founded on 15 September 1933. In the beginning, the main purpose was to provide assistance to needy Swiss citizens. In 1956, the Swiss Circle Colombo was established to promote social activities among Swiss nationals in Ceylon. It is now known as Swiss Circle Sri Lanka.


A number of Swiss people live in Singapore. The Swiss Club in Singapore was established in 1871. The first shooting festival of the Swiss Rifle Shooting Club of Singapore was held during 1871. By 1902 the Swiss Rifle Shooting Club built a simple clubhouse with a palm roof and shooting range on the slopes of Bukit Tinggi. In 1925, the Swiss Rifle Shooting Club became the Swiss Club. In 1927, a new clubhouse was inaugurated. It was built by H R Arbenz and the Club's main restaurant is named after him. It is only Swiss club with its own clubhouse and swimming pool outside Switzerland. It is located at the end of Swiss Club Road just off Bukit Timah Road. There is a Swiss School for elementary students on the same grounds. The Swiss Embassy in Singapore is also nearby. There are a number of Swiss banks and businesses with offices in Singapore. One of the oldest was Diethelm, today DKSH also known as DiethelmKellerSiberHegner headquartered in Zurich. The company today offers sourcing, marketing, sales, distribution and after-sales-services. It has its origin in the activities of three Swiss entrepreneurs who sailed in the 1860s east to East Asia. Independently and within a few years of each other, Wilhelm Heinrich Diethelm set off for Singapore, Eduard Anton Keller for the Philippines and Hermann Siber for Yokohama. In 1871 Wilhelm Heinrich Diethelm joined Hooglandt & Co., Singapore, established in 1860, acquired the company in 1887 and founded Diethelm & Co. Ltd. in Singapore. Other Swiss organizations in Singapore include the Swiss Association of Singapore and the Swiss Business Association Singapore.


There is a Swiss business organization in Vietnam. It espouses economic, business, cultural activities and other interests that are in common with the Association's and Vietnamese authorities.


Over 20,000 people of Swiss origin live in Australia.[13]


As of 2007, a total of 668,107 Swiss citizens (10.0%) were registered as living abroad.[14] A majority (71.5%) held dual citizenship. They were distributed as follows:

  • Europe: 415,268
    • France: 176,723[15]
    • Germany: 75,008
    • Italy 47,953
    • UK: 28,288
    • Spain: 23,324
    • Austria: 13,984
  • Americas: 169,328
  • Asia: 35,745
    • Israel: 13,151
  • Oceania: 28,496
    • Australia: 22,004
  • Africa: 19,270

Self-reported Swiss ancestry or partial ancestry:

Country Population (partial ancestry)  % of country Source
United States Swiss American 997,233 0.3%


Argentina Swiss Argentine 300,000 0.75%


Canada Swiss Canadian 146,830 0.4%


Chile Swiss Chilean 100,000 0.6%


Brazil Swiss Brazilian 80,000 0.04%


Australia Swiss Australian 28,947 0.1%



  1. ^ Marc, Perrenoud (2012-11-13). "Auslandschweizer" [Historical Lexicon of Switzerland] (in German). Retrieved 2013-10-25. "Die Neue Helvetische Gesellschaft (NHG) definierte die A[uslandschweizer] als 'Vierte Schweiz' (die allerdings 1938 mit der Anerkennung des Rätoromanischen als vierte Landessprache zur "Fünften Schweiz" wurde). [The New Helvetic Society defined the Swiss diaspora as 'the Fourth Switzerland' (though this became the 'Fifth Switzerland in 1938 with the recognition of Rhaeto-Romansh as the fourth national language.]" 
  2. ^ (French) "L'immigration suisse se fait vers l'Alsace, très anciennement liée, ou vers les grandes villes : Paris, Marseille et Lyon"
  3. ^ (French) "Bienvenue de l'Ambassadeur", Federal Department of Foreign Affairs,
  4. ^ Swiss Americans
  5. ^ History of Swiss Settlers
  6. ^ Argentinien land der Immigranten
  7. ^ História, Ciências, Saúde-Manguinhos – From Nova Friburgo to Fribourg in writing: Swiss colonization seen by the immigrants
  8. ^ (Spanish) Los suizos del fin del mundo.
  9. ^ Families, mostly peasants from the canton of Freiburg.
  10. ^ (Spanish) Suizos en Chile.
  11. ^ 90,000 Descendants of Swiss in Chile.
  12. ^ Actualmente en Venezuela viven aproximadamente 1900 ciudadanos Suizos. Suizos en Venezuela
  13. ^ In 2001, 22,151 residents in Australia reported Swiss ancestry.[clarification needed] 30.5% cited "no religion", followed by Catholicism (27.3%).
  14. ^ EDA, Auslandschweizerdienst: Auslandschweizerstatistik 2007 nach Wohnländern (PDF; 74 kB)
  15. ^ (French) "Bienvenue de l'Ambassadeur", Federal Department of Foreign Affairs,
  16. ^ 2008 Community Survey
  17. ^ The Swiss Argentine community is the largest group of the Swiss diaspora in Latin America.Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto de la República Argentina. "La emigración suiza a la Argentina (Swiss emigration to Argentina)" (in Spanish). Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  18. ^ Statistics Canada. "2011 National Household Survey: Data tables". Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  19. ^ (Spanish)La inmigración suiza a Chile se desarrolló entre los años 1883 y 1900 y sus protagonistas se situaron particularmente en las emergentes ciudades sureñas de Victoria y Traiguén, estimándose en 8.000 familias las que recibieron concesiones de tierras en dicha zona donde constituyeron 31 colonias que alcanzaron inicialmente a sumar 22 700 personas y cuya descendencia actual supera los 100.000 ciudadanos, la mayor de América Latina".
  20. ^ História, Ciências, Saúde-Manguinhos - From Nova Friburgo to Fribourg in writing: Swiss colonization seen by the immigrants
  21. ^ Australian Censis 2011 11,943 by birth 28,947 by ancestry