Bern, the Swiss capital, being sheltered by the Alps in the background
Quick question: What are the first three things you think of when you hear the word “Switzerland”? The most common answers tend to be The Alps, chocolate, and banking (with watches coming a close fourth).
Having lived in Switzerland for a year, I was shocked to see how rural much of the country is and by “rural” I mean rustic. I was always under the impression that Switzerland has wealthy for most of its several centuries existence but was shocked to learn that it was quite poor until this past century.
Being a strong admirer of Switzerland’s highly autonomous and decentralized political system that quite often relies on localized direct democracy, I learned that their system had much to do with their economic success. A highly skilled workforce combined with high exports, a stable currency and most of all, a stable financial/political regime has allowed Switzerland to prosper and become the envy of the world.