Switzerland has long been known as a land of freedom. It was one of the first areas of Europe to break the yolk of feudal serfdom after successfully pulling out of the orbit of the Holy Roman Empire and the Hapsburgs. It continued this tradition as a refuge for Protestants fleeing persecution in France and southern Germany. It is also the most famous internationally neutral nation in the world which makes it a magnet for the rich from around the globe. Ironically, Switzerland’s neutrality, borne of a devastating defeat in Italy in the 16th century and its neutrality in the Thirty Years’ War the following century, was not always so pure. In fact, much of the riches that led to Swiss banking came from the money that flowed in as thousands of its sons served as renowned mercenaries for France and others like the Pope.


Importantly for Black travelers, Switzerland was never a participant of any comparative magnitude in the African slave trade or colonialism. It thus avoided much of the conflicts and oppressive policies that these institutions led to in other European nations and their colonies. It also has a long experience with multicultural co-existence with a decentralized federal government and four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansch. While it has never been a huge magnet for Black Expats such as a France or Germany, it has had its own residents, famous or not, that made Switzerland their temporary home.

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