There is something super enjoyable about saying the word “Liechtenstein” (Leeck-ten-shtine). Go ahead, say it out loud and see if you agree. Our recent tour took us to Liechtenstein, where we enjoyed a gorgeous lunch of a bright salad, traditional beef stroganoff, and fresh panna cotta with strawberries. Our dining room was part way up the Alps in a sunny room wrapped in windows that leaned out over the mountainous terrain. The setting provided us with unobscured views of the Rhine River valley.
The opportunity to visit a new country got our travelers digging. What was the story behind this tiny country that borders Switzerland and Austria? Besides the undeniable fact that Lichtenstein is a fun word to say, we discovered that there are plenty of fun reasons to talk about it.
TEN FUN FACTS ABOUT LIECHTENSTEIN
The Economy. Low taxes and a favorable business environment have spurred incredible economic growth. The country boasts the highest per capita GDP (in 2016 it was 6.215 billion or $164,993 US per person), ZERO government debt, and the lowest unemployment rate worldwide (1.5). It is also among the most advanced industrialized countries in the world. There is one business for every 8 citizens, the highest proportion of businesses per capita anywhere in the world. One of the industries that has seen enormous success is the production and distribution of false teeth. More than 20% of international sales and 40% of Europe’s supply of false teeth come from Liechtenstein.
A Brilliant Ad Campaign. In 2011 Liechtenstein partnered with a marketing company and AirBnB to offer the entire country for rent at 70,000 euros per night. Quite a bargain given that you were awarded a symbolic key to the state, a wine tasting with the prince, customized street signs and currency, and up to 150 guests for an overnight stay. Surprisingly, no one took advantage of the opportunity.
One of the World’s Lowest Crime Rates. If you look up statistics for crime rates in Liechtenstein, you will discover that the percentage of crime is listed as 0.00. While this isn’t a true picture (there are a small number of reported crimes), the last murder occurred in 1997, and most residents don’t even lock their front doors. The total police force for the country is composed of just 91 officers.
Blacklisted – Liechtenstein was flagged by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 1999 for failing to fight money-laundering. However, in 2006 after massive reforms initiated by the Prince, Liechtenstein was once again in relatively good standing with the international community.
Strictly enforced nap time. In Liechtenstein, afternoon siesta is the law. The disruption of sleep simply isn’t tolerated between noon and 1:30 pm. That means no leaf blowers, no bells, and no loud festivities.
“Your Serene Highness”. Prince Hans-Adam II, the Prince of Liechtenstein, is one of the 500 wealthiest people worldwide and his is among the richest of all of the royal families (Queen Elizabeth has less than 1/10th the fortune that Hans-Adam II has). He doesn’t pay any taxes, has the ability to veto popular vote, and has enjoyed terrific financial success as a result of his interests in a private bank. The Prince’s bank, LGT, “is the biggest family-owned bank. The combination of legacy, along with his good business sense, has resulted in Hans-Adam II accumulating a fortune worth about 12 billion dollars. The prince lives in Vaduz Castle, a private residence that is not open to the public except on the day of national celebration where people are invited to the castle grounds for free beer and political speeches.
Girl Power? – Liechtenstein is not the most politically progressive country. Women only (barely) got permission to vote in national elections in 1984. Their first female voting cycle was not until 1986.
Clubbing – Liechtenstein has a long tradition of participation in societies and clubs. Pretty much every kind of interest, from sports to culture, is represented in an organization. More than 15,000 of Liechtenstein’s 35,000 citizens are members of clubs.
Citizenship – With low crime rates, enforced nap times and high levels of employment, does Liechtenstein sound like an ideal place to live? Not so fast. It is one of the hardest countries to immigrate to. Citizenship by naturalization takes 30 years of residency and you must renounce your other citizenship. It is possible to bypass the 30-year requirement after 10 years of residency through an election process approved by the voting public. Final approval is required by Parliament and the Prince.
Twinsies – Liechtenstein added a crown to its flag when the country discovered at the 1936 Summer Olympics that it had the exact same flag as Haiti (two horizontal bands of red and blue). Liechtenstein is the smallest country in the world to have won a medal at the Olympic games. In fact, they have won 10 – more medals per capita than any other nation. The medals were all earned in alpine skiing events.