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A Swiss Girl Called Heidi

Switzerland is famous for its mountains, chocolate, watches and cheeses but have you ever wondered if there are any famous Swiss people? In sports Roger Federer is well known and loved all around the globe, Henry Dunant founded the Red Cross and had great impact on world health, Julius Maggi changed the kitchens of the world with his Maggi sauce, and Sepp Blatter is the (by now controversial) head of FIFA. There are more Swiss people, e.g. scientists and scholars, who have or are well known for their achievements. However, I believe the most famous Swiss person has never actually lived but rather leads a fictional life in many books and television series all over the world: Heidi.

Heidi was created by Swiss author Johanna Spyri and two books covering her adventures and life in Switzerland were first published in 1880. As a young orphan Heidi is sent to live with her grandfather, the Alp-Öhi, who after some initial resentment takes to the girl and grows to love her. Heidi lives through three years full of adventures and experiences in the mountains together with her grandfather and local goatherd Peter. These three years are usually what is depicted in television and films about Heidi even though the original story continues with Heidi being sent to Frankfurt am Main to be a hired companion to Clara.

The most famous spinoff or adaptation of the Heidi books is probably the Japanese television series "Heidi, Girl of the Alpes" that has been broadcast worldwide and translated into many languages. Check out this compilation or one of these languages:
The television series made Heidi so famous that the name "Heidi" and its versions has become quite frequent in countries all over the world. It's common in Sweden, Norway, has variants in Spanish such as Haydee, and is used as Heidi or Heidy in English speaking countries. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if there are some Japanese or Indian Heidis living quiet lives in their countries. The most famous Heidi today is probably German model and celebrity Heidi Klum.




  1. There was an Italian version too! And I have checked with friends from other countries that all the versions were opened by the same tune with the same words!
    It is an amazing piece of Swiss culture available for kids of every language!

    1. Yes! It exists in almost every major language... :)

  2. What a wonderful post. Brings back many memories. I ysed to watch the German version of the Heidi TV series many years ago.

  3. My daughter watches the cartoon version in Italian nowadays! ;)

    1. Great! I recently got introduced to the South American version by a friend... :)

  4. I just found your site looking for expat blogs in Switzerland and love it. I had actually wondered about 'famous' people from Switzerland and the most common name I recognize here is the character Heidi. :) Just moved to Switzerland (near Zurich) from San Francisco and I have a my fashion blog which is now in Swiss mode. It's so fun to see others. Keep up the great site!!


    1. Hey Dale
      Thanks for stopping by. I hope you'll have a great time in Switzerland. If you like cafes you should check out Babu's in Zurich near the main station... :)


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