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Country information

This section gives a broad overview of Switzerland's generic characteristics, its Location, Capital, Area, Climate, Population, Ethnic make-up, Religions, Government, and Languages spoken including local dialects.

Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura mountains.  The state is situated in western central and southern Europe bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. 

Officially Switzerland has no capital but a “Federal Headquarters” in Bern (de facto)

41,285 km 2 (15, 940 square miles)

The Swiss climate is generally temperate, but can vary greatly between different localities from glacial conditions in the mountains, to often pleasant, near Mediterranean, climate at Switzerland’s southern tip.  Summers tend to be warm and humid at times with periodic rainfall so they are ideal for pastures and grazing. 

8,327,126 (2015 census)

202/km2 (523.2/square miles)

Switzerland has four official languages – German, French, Italian and Romansh and all those are designated in Article 4 of the Federal Constitution.  More than 2/5th of the permanent resident population speaks more than one language regularly. Other languages present and spoken at home include English, Portuguese, Albanian, Serbian and Croatian, Spanish and Turkish.

As of 2012, resident foreigners made up 23.3% of the population, and of this group 64% were from EU or EFTA countries. Italians were the largest single group with 15.6%, closely followed by Germans 15, 2%, Portuguese 12.7%, France 5.6%, Serbia 5.3%, Turkey 3.8%, Spain 3.7%, and Austria 2%. From the 6.3% of Asian origin, the largest number of immigrants are from Sri Lanka, most former Tamil refugees.

Switzerland has no official state religion but, unlike all other cantons, only two cantons (Geneva and Neuchatel) do not recognise any official churches. 71.5% of the population is made up of Christian religions, Roman Catholic (38%), Swiss Reformed (26%), Eastern Orthodox (2.2%), Evangelical Protestant (1.75), Lutheran (1.0%) and others.  There are 6.5% of non-Christian faiths, (5%) being Islam, (0.5%) Buddhism, Hindi (0.5%) and Jewish (0.2%). The remaining 22% are those that are non-affiliated including atheist, and agnostics. 

CHF (Swiss Franc)

Federal semi-direct democracy under a multi-party parliamentary directorial republic

Federal Assembly alongside Upper House (Council of States), Lower House (National Council)

Motto:

“Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno” – Latin “One for all, all for one”

 

Anthem:

“Swiss Psalm”

The English name Switzerland is a compound containing Switzer which is now an obsolete term for the Swiss which was used from 16th to 19th centuries.  The reason why CH is used as an abbreviation for Switzerland, is that it comes from Confederation Helvetica. Helvetica is derived from the Helvetii, a Gaulish tribe living on the Swiss plateau before the Roman era.  The name Switzer is from the Alemannic Schwuzer, in origin an inhabitant of Schwyz its associated territory, one of the Waldstatten cantons which formed the nucleus of the Old Swiss Confederacy.  The name was extended to the area dominated by the canton and after the Swabian War of 1499 gradually came to be used for the entire Confederation.