In Switzerland there are 3,350 mountains which reach higher than 2,200 meters above sea level, as well as 24 glaciers and more than 1,500 crystal-clear lakes. In the north, Switzerland borders Germany; in the east, it borders Liechtenstein and Austria; in the south, there is Italy and in the west there is France.
The name ‘Switzerland’ refers to Schwyz, one of Switzerland’s core cantons. Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden built the original foundation of the ancient Swiss Confederation. The Bundesbrief – the oldest preserved document of alliance, dating back to 1291 – represents the unofficial and mythologized founding document. The modern Swiss Federation has existed since 1848 and since the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Switzerland has officially been referred to as a politically neutral country.
Seven Federal Councils share the executive power in Switzerland, with one being elected each year to stand as President of the Federation. Switzerland consists of 26 cantons, six of which are half cantons. Their democratic system enables the Swiss people to directly influence political life by voting.
There are actually 8.1 million people living in Switzerland, 24% of which are foreigners. With 195 inhabitants per square kilometre, Switzerland is among the most densely populated countries in Europe.
In Switzerland there are four official national languages. About two thirds of its inhabitants speak German (65.6%), followed by French (22.8%), Italian (8.4%) and Romansh (0.6%). Due to the high volume of foreigners, one person in ten speaks a language that differs from the four mentioned above. The country code is CH, an abbreviation for the Latin ‘Confoederatio Helvetica’. In this way, none of the four official languages is preferred.
Culture & Customs
Switzerland is too diverse to be considered as having a single culture (especially due to the different linguistic areas and the geographical setting). Consequently, every region has its own traditions and festivities, along with a great variety of culinary specialities.
Switzerland’s official currency is the Swiss Franc. Along with the US-Dollar, the Euro, the Pound and the Yen, the Swiss Franc is one of the world’s most important currencies. Reaching a gross domestic product of about 58,000 US Dollars per person, Switzerland is among the most prosperous countries on earth. The unemployment rate is set at about 3.8%.
Facts & Figures
- Inhabitants: ca. 8.1 Mio.
- Size: 41,293 km2
- Capital: Berne (Canton of Berne), 127,600 inhabitants
- Largest city: Zurich (Canton of Zurich), 336,800 inhabitants
- Smallest village: Zumdorf (Canton of Uri), 4 inhabitants
- Highest village: Juf (Canton of Graubünden), 2,126 m above sea level
- Borderline: 1,881 km2
- Distances: north-south 220 km / east-west 348 km
- Highest mountain: Dufourspitze (Canton of Valais), 4,634 m above sea level
- Largest lake: Lake of Geneva, 582 km2
- Largest glacier: Aletschgletscher (Canton of Valais), ca. 81 km2
- Longest river: Rhine, 375 km in Switzerland (totally 1,239 km)