Swiss Facts

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Population: 8,389,066  For more visit Worldmeters

Official Languages: French

Area: 41,285 km²

Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation) is a federal republic in Europe. While still named the “Swiss Confederation” for historical reasons, modern Switzerland is a federal directorial republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities, called ‘”federal city” (German: Bundesstadt, French: Ville féderale, Italian: Capitale federale). The country is situated in Western and Central Europe, and is bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning an area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately eight million people is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities are to be found: among them are the two global and economic centers Zürich and Geneva. The establishment of the Swiss Confederation is traditionally dated to 1 August 1291, which is celebrated annually as the Swiss National Day. The country has a long history of armed neutrality—it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815—and did not join the United Nations until 2002. Nevertheless, it pursues an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world. In addition to being the birthplace of the Red Cross, Switzerland is home to numerous international organizations, including the second largest UN office. On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association, but notably it is not part of the European Union, nor the European Economic Area. However, the country does participate in the Schengen Area and the EU’s single market through a number of bilateral treaties. Spanning the intersection of Germanic and Romance Europe, Switzerland comprises four main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Although the majority of the population are German speaking, Swiss national identity is rooted in a common historical background, shared values such as federalism and direct democracy, and Alpine symbolism.[11][12] Due to its linguistic diversity, Switzerland is known by a variety of native names: Schweiz [ˈʃvaɪts] (German); (French); Svizzera [ˈzvittsera] (Italian); and Svizra  (Romansh). Switzerland is one of the most developed countries in the world, with the highest nominal wealth per adult and the eighth-highest per capital gross domestic product according to the IMF. Switzerland ranks at or near the top globally in several metrics of national performance, including government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic competitiveness, and human development. Zürich and Geneva have each been ranked among the top cities in the world in terms of quality of life, with the former ranked second globally, according to Mercer.

Currency: Swiss franc

 

Cuisine

The cuisine of Switzerland is multifaceted. While some dishes such as fondue, raclette or rösti are omnipresent through the country, each region developed its own gastronomy according to the differences of climate and languages. Traditional Swiss cuisine uses ingredients similar to those in other European countries, as well as unique dairy products and cheeses such as Gruyère or Emmental, produced in the valleys of Gruyères and Emmental. The number of fine-dining establishments is high, particularly in western Switzerland. Chocolate has been made in Switzerland since the 18th century but it gained its reputation at the end of the 19th century with the invention of modern techniques such as conching and tempering which enabled its production on a high quality level. Also a breakthrough was the invention of solid milk chocolate in 1875 by Daniel Peter. The Swiss are the world’s largest consumers of chocolate. Due to the popularization of processed foods at the end of the 19th century, Swiss health food pioneer Maximilian Bircher-Benner created the first nutrition-based therapy in form of the well-known rolled oats cereal dish, called Birchermüesli. The most popular alcoholic drink in Switzerland is wine. Switzerland is notable for the variety of grapes grown because of the large variations in terroirs, with their specific mixes of soil, air, altitude and light. Swiss wine is produced mainly in Valais, Vaud (Lavaux), Geneva and Ticino, with a small majority of white wines. Vineyards have been cultivated in Switzerland since the Roman era, even though certain traces can be found of a more ancient origin. The most widespread varieties are the Chasselas (called Fendant in Valais) and Pinot noir. The Merlot is the main variety produced in Ticino.

 

Culture


Switzerland lies at the crossroads of several major European cultures. Three of the continent’s major languages, German, French and Italian, are national languages of Switzerland, along with Romansh, spoken by a small minority. Therefore, Swiss culture is characterized by diversity, which is reflected in a wide range of traditional customs. The 26 cantons also account for the large cultural diversity. Not withstanding the regional disparities, the Alps have played an essential role in shaping the history and culture of Switzerland. The region of the Gotthard Pass became the nucleus of the Swiss Confederacy in the early 14th century. Nowadays, all mountain areas of Switzerland have a strong skiing and mountaineering culture and are associated with folk arts such as alphorn and yodeling. Other Swiss cultural icons include Swiss chocolate, Swiss cheese, Watches, Cowbell and the Swiss Army knife.

 

Chocolate

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Swiss chocolate refers to chocolate produced in Switzerland. While cacao beans and other ingredients such as sugar can originate from outside of Switzerland, the actual production of the chocolate must take place in Switzerland. Switzerland’s chocolates have earned an international reputation for high quality with many famous international brands. The 17th century saw the start of chocolate processed in Switzerland. In the 18th century chocolate was only produced in a few areas, such as the Ticino. In the second half of the 19th century Swiss Chocolate started to spread abroad. Closely linked to this was the invention of Milk Chocolate by Daniel Peter in Vevey and the invention of the conching by Rodolphe Lindt. From the 19th century until the First World War and throughout the Second World War the Swiss chocolate industry was very export-oriented. After the Second World War Switzerland began to outsource production due to commercial restrictions.Today most Swiss chocolate is consumed by the Swiss themselves (54% in 2000), and Switzerland has the highest per capital rate of chocolate consumption worldwide (11.6 kg (25.6 lbs.) per capital per annum). In 2004 148,270 tonnes of chocolate were produced in Switzerland. 53% of this was exported (20% to Germany, 11% to France and Great Britain and 13% to North America). The gross income of the Swiss chocolate industry in 2004 was 1.37 billion CHF (814 million from the local market, 551 million from exports).

 

Economy


Switzerland has a stable, prosperous and high-tech economy and enjoys great wealth, being ranked as the wealthiest country in the world per capita in multiple rankings. In 2011 it was ranked as the wealthiest country in the world in per capital terms (with “wealth” being defined to include both financial and non-financial assets), while the 2013 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report showed that Switzerland was the country with the highest average wealth per adult in 2013. It has the world’s nineteenth largest economy by nominal GDP and the thirty-sixth largest by purchasing power parity. It is the twentieth largest exporter, despite its small size. Switzerland has the highest European rating in the Index of Economic Freedom 2010, while also providing large coverage through public services. The nominal per capita GDP is higher than those of the larger Western and Central European economies and Japan. If adjusted for purchasing power parity, Switzerland ranks 8th in the world in terms of GDP per capital, according to the World Bank and IMF (ranked 15th according to the CIA Worldfactbook. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report currently ranks Switzerland’s economy as the most competitive in the world, while ranked by the European Union as Europe’s most innovative country. For much of the 20th century, Switzerland was the wealthiest country in Europe by a considerable margin (by GDP – per capita). In 2007 the gross median household income in Switzerland was an estimated 137,094 USD at Purchasing power parity while the median income was 95,824 USD. Switzerland also has one of the world’s largest account balances as a percentage of GDP. (by assets), while the Société Générale group was ranked the world’s eighth largest in 2009.

Environment


Switzerland’s ecosystems can be particularly fragile, because the many delicate valleys separated by high mountains often form unique ecologies. The mountainous regions themselves are also vulnerable, with a rich range of plants not found at other altitudes, and experience some pressure from visitors and grazing. The climatic, geological and topographical conditions of the alpine region make for a very fragile ecosystem that is particularly sensitive to climate change. Nevertheless, according to the 2014 Environmental Performance Index, Switzerland ranks first among 132 nations in safeguarding the environment, due to its high scores on environmental public health, its heavy reliance on renewable sources of energy (hydropower and geothermal energy), and its control of greenhouse gas emissions.

 

 

Government

The politics of Switzerland take place in the framework of a multi-party federal directorial democratic republic, whereby the Federal Council of Switzerland is the collective head of government and head of state. Executive power is exercised by the government and the federal administration and is not concentrated in any one person. Federal legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Switzerland is the closest state in the world to a direct democracy. For any change in the constitution, a referendum is mandatory (mandatory referendum); for any change in a law, a referendum can be requested (optional referendum). Through referenda, citizens may challenge any law voted by federal parliament and through federal popular initiative introduce amendments to the federal constitution. The same system is used for the three administrative levels of municipality, canton and country. If the community is small enough like in small villages, the parliament representing the people does not exist. Also the ordinary law does then not exist, only the constitution of the village. The term “council” is used ambiguously, sometimes it refers to legislation, i.e. parliament, sometimes to the execution, i.e. government.

 

 

Health

Swiss citizens are universally required to buy health insurance from private insurance companies, which in turn are required to accept every applicant. While the cost of the system is among the highest it compares well with other European countries in terms of health outcomes; patients who are citizens have been reported as being, in general, highly satisfied with it. In 2012, life expectancy at birth was 80.4 years for men and 84.7 years for women  — the highest in the world. However, spending on health is particularly high at 11.4% of GDP (2010), on par with Germany and France (11.6%) and other European countries, and notably less than spending in the USA (17.6%).  From 1990, a steady increase can be observed, reflecting the high costs of the services provided. With an ageing population and new healthcare technologies, health spending will likely continue to rise.

 

 

Language

Switzerland has four official languages: principally German (spoken by 63.5% of the population in 2013); French (22.5%) in the west; and Italian (8.1%) in the south.[149] The fourth official language, Romansh (0.5%), is a Romance language spoken locally in the southeastern trilingual canton of Graubünden, and is designated by Article 4 of the Federal Constitution as a national language along with German, French, and Italian, and in Article 70 as an official language if the authorities communicate with persons who speak Romansh. However, federal laws and other official acts do not need to be decreed in Romansh. In 2013, the languages most spoken at home among permanent residents aged 15 and older were Swiss German (60.1%), French (23.4%), Standard German (10.1%), and Italian (8.4%). More than two-fifths (42.6%) of the permanent resident population indicated speaking more than one language regularly. Other languages spoken at home included English (4.6%), Portuguese (3.5%), Albanian (2.6%), Serbian and Croatian (2.5%), Spanish (2.2%), and Turkish. The federal government is obliged to communicate in the official languages, and in the federal parliament simultaneous translation is provided from and into German, French and Italian. Aside from the official forms of their respective languages, the four linguistic regions of Switzerland also have their local dialectal forms. The role played by dialects in each linguistic region varies dramatically: in the German-speaking regions, Swiss German dialects have become ever more prevalent since the second half of the 20th century, especially in the media, such as radio and television, and are used as an everyday language, while the Swiss variety of Standard German is almost always used instead of dialect for written communication (c.f. diglossic usage of a language). Conversely, in the French-speaking regions the local dialects have almost disappeared (only 6.3% of the population of Valais, 3.9% of Fribourg, and 3.1% of Jura still spoke dialects at the end of the 20th century), while in the Italian-speaking regions dialects are mostly limited to family settings and casual conversation. The principal official languages (German, French, and Italian) have terms, not used outside of Switzerland, known as Helvetisms. German Helvetisms are, roughly speaking, a large group of words typical of Swiss Standard German, which do not appear either in Standard German, nor in other German dialects. These include terms from Switzerland’s surrounding language cultures (German Billette from French), from similar term in another language (Italian azione used not only as act but also as discount from German Aktion). The French spoken in Switzerland has similar terms, which are equally known as Helvetisms. The most frequent characteristics of Helvetisms are in vocabulary, phrases, and pronunciation, but certain Helvetisms denote themselves as special in syntax and orthography likewise. Duden, one of the prescriptive sources for Standard German, is aware of about 3000 Helvetisms. Current French dictionaries, such as the Petit Larousse, include several hundred Helvetisms. Learning one of the other national languages at school is compulsory for all Swiss pupils, so many Swiss are supposed to be at least bilingual, especially those belonging to linguistic minority groups.

 

Sports

Skiing, snowboarding and mountaineering are among the most popular sports in Switzerland, the nature of the country being particularly suited for such activities. Winter sports are practiced by the natives and tourists since the second half of the 19th century with the invention of bobsleigh in St. Moritz. The first world ski championships were held in Mürren (1931) and St. Moritz (1934). The latter town hosted the second Winter Olympic Games in 1928 and the fifth edition in 1948. Among the most successful skiers and world champions are Pirmin Zurbriggen and Didier Cuche. The Switzerland national football team lining up against Argentina in 2012 Most prominently watched sport events in Switzerland are football, ice hockey, Alpin skiing, “Schwingen”, and tennis. The headquarters of the international football’s and ice hockey’s governing bodies, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) and International Ice Hockey Federation(IIHF), are located in Zürich. Actually many other headquarters of international sports federatios are to be found in Switzerland. For example, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), IOC’s Olympic Museum and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) are located in Lausanne. Switzerland hosted the 1954 FIFA World Cup, and was the joint host, with Austria, of the Euro 2008 tournament. The Swiss Super Leagueis the nation’s professional football club league. Europe’s highest football pitch, at 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) above sea level, is located in Switzerland and is named the Ottmar Hitzfeld Stadium. Many Swiss also follow ice hockey and support one of the 12 clubs in the League A, which is the most attended league in Europe. In 2009, Switzerland hosted the IIHF World Championship for the 10th time. It also became World Vice-Champion in 2013. The numerous lakes make Switzerland an attractive place for sailing. The largest, Lake Geneva, is the home of the sailing team Alinghi which was the first European team to win the America’s Cup in 2003 and which successfully defended the title in 2007. Tennis has become an increasingly popular sport, and Swiss players such as Martina Hingis, Roger Federer, and most recently, Stanislas Wawrinka have won multiple Grand Slams. Swiss professional wrestler Claudio Castagnoli is currently signed with WWE, and is a former United States champion. In a nine-year span, Roger Federer has won a record 17 Grand Slam singles titles, making him the most successful men’s tennis player ever. Motorsport racecourses and events were banned in Switzerland following the 1955 Le Mans disaster with exception to events such as Hillclimbing. During this period, the country still produced successful racing drivers such as Clay Regazzoni, Sébastien Buemi, Jo Siffert, Dominique Aegerter, successful World Touring Car Championship driver Alain Menu,2014 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Marcel Fässler and 2015 24 Hours Nürburgring winner Nico Müller. Switzerland also won the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport in 2007–08 with driver Neel Jani. Swiss motorcycle racer Thomas Lüthi won the 2005 MotoGP World Championship in the 125cc category. In June 2007 the Swiss National Council, one house of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland, voted to overturn the ban, however the other house, the Swiss Council of States rejected the change and the ban remains in place. Traditional sports include Swiss wrestling or “Schwingen”. It is an old tradition from the rural central cantons and considered the national sport by some. Hornussen is another indigenous Swiss sport, which is like a cross between baseball and golf. Steinstossen is the Swiss variant of stone put, a competition in throwing a heavy stone. Practiced only among the alpine population since prehistoric times, it is recorded to have taken place in Basel in the 13th century. It is also central to the Unspunnenfest, first held in 1805, with its symbol the 83.5 kg stone named Unspunnenstein.

Transport


Being in the center of Europe, Switzerland has a dense network of roads and railways. The Swiss public transport network has a total length of 24,500 kilometers and comprises more than 2600 stations and stops. The crossing of the Alps is an important route for European transportation, as the Alps separate Switzerland from some of its neighbors. Alpine railway routes began in 1882 with the Gotthard Rail Tunnel, followed in 1906 by the Simplon Tunnel. The Lötschberg Base Tunnel opened in 2007. The Gotthard Base Tunnel opened in 2016. The crossing of the Alps is an important route for European transportation, as the Alps separate Switzerland from some of its neighbors. Alpine railway routes began in 1882 with the Gotthard Rail Tunnel, followed in 1906 by the Simplon Tunnel. The Lötschberg Base Tunnel opened in 2007. The Gotthard Base Tunnel opened on June 1, 2016. The Swiss road network is funded by road tolls and vehicle taxes. The Swiss motorway system requires the purchase of a road tax disc – which costs 40 Swiss francs – for one calendar year in order to use its roadways, for both passenger cars and trucks. The Swiss motorway network has a total length of 1,638 kilometres (as of 2000) and has also – with an area of 41,290 km2 – one of the highest motorway densities in the world.Zurich Airport is Switzerland’s largest international flight gateway, handling 24.9 million passengers in 2013. The second largest airport, Geneva Cointrin, handled 14.4 million passengers (2013) and the third largest Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg Airport 6.5 million passengers, both airports being shared with France. Switzerland has approved billions of Francs for the improvement of its public transportation infrastructure. The modal split for public transportation is one of the highest in Europe, standing at 21.3% in 2010. In many cities with a population above 100,000, the modal split for public transportation lies above 50%.

 

Weather

The Swiss climate is generally temperate, but can vary greatly between the localities, from glacial conditions on the mountaintops to the often pleasant near Mediterranean climate at Switzerland’s southern tip. There are some valley areas in the southern part of Switzerland where some cold-hardy palm trees are found. Summers tend to be warm and humid at times with periodic rainfall so they are ideal for pastures and grazing. The less humid winters in the mountains may see long intervals of stable conditions for weeks, while the lower lands tend to suffer from inversion, during these periods, thus seeing no sun for week. A eather phenomenon known as the föhn (with an identical effect to the chinook wind) can occur at all times of the year and is characterized by an unexpectedly warm wind, bringing air of very low relative humidity to the north of the Alps during rainfall periods on the southern face of the Alps. This works both ways across the alps but is more efficient if blowing from the south due to the steeper step for oncoming wind from the south. Valleys running south to north trigger the best effect. The driest conditions persist in all inner alpine valleys that receive less rain because arriving clouds lose a lot of their content while crossing the mountains before reaching these areas. Large alpine areas such as Graubünden remain drier than pre-alpine areas and as in the main valley of the Valais wine grapes are grown there.The wettest conditions persist in the high Alps and in the Ticino canton which has much sun yet heavy bursts of rain from time to time. Precipitation tends to be spread moderately throughout the year with a peak in summer. Autumn is the driest season, winter receives less precipitation than summer, yet the weather patterns in Switzerland are not in a stable climate system and can be variable from year to year with no strict and predictable periods.

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