Switzerland Country Facts

Switzerland – Suisse – Svizzera
Capital city Bern
Surface 41,284 km²
Population 8,081,000
Road network length 71,345 km
Length of highway network 1,646 km
First highway 1955
Motorway name Autobahn / Autoroute
Traffic drives Right
License plate code CH

Switzerland, formally the Swiss Confederation, is a country on the western side of central Europe. The country has 8.1 million inhabitants on an area the same size as the Netherlands. The capital is Bern; the largest city is Zurich.

Naming

Switzerland has 5 official names;

  • German: Swiss Eidgenossenschaft
  • French: Confédération suisse
  • Italian: Confederazione Svizzera
  • Romansh: Confederaziun svizra
  • Latin: Confoederatio Helvetica

The country uses the neutral Latin CH as an abbreviation.

Geography

Switzerland is located in the Alps, in the transition area between Central, Western and Southern Europe. The country is an inland state (it is not on the sea) and borders clockwise on Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Italy and France. Switzerland measures a maximum of 330 kilometers from west to east and 220 kilometers from north to south. The country has diverse landscapes, but is known for its location in the Alps. The Alps cover the south and east of Switzerland, turning north into the lower Mittelland, which has flat areas. To the northwest is the Jura, which is geologically a different type of mountain range. The Swiss Alps are characterized by high mountains with eternal snow and glaciers. The 4,634 meter high Monte Rosa is the highest mountain in Switzerland and is located on the border with Italy. The highest mountain entirely in Switzerland is located 4,545 meter high Dom. Other well-known mountains are the Matterhorn (4,478 m), Jungfrau (4,158 m) and Piz Bernina (4,049 m), the latter being the easternmost ‘four-thousander’ of the Alps.

The Alps are characterized by deep valleys. There are relatively few high valleys, the most famous example being the Engadine, which is at least 1,800 meters above sea level around St. Moritz. Most valleys in the Alps are lower than 1,200 meters. Large valleys lie both east-west (Valais, Graubünden) and north-south (Bernese Oberland, Wallis, Ticino). The Alps are relatively easy to traverse, the main passage is via the Gotthardpass / Gotthardtunnel.

There are several large lakes in Switzerland, including Lake Constance, which is located in three countries. Lake Geneva, locally known as Lac Léman, is located on the border with France. Lake Maggiore and Lago di Lugano are partly located in Italy. Other large lakes within Switzerland are the Brienzer and Thuner See, the Vierwaldstättersee, the Lac Neuchâtel, the Zürichsee and Walensee. Major rivers are the Rhein, Rhône and Aare. The Inn also has its source in Switzerland. Switzerland drains into the North Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Adriatic Sea and Black Sea.

Switzerland has a temperate climate, which varies according to altitude. The warmest parts are the Rhone Valley in Valais and the southern canton of Ticino, which have a Mediterranean climate. Although precipitation occurs all year round, it is highest in summer. Flooding sometimes occurs after prolonged rainfall, especially on the northern side of the Alps, where weather systems build up and rain out. A mountain ridge can sometimes make a big difference between rainy and sunny weather. In winter, a lot of snow falls in Switzerland, especially in the higher mountains. Snow falls only sporadically in the south of Ticino. This also applies to the lower parts of the Mittelland where it does not snow frequently during all winters.

Switzerland is a confederation of 20 cantons and 6 semi-cantons. The cantons in Switzerland have relatively much power and competences and are more comparable to German federal states than Dutch provinces.

Economy

Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world, with a high income and a stable economy. The country is dominated by the service sector, in the major business centers such as Zurich, Geneva and Bern, but also by intensive tourism. In addition, the country has relatively much industry, the most important industrial city is Basel. Thanks to protectionism, small-scale farming is more common than in the Netherlands or Germany. The main exports are chemicals (34%), machinery and electronics (21%) and precision instruments (including watches and timepieces, 17%). The banking sector is large in Switzerland.

Switzerland has consistently low unemployment and a flexible labor market. Income is one of the highest in the world, with an average of 6,538 CHF per month in 2018. In Switzerland payment is made with the franc (CHF).

Demographics

Switzerland has a high average population density, but the mountainous southern half is predominantly sparsely populated, there are no large cities in the Alps. The population density is high in the Mittelland, a strip from Geneva via Bern and Zurich to St. Gallen. The Zurich region is the most populous. The south of Ticino is also densely populated.

Three languages ​​are widely spoken in Switzerland; German, French and Italian. These have fairly clearly defined boundaries, with little transition area. There is no language war in Switzerland. In Graubünden, Romansh is spoken as a regional language. However, its number of speakers is much smaller than the other national languages, but the language has official status in Switzerland, making the country officially quadrilingual. Due to the geography, the exchange between German and Italian in particular is limited.

The country had 3.3 million inhabitants in 1900, which increased to 4.7 million in 1950, 6.3 million in 1980 and 7.8 million in 2010. German-speaking Swiss make up the majority (64%), followed by French-speaking Swiss (20%) and Italian-speaking Swiss (7%). In Switzerland, more than one in five inhabitants is a foreigner, one of the highest shares in Europe. In addition to immigrants from neighboring countries, there are many immigrants from the Western Balkans.

History

Swiss unification began in the late 13th century, when the cantons of Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden merged into a confederation on August 1, 1291. This date is still the Swiss National Day. In the centuries that followed, more cantons joined the confederation. Switzerland has had its current borders since 1815. In 1848, the Federal Constitution was drafted, heavily influenced by the United States Constitution. Referendums were introduced, with direct democracy from 1891. Switzerland remained neutral during both world wars and was not occupied by neighboring countries. Nazi Germany had detailed plans to occupy Switzerland, but these were not implemented. Switzerland was the last western country where women were allowed to vote, only since 1990 in the last canton of Appenzell-Innerrhoden. Although Switzerland chose not to become a member of the European Union, much legislation has been adapted to EU directives and legislation. In 2008 Switzerland joined the Schengen area. Goods transport still has to go through customs. Systematic checks on persons are no longer allowed.

 

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