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Information about Switzerland

Geographic site: Switzerland is a small, culturally-diverse country right in the middle of western Europe. It is surrounded by its neighbours Germany, France, Italy and Austria.  

Population: Switzerland has a permanent resident population of some 7.7 million, 22% of whom are foreign nationals. It is a densely populated country (170 persons per square kilometer) with most people living on the Central Plateau. However, some parts of the country (mainly in the mountainous areas) are sparsely populated, or have no human population at all. One third of the population live in or around Switzerland’s six major cities - Zurich, Basel, Geneva, Bern, Lausanne and Lucerne. One third live in other urban centers, while the remaining third live in rural areas.

Cities: Zürich, is the home of Switzerland's largest banks and insurance companies. It is also the center of Swiss technology. Basel is famous for its chemical and pharmaceutical companies, while Geneva is home to several hundred international organizations, the most famous being the UNO, WHO, and WTO. It is also a center of private banking and international trade. Bern is Switzerland's capital city and the seat of its federal administration and central bank. Lausanne houses the headquarters of the International Olympic committee and lies in the middle of a wine region. Luzern: Due to its picturesque location on the shore of Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee), within sight of Mount Pilatus and Rigi in the Swiss Alps, Lucerne is a popular destination for tourists.

Politics: The Swiss Confederation is divided into 26 cantons each of which retains considerable autonomy. Every canton has its own constitution, laws, parliament and courts. This decentralized division of power and the attempt to solve issues at the lowest possible level – known as the subsidiary principle – are the cornerstones of the Swiss Confederation.

Language: Switzerland is a multicultural and multilingual country and has four national languages, some of which are spoken more widely than others. Two-third of the population (64%) live in Switzerland’s 17 German-speaking cantons. In addition to speaking standard German, each canton has its own distinct Swiss-German dialect. Western Switzerland (called Romandie) is home to the country’s native French speakers (20%). The cantons of Geneva, Vaud, Neuchâtel and Jura are exclusively French-speaking, while the cantons of Bern, Fribourg and Valais are bilingual (French and German).  Italian (6% of the population) is the official language of Ticino and the southern valleys of Graubünden. Rumantsch: this language is descended from Vulgar Latin and is spoken in the only trilingual canton, Graubünden. Only 0.5% of the Swiss population are native Rumantsch speakers.

Religion: Switzerland is a predominantly Christian state. According to the most recent statistics, 42% of the Swiss population are Catholics and 36% Protestants. Muslims are the third largest religious group.

Climate and time: In Switzerland the climate can vary considerably from one region to another. North of the Alps, the climate is temperate, while south of the Alps it is influenced by the Mediterranean and is therefore much milder. But most of the country has a central European climate, with daytime temperatures around 18° to 28°C in summer (June to September) and -2° to 7°C in winter (December to March). Annual rainfall is well above the European average.

Swiss Food: Few visitors leave Switzerland without dipping into a fondue (from the French verb ‘fondre‘, meaning ‘to melt’). A pot of melted Swiss cheese is placed in the centre of the table and kept on a low heat while diners dip in cubes of crusty bread using two-pronged fondue forks. Specialised restaurants where to get your fondue in Bern: “Le mazot” restaurant, Bärenplatz 5, Bern (open daily, make your reservation by phone: 031 311 70 88) or the  “Lötschberg” restaurant, Zeughausgasse 16, Bern (open daily, make your reservation by phone: 031 311 34 55).

Chocolat: Switzerland's chocolates have earned an international reputation for high quality and it is one of the most savory in the world. Bern’s most famous confectioneries are beck “Glatz Confiseur”, Weyermannsstrasse 24, 3000 Bern and “Confiserie Beeler”, Spitalgasse 29, 3011 Bern.