Switzerland is a federal state that lies at the heart of Europe and is bordered by Germany (to the north), Austria and the Principality of Liechtenstein (to the east), Italy (to the south) and France (to the west).
Switzerland is famed for amongst other things its banks, watch manufactury, delectable chocolate, its characteristic cheese, its cuckoo clocks and of course the Swiss army knife. Switzerland is a country which certainly belies its size in terms of variety, charms and class.
- Currency: Swiss Franc (CHF) = 100 rappen or centimes
- Time Zone: GMT +1
- Official languages: German, French, Italian,
- Telephone Services: Country code +41, International access code 00
From a climate point of view, Switzerland is located in a transition zone. In the west, there is a strong influence of the Atlantic ocean. Winds bring a lot of moisture into Switzerland and cause rainfall. In the east, there is an almost continental climate, with lower temperatures and less precipitation. On the other hand, the alps - which run from east to west - act as a climatic divide. South of the alps, there is an almost Mediterranean climate, with significantly higher temperatures but also a lot of precipitation.
Generally speaking, spring is wet and cool, April is well known for fast and often changing weather conditions. Summer is supposed to be warm and dry with maximum temperature up to 35°C (95°F). The temperature depends primarily on the elevation, the zero line (0°C or 32°F) may raise as high as 4000 meters above sea level (13125 feet). Fall is usually dry, but cool. The temperature will drop significantly in September or October, with the zero line around 2000 meter above sea level (6560 feet). Winter is supposed to be cold and dry. The temperature may drop below 0°C everywhere in Switzerland, especially at night. In the alps, they usually get a lot of snow, but even at lower elevations, there is a good chance that they will get a foot of snow every now and then.
Switzerland is divided into three major geographical areas;
- Alps ("Alpen"): 60%
- Middle land ("Mittelland"): 30%
- Jura: 10%
Switzerland hosts about 20% of the Alps with approximately 100 peaks close to or higher than 4,000 meters. You are never more than 10 miles from a lake in Switzerland as there are more than 15,000 dotted around the country. There are more than 3000km2
of Glaciers and firn in Switzerland unfortunately most of the Glaciers are decreasing.
Foreign resident population by nationality
At year-end, in thousands
|Other European countries
|Serbia and Montenegro
|Stateless, unknown nationality (or not stated)
Since Switzerland has no natural resources, education and knowledge have become very important resources. Therefore Switzerland claims to have one of the world's best education systems. Because the cantons
are responsible for educational services (kindergarten, schools, universities), education may vary significantly between cantons. For example, some cantons start to teach the first foreign language at fourth grade, while others start at seventh grade.
One of the key features of Switzerland is its cultural diversity. The ancestors of the people who live in this country today have their origins in different cultures. The most obvious result of this cultural variety is the fact, that - even if Switzerland is only a small country - there are as much as four different official languages: German (74%), French (20%), Italian (4%) and Romansh (1%) - the remaining 1% speaks other languages.
The economy in Switzerland is divided into three sectors:
Less than 10% of the population is employed in the Landwirtschaft
("agriculture"), also considered the primary sector
. This sector is strongly supported by the government.
About 40% of the population are employed in the Industrie, Gewerbe und Handwerk
("industry, trade and handicraft"), also considered the secondary sector
. This sector includes the Maschinen- und Metallindustrie
("machine and metal industry"), Uhrenindustrie
("watch industry") and the Textilindustrie
("textile industry"). All of them export much of their products to foreign countries and suffer a lot because of the expensive Swiss Franc. The fact that Switzerland does not belong to the European Union additionally slows down the Swiss exports.
More than 50% of the population are employed in the Dienstleistungssektor
("services"), also considered the tertiary sector
. This sector includes banking, assurances, tourism and so on. Banking is one of the most important businesses in Switzerland. Many of the banks have started to use the Internet for business purposes.