I.Facts and Figures
In a nutshell, Switzerland may be described as a country at the heart of Europe, yet remaining outside of the European Union. It has roughly 8.5 million inhabitants. In terms of national language, 65.6 % of all Swiss inhabitants speak (Swiss) German, 22.8 % French, 8.4 % Italian, and 0.6 % Romansh. Switzerland is divided up into four language regions:
Figure 1: Language Regions2
Article 4 of the Constitution of the Swiss Confederation states: “The National Languages are German, French, Italian, and Romansh.”3 According to Article 70 Constitution, only German, French, and Italian are full-fledged “official languages of the Confederation”. Federal laws are published in these official languages: the three versions are equally binding.4 Romansh is only an official language of the confederation “when communicating with persons who speak Romansh.” This means that federal laws are only issued in German, French, and Italian. Romansh-speaking individuals can, however, address cantonal or federal authorities in Romansh.
The confederation spreads over 41’000 kilometres squared (km²),5 making it just a little bit bigger than Bhutan (38’000km2) and little smaller than the Netherlands (41’500km2). In 2016, Switzerland reported a GDP of 659 Billion USD, which, according to an International Monetary Fund ranking, placed Switzerland at the 20th position worldwide. Further, in terms of its GDP per capita of almost 80’000 USD, Switzerland ranked in second place, closely following Luxembourg.
Switzerland enjoys a positive reputation for its mountains, chocolate, cheese, and watches. Simultaneously, Switzerland and its private banks have long been criticised for offering the wealthy and powerful of this world a safe and secret harbour for their fortunes. In response, efforts have been made to combat money laundering and to weaken the notorious Swiss bank secrecy in recent years.
Switzerland, adhering to its self-imposed policy of neutrality, managed to stay out of two World Wars. The Swiss confederation also hosts international organisations such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the World Health Organisation (WHO), or the International Committee of the Red Cross. Furthermore, sports organisations such as the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), or the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have their seats in Switzerland. Near Geneva, on the Swiss and French border, is the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN),6 an institution operating the largest particle physics laboratory in the world and famously credited with having invented the internet.7 Switzerland’s most renowned university is the ETH, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, located in Zurich and counting 21 Nobel laureates amongst its graduates, including its most famous pupil, Albert Einstein.
Switzerland also boasts some famous inventions such as cellophane, absinthe, LSD, and the potato peeler.8 Tobacco consumption is widespread: according to a WHO report from 2017 almost 25 % of the population are smokers.9 Switzerland also has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world. It is estimated that some 600’000 users get through 100 tonnes of hashish and marijuana each year. The annual consumption of chocolate averages at between 11 and 12 kilos per capita. Switzerland has the third highest level of job security and salary out of all OECD countries. However, it lags behind most western European countries in terms of gender equality: it ranks 24 out of 38 OECD countries for gender inequality in salaries, with a difference of around 17 %. Switzerland is one of only two countries in the world to have a square flag (the other country being the Vatican). Foreigners account for nearly 25 % of the population – one of the highest percentages globally. Military service is still compulsory for male Swiss citizens.10 The Swiss Air Force – according to a 2014 press release that led to international media coverage – is only on duty during office hours, i.e. from 9h-17h.11
2Source: Wikipedia (https://perma.cc/4N9Z-6C9B); originator: Tschubby, translated by Lesqual.
3Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation of 18 April 1999, SR 101; see for an English version of the Constitution www.admin.ch (https://perma.cc/M8UJ-S369).
4Article 14 of the Federal Act on the Compilations of Federal Legislation and the Federal Gazette of 18 June 2004 (Publications Act, PublA), SR 170.512; see for an English version of the Publications Act www.admin.ch (https://perma.cc/RM53–3EGN).
5And over 70 % of it is made up by mountains.
6This stands for: Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire.
7Source: www.theculturetrip.com (https://perma.cc/6Y8X-NE23).
8Source: www.expatica.com (https://perma.cc/N37S-G46N)
9WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2017 (https://perma.cc/MUD5-Q6Q2).
10You can find these and more interesting facts about Switzerland on www.expatica.com (https://perma.cc/N37S-G46N)
11See e.g. Huffington Post (https://perma.cc/JVT9–8NPY).