Information about Switzerland

Its name may have become a synonym for neutrality, but “neutral” would not do Switzerland justice as a descriptor. This small, land-locked country between France, Italy, Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein with the dramatic, Alpine scenery, is a prestigious player in the global market. Far from not having an opinion or voice, Switzerland actually has many different opinions and voices, in many different languages; brought harmoniously together under the motto, “unity, not uniformity”.

The place and the people

The mostly mountainous area of what we know today as Switzerland has been inhabited for about 150,000 years. Apart from the different rural communities living there, it has been progressively colonised by the Helvetians, the Romans and the Alemanni (in various iterations) and occupied by the French. In order to better protect the local communities from outside attacks, the Confederation of the cantons was first founded in 1291, although many changes took place over the centuries. The Switzerland we know today was officially formed in 1848: stretching over just 41,285 km², Switzerland is divided into 26 cantons and 2,352 autonomous municipalities. Despite Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Lausanne being the most famous (and large) cities, the Swiss capital is actually Bern.

Switzerland may be a small country, but it's very densely populated. Today it comprises 8 million people, more than 22% of which are expats/do not have a Swiss passport. In fact, Germans, French and Italian, as well as non-European expats, have greatly influenced the Swiss culture. The country has four official languages: German, French, Italian and Rhaeto-Rumantsch (although German and French are the predominant ones). The majority of people living in Switzerland are Christian (Roman Catholic and Protestant) with an impressive 21% of the population being secular/of no religious affiliation.

Switzerland's climate is moderate, with the four seasons being clearly distinguishable. Precipitations are frequent, often causing snow in winter. July is the hottest month of the year, with temperatures sometimes rising above 30°C (while the average for summer is 18°C-28°C). In the winter, temperatures very rarely go below -2°C. Because of that, the country is equally great to travel to all year long ' whether it's to ski on its many slopes or to enjoy nature's bounty in the spring and summertime.

The economy and politics

Switzerland's form of government is a parliamentary democracy with a direct democracy. There is a National Council of the representatives of the people (200 members) and a Council of States representing the cantons (46 members); these two combined, form the Federal Assembly of Switzerland who elects the Federal Council. The Federal Council is Switzerland's head of state, consisting of 7 members who are elected or re-elected on a four-year basis.

Switzerland has one of the world's most developed and prosperous economies. Despite its lack of raw materials, the Swiss economy has a remarkable performance in fields like micro & biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, as well as finances, banking and insurance services. Its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) amounted to some 678.89 million USD in 2017 and its cities (primarily Zurich and Geneva) are considered among the most expensive in the world. With this affluence, also comes a sense of safety: Switzerland has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. It's no wonder then, that Switzerland is such an attractive destination for expats.