About Switzerland

Living in Europe | Access to the culture of the host country/language courses | Switzerland

Schweiz, Suisse, Svizzera, Svizra!

Switzerland is the smallest country in western Europe wiht a surface area of 41'300 km2. Located in the heart of Europe, it shares borders with Germany, France, Italy, Liechtenstein and Austria. Since early in the history of this state its geographical position has been the fundament for broad cultural diversity.

The country code CH is derived from the Latin name Confederatio Helvetica and was introduced at the founding of the modern state in 1848 as the official name of Switzerland, together with the name in the four national languages German, French, Italian and Romansh.

The main geographical features are the Alps, which stretch across the country from the West to the East, and the flat areas, such as Central Switzerland, where more than 75% of the country's total popolation live.

With over one million inhabitants, Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, followed by Basel and Geneva, each of which has a population of just under half a million.

The quality of life in Switzerland is very high with regard to political, economic and social criteria, public services relating to the environment, personal safety, health, education, and transport. The economy is strong and export-oriented. 75% of the population works in the services sector, with 20% in manufacturing and 4% in agriculture.

Significant expenditure in education, as well as in research and development is an important pillar for Switzerland's high reputation in the domains of knowledge and innovation.

Political system

Switzerland's political system is based on federalism and direct democracy. The citizens are autonomous in relation to the state and live an independent life. Political stability, a very good health care system and provisions for retirement provide a high quality of life. For more, see Swiss Confederation ‘The Swiss Confederation - a brief guide'.

Cooperation with the European Union

Switzerland is not a member state of the European Union (EU). Political relations with the EU are conducted on the basis of bilateral sectoral agreements. This allows Switzerland to adopt a policy based on openness and cooperation with its European neighbors. The Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons consists of the basic rules enabling Swiss and EU nationals to live and work in any of the signatory countries. Mobility is also facilitated by the mutual recognition of professional qualifications as well as the coordination of social insurance systems in signatory countries.

Languages and Culture

The four national languages German, French, Italian and Romansh are the basis of the four national cultures and language regions. The language communities have diverse traditions and customs.

Numerous highlights can be discovered in various ways, such as on a virtual tour. Over 1'500 museums and almost 570 cinemas present high quality programmes every year. There are also more than 15'000 yearly concerts, festivals, theatre plays and sports events.

Important fundamental rights in Switzerland

In Switzerland, fundamental rights guarantee that you may not be discriminated against due to your origin, your race, your gender, your religion or your sexual orientation. Men and women have the same rights and are free to choose their occupation or profession and to decide who they want to marry, for example. Everyone also has the right to choose their own religion and have their own philosophy of life.

In turn, however, everyone also has to grant the same right to their fellow human beings. Everyone is entitled to defend themselves against possible discrimination. If conflicts occur, there are information centres which will help you find a solution.