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Switzerland: Country and Foreign Investment

Population, Language and Culture

This page was last updated on 7 April 2021.

Despite being largely mountainous, Switzerland is quite a densely populated country; the latest population estimate (November 2017) is 8.5 million. A large majority of these people live on the Swiss plateau, which covers all the northern and western parts of the country and contains all the major cities (the capital Berne, the largest city, Zurich, and Geneva, Lausanne and Basle). The area around Zurich is particularly densely populated.

There are also isolated pockets of population elsewhere; this isolation has arguably led to the anarcho-syndicalist tendencies of the country. Despite some of them being tiny, each of the 26 primary political divisions (cantons) has its own government and legal system.

Switzerland lies at the meeting point of three great European languages: French, German and Italian. The dialects of these languages as spoken in Switzerland diverge from the standard versions, especially in the case of Swiss German. Some dialects of Swiss German are barely comprehensible to other German speakers. There is a fourth official language, Romansh, which, as its name suggests, is a Romance language like French and Italian.

The four official languages are spoken by percentages of the population as follows: German 63%, French 23%, Italian 9% and Romansh 0.6%. There are also first language speakers of Albanian, Spanish, Portuguese, Serbo-Croat and many other languages. Many of the Swiss speak two, three or four languages, often one of those languages being English, which is especially common in business and professional circles.

Switzerland has been described as a nation which is not united in terms of ethnic heritage, language or religion but which is still united and prosperous. Although the culture could be described as a blend of German, French and Italian influences the distinct ethnic strands represent a considerable obstacle to the emergence of any homogeneous cultural identity.

This is further illustrated by religion: about two-thirds of the population is Christian, with 38% being Catholic and 27% belonging to Protestant denominations. Both callings are found throughout the country; some areas are strongly Catholic or Protestant, others are mixed. About 5% of the population is Muslim, and smaller numbers are Orthodox Christian, Jewish and Buddhist.



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