35 facts about Switzerland

35 facts about Switzerland

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This mix of informative and interesting facts will prepare you for life in Switzerland, or test yourself on how well you know the Swiss!

  1. Switzerland's climate is not all about snowy mountains –  there's no excessive heat, cold or humidity, and varies according to region. In the north, the climate is moderate, with cold winters and warm summers; temperatures drop in the mountainous east; the west has a mild climate; while in the south it's so warm that palm trees line the shore of Lake Lugano. As a guide, expect daytime temperatures from 18–28°C (65–85°F) during July and August, in January and February -2–7°C (28-45°F) and in spring and autumn/fall 8–15°C (46–59°F).

  2. Switzerland is also known as Confoederatio Helvetica – which explains the abbreviation CH.

  3. Switzerland has 26 cantons – the federal states of the Swiss confederation. They vary greatly in size, population and character: the canton of Geneva comprises just one city; the canton of Uri is entirely mountains and valleys; the population of the Zurich canton is over a million while the people of Appenzell Inner-Rhodes would fit into a football stadium.

  4. The Swiss currency is not the euro – Switzerland uses the Swiss franc (CHF). As at October 2013, one Swiss franc is worth around EUR 0.81/USD 1.10/GBP 0.68.

  5. Switzerland has one of the lowest crime rates of all industrialised countries – despite having liberal gun laws (2.3–4.5 million guns in a population of 8 million). In 2010, there were only 0.5 gun murders per 100,000 people compared to 5 per 100,000 in the US.

  6. Switzerland has a population of about 8 million – about 5 million of them live in the Swiss Plateau in between the Jura Mountains and the Swiss Alps. All the larger Swiss cities lie on the plateau, including the city of Zurich, which is Switzerland's largest with a population of 376,990. The canton (federal state) of Zurich is the most densely populated canton in Switzerland, with 1,242,000 inhabitants in total.

  7. Foreigners account for around 23 percent of the population – however, in February 2014, Swiss voters narrowly passed through a controversial anti-immigration initiative. It aims to impose limits on the number of foreigners allowed into Switzerland and may signal an end to the country’s free movement accord with the European Union. However, international criticism means it may have difficulties in implementation.

  8. The number of elderly people is increasing – in 2012, 17 percent of the population was 65 or over. As at 2012, life expectancy at birth is 80.5 years for men and 84.7 years for women.

  9. Around 6 percent of the population over 65 years old or more live in a care or nursing home.

  10. People marry relatively late in Switzerland – men at 31.8 years and women at 29.5 years. The divorce rate is around 43 percent.

  11. The average number of children per woman is around 1.5.

  12. In 2013, around 79 percent of the population aged 15 to 64 had a paid job.

  13. Switzerland lags behind most Western European countries in many aspects of sex equality – less than 20 percent of all national decision-taking posts are held by women and despite a commitment to equal pay for men and women, there is a gender pay gap of 17 percent.

  14. There are large differences between men and women in the labour market – as at 2013, 85 percent of men and only 41 percent of women work full-time.

  15. Women did not gain the vote at federal level until 1971 – and they are still underrepresented in political life.

  16. Swiss women are among the oldest in Europe when they have their first child – at an average of 30.4 years old.

  17. The Swiss are an educated population – in 2013, 86 per cent of adults aged 25–64 had the equivalent of a high school diploma.

  18. Once married, many women do not work – childcare is not readily available, children come home from school for lunch, shops close at 6pm, and in 2013, voters rejected an amendment which would make it easier for parents to combine work and family.

  19. Living space per person is generous – the 2000 census showed the average figure to be 44sqm (474 sq ft).

  20. Tobacco consumption is widespread – in 2010, 21 percent of men and 17 percent of women smoked every day. However, it is in decline due to an awareness of health risks and rising prices.

  21. Switzerland has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world – along with the US and Britain. It's estimated that about 600,000 users get through 100 tonnes of hash and marijuana each year.

  22. The Swiss enjoy a leisurely drink – in 2012, the Swiss downed 56.5 litres of beer and 36 litres of wine per person. A lot of the latter is homegrown – only about 2 percent of Swiss wine leaves the country.

  23. Switzerland has four national languages – including French, German, Italian and Rhaeto-Romantsch. The latter has Latin roots.

  24. English is becoming increasingly popular in Switzerland – English-speaking foreigners will be pleased to know that proficiency in the national languages is decreasing in favour of English.

  25. Most people in Switzerland are Christian –  including 42 percent Roman Catholic and 35 percent Protestant, and 4 percent of the population are Muslim, 0.3 percent are Buddhist, 0.2 percent are Jewish, and 11 percent have no religious affiliation at all.

  26. Switzerland was the birthplace of Le Corbusier – born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, one of the most influential architects of the 20th century.

  27. Switzerland is widely recognised as an international research centre – with the private and public sector strongly promoting science and technology.

  28. Switzerland's economy is based on highly skilled workers – in specialist areas such as microtechnology, hi-tech, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, as well as banking and insurance.

  29. Switzerland is the best place in the world to be born – according to the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) 2013 Quality of Life Index, a survey which takes 11 statistically significant factors into account, e.g. how happy people say they are, crime levels, trust in public institutions, climate, employment, gender equality, quality of family life and material well-being.

  30. As from October 2013, the possession of marijuana has been decriminalised – anyone over 18 caught with up to 10g of the drug will pay an on-the-spot fine of CHF 100 but there won't be any formal legal proceedings.

  31. There are 208 mountains over 3,000m high – with 24 of them over 4,000m. The highest is Monte Rosa (Dufoursptiz) at 4,634m, situated on the Swiss/Italian border.

  32. In 2013, Volkswagen and Audi were the top-selling car manufacturers in Switzerland – with the VW Golf the most popular model.

  33. Chocolate is a major Swiss export – just 18 Swiss chocolate companies made 172,376 tonnes of chocolate in 2012.

  34. More than half of Swiss domestic electricity is produced by 556 hydroelectric power plants – some 19 million gigawatt hours a year. Hydropower is the country's most important renewable energy.

  35. CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research) is the world's largest particle physics laboratory – based in Geneva and straddling the Swiss/French border. Physicists won the 2013 Nobel prize in physics for their work on the theory of the Higgs boson, one of the building blocks of the universe, which was finally discovered at CERN's Large Hadron Collider in 2012. 


18 Comments To This Article

  • Lalo posted:

    on 26th November 2015, 18:51:30 - Reply

    By doing a early apprentice ship in their schooling swiss kids learn to work early, they earn their own money and learn to appreciate how hard their parents work to pay for everything. when they finish school swiss kids will be more ready then many other nationalities kids for the "real" world and will be more independant
  • Harlan posted:

    on 6th August 2015, 08:00:57 - Reply

    Do you know what is great about Switzerland? well.. the flag it self is a big plus :)
  • bobo posted:

    on 24th June 2015, 17:13:21 - Reply

    its not true that people wait that long for citizenship, its posible between 5 to 12 years and you are being watched almost everything you do no freedom for auslanders. it could be crazy some times when you see how they treat foreiners
  • Scott posted:

    on 6th June 2015, 18:56:12 - Reply

    Requirements vary from Canton to Canton. Approx 200 – 500 families currently homeschool


  • Robert posted:

    on 1st May 2015, 07:50:52 - Reply

    Is homeschooling legal? I know it isn't in Germany....
  • Parlavantzas posted:

    on 27th March 2015, 12:17:17 - Reply

    This information may be of great utility to any one considering moving to Switzerland on a near permanent basis.

  • john posted:

    on 10th February 2015, 01:11:07 - Reply

    I hope you eat pizza today
  • Mys posted:

    on 7th January 2015, 19:04:56 - Reply

    Your national treasure is Roger Federer
  • janae posted:

    on 21st December 2014, 21:10:12 - Reply

    thank you for this helped me for my report on Zurich i am 10 going
    to be 11 after Christmas and they are famous for the banks
  • anonym posted:

    on 28th November 2014, 19:02:43 - Reply

    and They eats CAT and DOG ! ! !( some of people not ALL)
  • zan Kia Ellertson posted:

    on 8th September 2014, 03:24:53 - Reply

    Is it possible to become a citizen . If so is it a difficult proposition ? I'm in my late 50s and would like to become a citizen . Thank you
  • LuLu posted:

    on 18th June 2014, 12:04:11 - Reply

    Dear Ben
    So, the Swiss education system is flawed? Tell me about the ridiculoisly high amount of money one has to pay for a good education in the US and many many other countries in the world while here one semester costs around 800 Swiss francs...
    Since French is one of our four official languages it indeed makes a lot of sense to teach it at school. It never hurts to speak two of the national languages instead of just one. Besides, Swiss children do have to learn english too, because, yes, it is an important language.
    Children are not 'labelled into their future careers far too early in theis lives' as you say. The advantage of the dual system is that you can learn a job while actually working in it and even get paid for it, even for the one to two days school per week. during or after that you can get a diploma for access to universities of applied science. This gives you the opportunity to study something that has absolutely nothing to do with the apprentice you completed before. I for example have started to study architecture after an apprenticeship as a carpenter and gaining said diploma and going to work for two years. And I know many others who did just like me. The time of having a job for life is over. Of course money is always a thing and it can be hard, but change is possible if you really want it. I'm sorry for you having just foreigners as friends. Maybe it is because of this that you don't know anything of all the changes that are going on in the educational system.
  • Ben posted:

    on 5th June 2014, 12:43:44 - Reply

    Yes, Switzerland is an excellent place to live, but as an expat with my daughter in the (3rd grade) Swiss education system I can see that the system is seriously flawed. For a start at early years schooling is part time - just at an age when the brain is s "sponge" ready to absorb information. There is an assumption that the children can go home to Mum for lunch and the afternoons. The school day starts at 7.30 or 8 - when recent studies show that 9 or 10 is better. Teachers dictatorially enforce a single standard style of handwriting. I cannot fathom why the method for teaching early Mathematics is deliberately difficult and therefore nonsensical. Obligatory learning of French as a second language- which is a minority world language. (As opposed to English, or Mandarin, or Spanish) - ie a seriously blinkered and flawed decision of the Basel area Education Mandarins rather than their more enlightened Zurich counterparts. Children are labelled into their future careers far too early in their lives, and although options to change seem possible, are not apparently encouraged or easy to make. It is hardly any wonder that virtually every single one of my colleagues is a foreigner - 99% German or French, majority of them Grenzgangers, the Swiss just don't raise kids good enough to compete in a major company. Sorry, but until the local system drags itself out of the 19th century, they won't.
  • Anonymous posted:

    on 24th January 2014, 12:23:48 - Reply

    My mother-in-law lives in Switzerland. If you were born in the same country as this woman inhabits, you would not rate it as the Best Place in the World to Be Born ;-p

    That said, the chocolate's not bad and I quite like the Marmite Day cauldrons filled with marzipan.
  • Karen Herzog posted:

    on 4th December 2013, 14:45:31 - Reply

    the weather is ideal? In the northern part of Switzerland we have as much gray days and rain as the UK per year. The Summers are very hot and humid- reaching higher temperatures than southern Europe's coastal regions. In the summer it can easily register 40 in the sun and air conditioning is not common in most offices or homes-
  • Jimmy posted:

    on 1st December 2013, 21:52:00 - Reply

    Sorry, but high disagreement with Swiss education. In no way is the high school diploma equivalent to a US college degree. In fact, Swiss education system is flawed in that it does not promote critcal thinking or competitive thinking, it is quick to label students early in thier education. The consequence is that people "accept" their pre-choosen jobs and are not armed to be entreprenuerial or be competitive...they will get crushed by a competitive American in seconds. Of my Swiss colleagues, most would have been eliminated in American institutions. Foreigners for the most part are driving the Swiss economy, most executives are foreign. Second it is not a requirement for an immigrant to speak the language. I only speak English, I work in a Global company and I own a house in Switzerland. I can barely order coffee in German! I dont need to speak any language and so far local Gemeinde and Federal seem not to have a problem with that. Just to bring some clarity.
  • Benny posted:

    on 21st November 2013, 08:12:58 - Reply

    Sorry, Pro99 is only half right – you can get a job also if you don't speak any of the 4 national languages; but it's true, that you should be able one of them if you apply for a passport. For this you need to live in CH for 12 yrs.
  • Pro99 posted:

    on 18th October 2013, 15:19:11 - Reply

    You wrote that " In 2013, 86 per cent of adults aged 25–64 had the equivalent of a high school diploma." Don't forget that the Swiss equivalent of a "high school diploma" is on par with a college degree compared to the US and some other industrialized nations. Also, English is not actually "replacing" anything. Switzerland requires immigrants to speak at least one of the four languages for employment and applying for a Swiss passport requires considerable knowledge and proficiency in one of those languages.