An introduction to Switzerland: the Alpine nation | Expatica
Home Moving to Switzerland About Switzerland An introduction to Switzerland
Last update on February 24, 2021

There’s far more to Switzerland than political neutrality and melted cheese. Learn more about this beautiful central European federation.


Location: Switzerland is in Central Europe, east of France, north of Italy, west of Austria and Liechtenstein and south of Germany.

Geographic coordinates: 47 00 N, 8 00 E

Area: Total: 41,277 sq km
Country comparison to the world: 136

Land: 39,997 sq km
Water: 1,280 sq km

Switzerland’s land boundaries: 1,852 km
Border countries: Austria 164 km, France 573 km, Italy 740 km, Liechtenstein 41 km, Germany 334 km.

Coastline: 0 km.

Climate: Temperate, but varies with altitude; cold, cloudy, rainy and snowy winters; cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers.

Terrain: Mostly mountains (Alps in south, Jura in northwest) with a central plateau of rolling hills, plains, and large lakes.

Elevation extremes:
Lowest point: Lake Maggiore 195 m.
Highest point: Dufourspitze 4,634 m

Natural resources: Hydro-electric power potential, timber, salt.

People and society in Switzerland

Noun: Swiss (singular and plural)
Adjective: Swiss

Ethnic groups in Switzerland: German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansh 1%, other 6%

Languages: German 63.7%, French 20.4%, Italian 6.5%, Serbo-Croatian 1.5%, Albanian 1.3%, Portuguese 1.2%, Spanish 1.1%, English 1%, Romansh 0.5%, other 2.8%.
N.B. German, French, Italian, and Romansh are all national and official languages.

Religions: Roman Catholic 41.8%, Protestant 35.3%, Muslim 4.3%, Orthodox 1.8%, other Christian 0.4%, other 1%, unspecified 4.3%, none 11.1%.

Population of Switzerland: 7,655,628 (July 2012 est.)
Country comparison to the world: 96

Age structure:
0-14 years: 15.2% (male 602,894/female 560,175)
15-64 years: 67.8% (male 2,612,557/female 2,569,318)
65 years and over: 17% (male 543,074/female 751,943)

Median age:
Total: 41.7 years
Male: 40.6 years
Female: 42.8 years

Population growth rate: 0.199% (2012 ext.)
Switzerland comparison to the world: 176

Birth rate: 9.51 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Country comparison to the world: 199

Death rate: 8.8 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)
Country comparison to the world: 74

Major cities – population: Basel 830,000, Berne (capital) 346,000, Geneva 1.240 million, Lugano 145.000 and Zurich 1.143 million.

Health expenditures: 11.3% of GDP
Country comparison to the world: 15

Doctors’ density: 4.07 doctors/1,000 population
Country comparison to the world: 11

Hospital bed density: 5.31 beds/1,000 population
Country comparison to the world: 36

Education expenditures: 5.2% of GDP
Country comparison to the world: 53