Welcome to Switzerland

 

Welcome to Switzerland's pages on SwissCommunity!

 

The people of Switzerland form a unity despite their diversity. Viewed in these terms, Switzerland is a model for many other countries which face problems with their minorities. No other country of the world displays such great cultural diversity and such a concentration of economic and financial power in such a small space. Nevertheless, the image attributed to Switzerland in many places is of the country of Heidi, a producer of cheese and chocolate, and an idyllic world. In fact Switzerland is also one of the most cosmopolitan countries on Earth.

 

Cosmopolitan Switzerland

On the one hand, Swiss culture has been shaped by the country’s geographical position in Europe and by its multilingualism. A contributory factor has been one of the highest proportions of foreign inhabitants of any country in the world. In 2014, 24 percent of the population were not Swiss nationals.

 

On the other hand, Swiss people have always migrated, all over the world, in large numbers. Of a total of 6,710,000 Swiss citizens in 2008, 676,000 were living abroad - in other words, one in ten. Today almost 775,000 Swiss nationals round the globe make up the “Fifth Switzerland.” They all help to convey a nuanced picture of Switzerland as a modern country, open to the world and leading it in innovation, while holding fast to its traditional values.

 

 

Swissness

What actually characterizes this Swissness which has come into fashion since the end of the 1990s? What is the common denominator which binds the people of Switzerland together, despite their diversity? Why has the Swiss cross become a fashion symbol on T-shirts and accessories? There is no disputing that traditional Swiss customs are more popular than ever, right across the country. Traditional costumes are seen as chic, while the “farmers wives’ schools” (with courses in home economics) are enjoying an unprecedented wave of popularity. There is currently a renaissance in traditional Alpine dairy farming, while Swiss wrestling and yodelling have no problems attracting young people.

 

Are the values such as fairness, precision, reliability, high quality, political stability, cleanliness and punctuality also rooted in this sense of national identity? Only a few decades ago, these characteristics were derided as petit bourgeois. But today they are more appreciated within Switzerland. Abroad, Switzerland and its economy continue to benefit from the country’s favourable image, based on these very values.

 

History: Origins of Switzerland

The Swiss cross first appears in the annals of history in 1339. At that time, Bernese soldiers used to sew two strips of white material onto their garments before marching into battle. The name ‘Switzerland’ derives from the Canton of Schywz, whose troops played a key role in the wars of the Old Confederation against the Habsburgs and also played a decisive role in the European mercenary trade. After the Battle of Sempach in 1386, the name “Swiz” or “Sweiz” became legendary. The German chroniclers now used this name to denote all members of the Confederacy. The first written testimony of this is a document of King Sigismund dated 1415, which contains the first mention of the term 'Swiss'.

 

 

Facts and Figures

With an area of 41,300 square kilometres, Switzerland is just twice the size of the German federal state of Hessen. Alps and glaciers cover as much as 60 percent of its landmass and, as at 2014, 8'183'800 people were living in the remaining 40 percent. This makes Switzerland one of the most densely populated countries in Europe.

In 2008, 25.8 percent of the country’s children under the age of six were foreigners, with the proportion reaching as high as 45 percent in the major cities. The largest group of all foreign nationals in Switzerland in 2014 were the Italians, accounting for 15.9 percent, followed by citizens of Germany (15.5 percent) and Portugal, at 13.5 percent.

 

More: swissworld.org –  the official Switzerland information portal

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