One of the world’s most prosperous countries, Switzerland sits at the center of Europe. It has retained its neutral status through every major European conflict since 1815.
Geography: Mostly mountainous, with river valleys. The Alps cover 60% of its area; the Jura in the west cover 10%. Lowlands lie along the east–west axis.
Climate: Most rain falls in the warm summer months. Winters are snowy, but milder and foggy away from the mountains. Avalanches are a problem.
People and Society: Switzerland is composed of distinct German-Swiss, French-Swiss, and Italian-Swiss linguistic groups. In the east, a 35,000-strong minority speaks Romansch. The country is divided into 26 autonomous cantons (states), each with control over housing and economics. Public referenda are widely used to decide policy. Society is conservative; marriage is common but divorce is above the EU average rate.
The Economy: Diversified economy relies on services – the banking sector manages over a quarter of the world’s offshore private wealth – and specialized industries (engineering, watches, etc).
Insight: Famed for its neutrality, Switzerland only joined the UN in 2002, and remains outside the EU
Official Name: Swiss Confederation
Date of Formation: 1291
Population: 7.57 million
Total Area: 15,942 sq. miles (41,290 sq. km)
Density: 493 people per sq. mile
Languages: German*, Swiss-German, French*, Italian*, Romansch*
Religions: Roman Catholic 42%, Protestant 35%, other 19%, Muslim 4%
Ethnic Mix: German 64%, French 20%, other 9.5%, Italian 6%, Romansch 0.5%
Government: Parliamentary system
Currency: Franc = 100 rappen/centimes