The geography of Switzerland is notable for its great diversity. Switzerland’s three main geographical regions are the Jura, Plateau and the Alps.
The geography of Switzerland means that the climate varies greatly from one region to another. Depending on the area and the time of year, Switzerland experiences conditions reminiscent both of Siberia and of the Mediterranean.
Facts and figures
Switzerland has an area of 41,285 square kilometres (15,940 square miles). The productive area - that is, the area without the lakes, rivers, unproductive vegetation and no vegetation at all - covers 30,753 square km (11,870 square miles).
It measures 220 kilometers (137 miles) from north to south and 350 km (217 miles) from east to west.
The Jura, the Plateau and the Alps form the three main geographic regions of the country.
Switzerland has a population of 7.4 million. Population density is high, with 234 people per square km (606 per square mile) of the productive area in 2000. In the agglomerations, which cover about 20% of the total surface area, the density is 590 per square km (1528 per square mile).
Switzerland has 6 per cent of Europe's stock of fresh water. The Rhine, Rhone and Inn all take their source here, although their waters flow into three seas: the North Sea, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
The Rhine Falls, a few kilometers downstream of Schaffhausen, are the largest in Europe. They are 150 m (450 ft) wide and 25 m (80 ft) high.
In addition, Switzerland has over 1,500 lakes. The two largest, Lakes Geneva and Constance, lie on the border. Lake Geneva is shared with France, and Lake Constance with Germany and Austria. Lake Geneva, which lies on the course of the Rhone, is the largest freshwater lake in central Europe.
Switzerland boasts a thriving arts scene, with its architects in particular achieving world-wide acclaim.
The culture of Switzerland is characterised by diversity. The Swiss sometimes wonder what keeps Switzerland together.
The wide range of traditional customs is one reflection of this diversity.
The people of Switzerland
Switzerland has a population of about 7.4 million. Foreigners account for around 20% of the resident population. The average age is increasing, as people live longer and have fewer children. Lifestyles are changing as the Swiss adapt to new demands.
Religious belief has declined in recent years, but the religious landscape has diversified.
Switzerland has four unevenly distributed languages and a wealth of dialects.
Switzerland has four national languages, but they vary greatly in the number of speakers.
German is by far the most widely spoken language in Switzerland: 17 of the 26 cantons are monolingual in German.
French is spoken in the western part of the country, the Suisse Romande. Four cantons are French-speaking: Geneva, Jura, Neuchtel and Vaud. Three cantons are bilingual: in Bern, Fribourg and Valais both French and German are spoken.
Italian is spoken in Ticino and four southern valleys of Canton Graubünden.
Rumantsch is spoken in the only trilingual canton, Graubünden. The other two languages spoken there are German and Italian. Rumantsch, like Italian and French, is a language with Latin roots. It is spoken by just 0.5% of the total Swiss population.
The many foreigners resident in Switzerland have brought with them their own languages, which taken as a whole now outnumber both Rumantsch and Italian. The 2000 census showed that speakers of Serbian/Croatian were the largest foreign language group, with 1.4% of the population. English was the main language for 1%
Membership of Christian churches has shrunk in recent years. In a wideranging poll of Swiss attitudes taken in 2000, only 16% of Swiss people said religion was very important to them, far below their families, their jobs, sport or culture. Another survey published the same year showed the number of regular church goers had dropped by 10% in 10 years. Among Catholics, 38.5% said they did not go to church, while among Protestants the figure was 50.7%. Only 71% of the total of those asked said they believed in God at all. The demand for church baptisms, weddings and funerals has fallen sharply in the last 30 years. The 2000 census showed that the Roman Catholic and the mainstream Protestant church (the Reformed-Evangelical) had lost in both absolute terms (the number of members) and in relative terms (their share of the total population.)
On the other hand, the smaller offshoots of these two churches were proportionately the same as before. The free evangelical churches accounted for 2.2% of the population; the Christian Catholic church made up 0.2%.
The Jewish community also remained more or less unchanged. Recent immigration has brought members of other faiths to Switzerland, in particular Islam and Orthodox Christianity.
Even if the churches are no longer relevant in many people's lives, both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism have played a key role in shaping modern Switzerland and the way in which Swiss people see themselves.
近年来，基督教成员的数目明显减少。2000年，宗教态度的大范围投票中：只有16%的瑞士人认为宗教是“非常重要”的；但比起家庭，事业，健身及文化，还是差远了。同年的另一项研究表明：经常去教堂的人数在十年中降了十个百分点。38.5%的天主教徒承认没有去教堂；而不去教堂的新教徒占50.7%。在被调查到的两教教徒中，只有71%的人表示相信上帝。 近三十年来，在教堂做洗礼，举行婚礼丧礼的人数越来越少。 2000年的普查表明：罗马天主教及主要新教(革新的传福音者)，无论是绝对数目(教堂成员人数)，还是相对数目(所占总人口比例)都大幅度地下降。