Switzerland

Switzerland’s name originates from Schwyz, one of the three founder cantons. The name Helvetia derives from a Celtic tribe called Helvetians that settled in the region in the second century B.C.
Switzerland is a federation of twenty-six states called cantons (six are considered half cantons). There are four linguistic regions: German-speaking (in the north, centre, and east), French-speaking (in the west), Italian-speaking (in the south), and Romansh-speaking (a small area in the south-east). This diversity makes the question of a national culture a recurring issue.
The federal republic of Switzerland is situated in the in western-central Europe, bordered by Austria and Lichtenstein to the east, France to the west, Germany to the north and Italy to the south. With a maximum north-south length of 220 Kilometres (140 miles) and east-west length of approximately 320 Kilometres (220 miles), Switzerland is divided into 26 sovereign cantons. Each Canton was once a fully sovereign state from the 13th century till around 1800 until the Swiss federal state was established in 1848.
With an early history based on the Alpen culture, Switzerland was inhabited by the Gauls and Raetians and came under the Roman rule in the 1st century BC. The Gallo- Roman culture was united with Germanic influence in the late antiquity and the eastern part of Switzerland became an Almannic territory, which was later assimilated into the Frankish empire in the 6th century. The eastern part became part of the Duchy of Swabia within the Holy Roman Empire while the western part was part of Burgundy during the high medieval period.
In the late medieval period, the Old Swiss Confederacy established its independence from Duchy of Burgundy and the House of Habsburg and gained the south of the Alps as its territory from the Duchy of Milan during the Italian wars. During the French revolution, Switzerland fell to a French invasion in 1798 and was reformed into the Helvetic Republic ( a client state of the French).Napoleons Act of Mediation in 1803 restored the status of Switzerland as a confederation, which underwent a brief civil war in 1847 leading to the creation of the federal constitution in 1848.
In 1972 Switzerland signed a free trade agreement with the European Economic community and despite being surrounded by many European Union member states since 1955, has resisted ascension to the European Union.

Capital: Bern
Population: 8.179Million (2016)
Climate: Moderate, no excessive heat, cold or humidity.
Ethnic Make-up: 65% German, 18% French, 10% Italian, 1% Romansch, 6% other.
Government: Federation, Federal Republic, Direct democracy, Directorial system.
Map: (listing ethical travel enterprises)

The Alpine climate and landscapes ideal for skiing and mountaineering is what draws most tourists to Switzerland. This dates to the 19 Century where the British mountaineers climbed the main peaks of the Bernese Alps. Also in the 19th Century, the century in which the first tourist holidays were offered, the Alpine Club in London founded in 1857 recovered from tuberculosis in the Alpine climate.

Official statistics of tourism were planned since 1852 but realized from 1934 and continued until 2003.Tourism accounted for approximately 2.9% of Switzerland’s gross domestic product in 2011. 

Respect for privacy and discretion are key values in social interaction. In public spaces such as trains, strangers normally do not speak to each other. Kindness and politeness in social interaction are expected; in smaller shops, clients and vendors thank each other several times. Cultural differences between the linguistic regions include the more frequent use of titles and professional functions in the German-speaking region and the use of a kiss rather than a handshake in the French-speaking region.
It is important to keep in mind that Switzerland regulates as a ‘global culture’, cultural tendencies change and evolve as well. Awareness is the first step when it comes to cultural do’s and taboos for Switzerland and tips for intercultural communication. 

Regional and local culinary specialities generally are based on a traditional type of cooking, rich in calories and fat, that is more suited to outdoor activity than to a sedentary way of life. Dairy products such as butter, cream, and cheese are important parts of the diet, along with pork. More recent eating habits show a growing concern for healthy food and a growing taste for exotic food. 

According to the 1990 census, 71.6 percent of the population lives in the German-speaking region,23.2 percent in the French-speaking region, over 4 percent in the Italian-speaking region, and just under one percent in the Romansh-speaking region.
Linguistic Affiliation. The use of the German language goes back to the early Middle Ages when the Alamans invaded lands where Romance languages were developing. The dominance of German in Switzerland has been lessened by the bilingualism of the German-speaking region, where both standard German and Swiss German dialects are used. These dialects have a high social prestige among Swiss Germans regardless of education level or social class because they differentiate Swiss Germans from Germans. Swiss Germans often do not feel comfortable speaking standard German; they often prefer to speak French when interacting with members of the French-speaking minority.

In the French-speaking region, the original Franco-Provencal dialects have almost disappeared in favor of a standard French colored by regional accents and some lexical features.

The Italian-speaking region is bilingual, and people speak standard Italian as well as different regional dialects, although the social status of the dialects is low. More than half the Italian-speaking population living in Switzerland is not from Ticino but of Italian origin. Romansh, a Romance language of the Rhaetian group, is the only language specific to Switzerland except for two parent languages spoken in south-eastern Italy. Very few people speak Romansh, and many of those people live outside the Romansh linguistic area in parts of the alpine canton of Graubünden. 

The culture of Switzerland is made up of four subcultures: the German, French, Italian, and 1% indigenous population who speak Romansch. The handshake is the most common greeting in Switzerland, and Swiss German. It is also considered very rude to litter or leave trash lying around. The Swiss appreciate peace and quiet hence it is impolite to speak too loudly in public, especially while on your cell phone.
Titles are important and it is best to address people directly by using Mr., Mrs., or Miss, followed by the surname. Note: for French-speakers: “Monsieur” is for Mr., “Madame” is for Mrs. and “Mademoiselle” is Miss. For Swiss-German speakers: “Herr” is for Mr., “Frau” is for Mrs For Italian speakers “Signore” is for Mr., “Signora” is for Mrs.
On a consequent business dinner in Switzerland, it was found out dining etiquette are expected. Do not keep your hands on the table always during a meal and not in your lap. Left hands must always be visible. Switzerland has a very high ownership of guns, just behind the U.S, with the number of guns per capita. Do not put your elbows on the table but can rest your wrists.

The scenic and attractive Switzerland sits placed within the Swiss Alps mountain range. Although a popular tourist destination, visitors should be aware of local warnings and dangers.

  • There’s a risk of flooding, landslides and avalanches in some parts of the country. Before travelling, check the local weather forecast for the latest information, including any possible dangerous weather conditions.
  • If you plan skiing or hiking, check weather conditions and follow local advice before going. Take care and observe all written notices and warnings. See Outdoor sports activities.
  • There has been an increase in reports of theft, especially in larger cities, at Geneva airport and on trains to/from Geneva.
  • The weather in alpine regions is unpredictable and can change suddenly. You could encounter dangerous avalanches, flash flooding and mudslide.

The Swiss have been sensitive to protecting their environment. In addition to the oldest and wildest national park of Europe, many newly opened regional nature parks are being set aside for future generations.
Believe it or not, Switzerland even has volunteer “mountain cleaners,” who sweep the landscape looking for garbage that careless tourists have left behind.
The country is also looking to the future, and many hotels plan to follow the example set by the Hotel Europa in St. Moritz. At this establishment, the largest solar plant of any hotel in Switzerland was inaugurated. The solar energy collected on the hotel’s roof feeds both the hot water and heating systems as well as the pool. Not only are high energy costs counteracted, so are carbon dioxide emissions.

Petty crime such as bag snatching and pickpocketing occurs in Switzerland and is common in tourist areas and on public transport. We advise New Zealanders to be alert to their surroundings always and take steps to safeguard and secure their personal belongings.
Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs are severe and penalties include imprisonment and fines.
Smoking is banned in workplaces and all public places in Switzerland, including hotels, restaurants, cinemas, schools, shopping centres and sports centres. Larger restaurants and bars often have designated areas for smokers.
Under Swiss law, foreign criminals can be deported and expelled from Switzerland for 5 – 15 years. Repeat offenders can be expelled for life. Crimes that can lead to expulsion include murder, grievous bodily harm, breaking and entering, fraud, rape, genital mutilation, benefits fraud and aggression.

Switzerland has an active gay and lesbian community and there are many associations and social groups. Various associations and societies actively promote a dialogue between each other, and fight for the rights of and equality for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. Within the realm of late-night bars and clubs ‒ the largest and most vibrant assortment in Switzerland ‒ countless party labels and establishments create a nightlife that is more colourful than a rainbow. Homosexuality is not just addressed out in the open on the street, but also in the form of colourful events, first and foremost the Zurich Pride Festival.

ILGA (Website in English) – International Lesbian and Gay Association
This international organisation has over 300 groups throughout the world fighting for equal human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
• Swiss ILGA
Pink Cross is an umbrella association for gay and lesbian organisations in Switzerland. Based in Berne, they campaign against discrimination and for equality of homosexuals in today’s society.
• Pink Cross
At: Monbijoustrasse 73, P.O. Box 7512, 3001 Bern
Tel: 031 372 33 00

Queeramnesty: Amnesty International for gays, lesbians and transgender in Switzerland.
The Swiss Gay Motorcycle Club (Der Schwule Schweizer Motorradclub): The club organises regular events throughout Switzerland.
LOS (Lesbenorganisation Schweiz) is the Swiss Lesbian Organisation and is a good site for news and upcoming events
Gay Events in Switzerland
Plenty of gay and lesbian events are held throughout the year, including the Lucerne Carnival and the Zurich Street Parade.