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Switzerland


Study Abroad in Switzerland. Become a foreign exchange student in Switzerland.Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a landlocked alpine country in Central Europe. The country, which is bordered by Germany to the north, France to the west, Italy to the south, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east, was historically a confederation, and has been a federation since 1848. Switzerland has a strong economy in finance and banking, and a long and strong tradition of political and military neutrality. This background allows Switzerland to host various international co-operations and organizations.

Confoederatio Helvetica, the country's official Latin name, means Helvetic Confederation. The use of Latin avoids having to favour one of the four national languages. The abbreviation (CH) is used for the same reason. The titles commonly used in French (Confédération suisse), Italian (Confederazione Svizzera) and Romansh (Confederaziun svizra) translate as "Swiss Confederation", while the German name of Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft translates literally as "Swiss Oath Fellowship" or "Swiss Commonwealth of the Covenant". A male native of Switzerland is said to be a Schweizer and a female is a Schweizerin in German; Suisse (male) and both Suisse or Suissesse (female) in French and svizzero (male) or svizzera (female) in Swiss Italian.

Demographics

Switzerland lies at the crossroads of several major European cultures that have heavily influenced the country's languages and culture. Switzerland has four official languages: German (64%) in the north and centre; French (20.4%) to the west; Italian (6.5%) in the south; and Romansh (a Romance language), that is spoken locally by a small minority (< 1%) in the southeastern canton of Graubünden. The federal government is obliged to communicate in the four official languages. In the federal parliament, German, French, Italian and Romansh are the official languages and simultaneous translation is provided. The German spoken in Switzerland is predominantly a group of dialects collectively known as Swiss German, but written communication and broadcasts typically use standard High German. Similarly, there are some dialects in the other speaking part of Switzerland, called Swiss French and Ticinese (a dialect of Italian).  Learning one of the other national languages at school is obligatory for all Swiss, so most Swiss are supposed to be at least bilingual (in reality, many Swiss are more fluent in English than in their own country's other languages, particularly the German-speaking Swiss).

Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up about 21% of the population. Most of these are from European Union countries (Italians being the largest group, at 4%), with smaller numbers from the rest of the world, including refugees from the former Yugoslavia (5%) and Turks (1%).

Climate

The Swiss climate is generally temperate, but can vary greatly between the localities, from harsh conditions on the high mountains to the often pleasant Mediterranean climate at Switzerland's southern tip. Switzerland's eco-systems can be particularly vulnerable due to the many valleys separated by high mountains, often forming unique ecologies, and the mountainous regions themselves, with a rich range of plants not found at other altitudes.
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