Switzerland: The Melting Pot of Europe.
Historically, Switzerland had a population of many nationalities, even as far back as the days of the Roman Empire. This gave them deep cultural traits throughout the years, even in today’s world where they still maintain politically indifferent. (1) Surrounded by mountainous areas, it is easy to isolate themselves, and it also is ideal for escape for people from other nations to escape to from their prospective countries. The federal state of Switzerland as the world knows it know, was initialized in 1848 that centralized the government, currency, and postal system. (2)
Since 1900, the Swiss government had chosen to remain indifferent to the world’s political problems and organizations, until just recently. The European Union had roots as far back as the mid-1900’s; an organization that Switzerland has still not applied to. Also, Switzerland allowed the United Nations to maintain an office there, but did not seek membership for 57 years, joining in 2002, which included not taking part in World War I and II. Declaring isolation and neutrality, Switzerland, a country full of former Germans, Italians, and French, was able to keep themselves from falling apart with as much diversity as they had.
Switzerland is a fairly small country surrounded by France, Germany, and Italy, along with parts of Austria and Liechtenstein. It’s a completely landlocked country with mostly mountainous terrain. The Alps are the mountain range defining a large portion of the country. Being landlocked requires a lot of imports, but they also export a lot of goods also. They import bulk raw materials and export high quality finished products so exports outweigh imports by far. A majority of their jobs are then in the secondary sector with most jobs being in manufacturing products.
Their government is known as the Federal Council and is comprised of seven members with at least one member from each of the strongest four parties. Each year, one of the “councilors” is denoted as Federal President, which doesn’t bestow any special powers. Along with the seven councilors, they are assisted and advised by a Federal Chancellery. The council members do not try to extort anything on citizens or burden them with extra monetary support as they often take public transportation and can easily be approached.
Switzerland’s population has varied through the years, which is mostly dependent on foreigners becoming citizens versus the Swiss repopulation. World War I and II didn’t affect Switzerland’s population like most European countries because of their neutrality, but in the 1990’s population began to decline because of a higher mortality rate and a smaller fertility rate. Switzerland having four national languages, German, French, Italian, and Romansch, encourages immigration and to eventually become Swiss citizens. Switzerland has a current population of 7,655,628 of which about 1.8 million people are foreigners. Median age for males is 40.6 years old and the median age for females is 42.8 years old. (3) With a median age that high, we can infer that it is a working population and very industrialized.
Financially speaking, Switzerland’s currency is the Swiss Franc. Again, because they are not in the European Union, they do not use their currency, the Euro. On the C.I.A.’s world fact book, Switzerland is number 6 on the list of current account balance of over 76 billion in U.S. dollars. Swiss franc to U.S. dollar exchange rate is 0.8723, meaning that it only takes 0.8723 Swiss francs to purchase 1 U.S dollar. In previous years, the U.S. dollar was stronger than the Swiss franc but, is now currently worth less. However, Switzerland is famous for their ‘Swiss bank accounts’ most synonymous with people who obtain money from something illegal or shady. Switzerland currently holds over 230 billion dollars in foreign monies, double what they had just last year. On a list of most external debt however, Switzerland is currently number 14 with over 1.3 trillion dollars, most of which is having to import so much because of their landlocked state with very little resources.
Other interesting facts and figures about Switzerland. Swiss guards are sent to the Vatican to protect the Pope. Roman Catholicism is the most practiced religion in Switzerland. A few more exports that Switzerland is famous for are their watches and time pieces and their Swiss army knives. (4) Switzerland is comprised of 26 “cantons” which is like a state within the United States. Before joining to form what we know as Switzerland, they each had their own individual government and money, but when they joined some common elements were set such as money. Now, they pretty much govern themselves in as much as each state of the U.S. does.
1. Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Presence Switzerland. (n.d.). Swiss Culture. Retrieved 4 22, 2012, from http://www.swissworld.org/en/culture/
2. Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Presence Switzerland. (n.d.). The Federal State: General Overview. Retrieved 4 22, 2012, from http://www.swissworld.org/en/history/the_federal_state/general_overview/
3. C.I.A. (n.d.). World Factbook. Retrieved 23 4, 2012, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sz.html
4. National Geographic. (n.d.). Switzerland Facts. Retrieved 23 4, 2012, from http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/switzerland-facts/