Located in the heart of Europe and a neighbour to Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein, Switzerland has a population of nearly 8 million people, of which one quarter are foreigners, mainly from the European Community. With a rich multicultural heritage, Switzerland is naturally geared towards foreign trade. Although not a member of the European Union, the country enjoys all the benefits of free trade thanks to bilateral agreements relating to the free movement of people and goods recently established with the EU. Switzerland has four official national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansch. English is commonly spoken in the workplace, thanks in part to the large number of international companies and institutions that are based in the region. Spanish and Portuguese are also spoken by a large proportion of the population.
Founded in 1291, Switzerland is one of the oldest democracies in the world. Since 1848, it has been a federal state, consisting of 23 cantons - or 26 cantons and half-cantons. Switzerland’s capital is Bern, and its currency the Swiss Franc (CHF). The country has built its reputation and prosperity on technological innovation and services with high added value. Switzerland’s financial system is among the strongest in the world, and the quality of products bearing the ‘Swiss Made’ stamp needs no introduction. Switzerland always ranks highly in top international indicators for innovation, competitiveness, GDP, productivity and levels of education. In contrast, rates of unemployment and crime are among the lowest in the world.