Switzerland - People
Switzerland sits at the crossroads of several major European cultures, which have heavily influenced the country's languages and cultural practices. Switzerland has four official languages--German, French, Italian, and Romansch (based on Latin and spoken by a small minority in the Canton Graubunden). The German spoken is predominantly a Swiss dialect, but newspapers and some media broadcasts use High German. Many Swiss speak more than one language. English is widely spoken, especially among the university educated.
More than 75% of the population lives in the central plain, which stretches between the Alps and the Jura Mountains and from Geneva in the southwest to the Rhine River and Lake Constance in the northeast.
According to the Swiss Federal Office of Statistics, the population in Switzerland was 7,785,806 at year-end 2009 (up from 7,701,900 in 2008), of which 22% were resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers. The majority of this growth was attributable to net immigration, largely from the European Union (EU). Roughly 60% of the foreigners residing in Switzerland are from European Union member countries, while another 30% are from non-EU European countries. Almost all Swiss are literate. Switzerland's 12 universities enrolled 131,524 students in the academic year of 2010-2011, of which roughly one-third were foreigners. In addition, another 75,035 persons were studying at technical colleges and 7,743 were in other forms of higher education (e.g., specialized training academies). About 30% of the population aged 25-34 holds a diploma of higher learning. In the 2009-2010 academic year, 592 U.S. students were enrolled in Swiss universities.
Switzerland consistently ranks high on quality of life indices, including per capita income, computer and Internet usage, insurance coverage, and quality of available health care. For these and many other reasons, it serves as an excellent test market for businesses hoping to introduce new products into Europe.
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