According to Countryaah, Switzerland is relatively densely populated (206 residents per km2), but the population is unevenly distributed. The largest concentrations are found in the northwest, in a triangle between the metropolitan areas of Zurich, Basel and Bern, and in western Switzerland at Geneva and Lausanne. In these five urban agglomerations, more than 30 percent of the country’s population lives. In the highland areas and other sparsely populated areas, depopulation has been going on for a long time.
More than 20 percent of the population are foreign nationals. In addition, guest and border workers, many of whom commute daily to Switzerland.
Three languages have official languages at the national level: German, French and Italian, while a fourth, Romanian, is only partially official. The spoken German dialects, which are the mother tongue of about 4.9 million people (estimated in 2008) and in summary are called Swiss German, differ greatly from standard German, which is almost exclusively spoken as written language and is also used as a spoken language in many public contexts.
French is the native language of 1.6 million (estimated in 2008), completely dominant in the cantons of Geneva, Vaud, Neuchâtel and Jura, majority languages in Valais and Friborg; the French-speaking areas are collectively referred to as “Romanesque Switzerland”. The differences between the local spoken language and the standard French are relatively small. Italian is the native language of about 500,000, mainly in the Canton of Ticino. Straight Romanian, which is strongly fragmented, is spoken in the canton of Graubünden by about 35,000 people. Switzerland is often seen as an example as a multilingual society, although linguistic conflicts are not lacking.
Christianity reached Switzerland from Italy and Gaul during the 300–400s and through Columbanus’ Irish mission in the 500s. An important center became the monastery Einsiedeln founded in the 9th century. Due to its federal nature, Switzerland was never uniformly organized as a church province. Even today, Roman Catholic bishopric seats are directly under the Holy See.
- Follow abbreviationfinder to see what is the meaning of SZ in geography. It can stand for Switzerland. Click this site to see other possible meanings of this acronym.
The Reformation came to different terms: Zwingli’s reformation in Zurich, Calvin’s in Geneva. Even in the present day, the cantons have different religious characteristics, from the wholly Protestant Basel to the wholly Catholic Tessin/Ticino, although differences diminish. With some exceptions (including the approximately 11,000 Lutherans), the Protestant churches are united in a federation. The population is fairly evenly distributed among Catholics and Protestants, each slightly below 50% (1999); since 1970, Catholics have increased somewhat. The Roman Catholic Church and the Reformed Church Union are both officially recognized in all the cantons. The Old Catholic Church (Christkatholische Kirche) has about 20,000 members. The World Council of Churches is headquartered in Geneva.