Culture Practices in Switzerland

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Switzerland is located central Europe and it is the land of the Alps. At around 500 BCE, Celtic tribes named this country as Helvetia when they settled there. Between 58 to 400 BCE, Switzerland was occupied by the Romans, but German tribes set an end to the Roman Empire. Switzerland was not involved in World War 1 and 2. Moreover, Christianity is the major religion in Switzerland. There are also other religions that can be found in Switzerland. Furthermore, Germanic, French, Italian, and Rumantsch are four official languages spoken by the citizens. There are other languages used by foreigners to communicate. The political system in Switzerland consists the federal level, the state level based on 26 cantonal constitutions, and the communal level. Recently, Zurich allowed the uses of anti-minaret posters in the state and this upset a number of Muslims.

Culture Practices in Switzerland

Switzerland is located in central of Europe where it is bordered by Germany to the north, Italy to the south, France to the west, and Austria to the east. According to Switzerland Flexi Tour, Switzerland is the land of the Alps and the highest peak is Dufourspitze at a height of 4,634 meters on the Italian border ("Switzerland Geographic Information," N,D). Bern is the capital of Switzerland and it has 26 states named canton. As stated in Switzerland Tourism, the Switzerland population of approximately 7.8 million people and the largest city in Switzerland is Zurich, 971,800 metro areas ("Discover the Plus," 2007). The president of Switzerland in 2009 is Hans-Rudolf Merz and Doris Leuthard is the vice president (Central Intelligence Agency [CIA], November 2009).


Early Swiss history

Early Swiss history started three thousand years ago where the ice melted, men and animals started came to Switzerland to leave again. According to Markus Jud (2005), "Trace of early hunters equipments such as tools made from stone splinters, weapons, and bones of prey animals can be found in several natural caves in Switzerland." Men started to build their houses at the shores of Switzerland's lakes. Later, around 500 BCE, Celtic tribes had reach Switzerland and named Switzerland as Helvetia when they settled at there.

Furthermore, when the Helvetians try to move to Southern France, they were stopped by a Roman commander called C. Julius Cesar and they were forced by C. Julius Cesar to return to Switzerland. Archeological evidence suggests that Switzerland was controlled by the Roman militaries and Switzerland's territories were controlled by the Romans from 58 BCE to 400 AD. According to Jud (2005), at the end of 400 AD, Roman Empire was attacked by the Germanic tribes and they had set an end to the Roman Empire. Then, the southern Germanic tribes, Alamannen were settled in southern Germany and northern Switzerland. Meanwhile according to the archeological evidence, the original Celtic population kept up their culture in some part of Great Britain, France, Ireland, and Spain because the original Celtic population were completely destroy in the time of the centuries. Thus, there were no any special Celtic significant remains of their languages in Switzerland except for a few Switzerland's states name.

During 1291 to 1515, Old Swiss Confederacy, three valleys in central of Switzerland unites and together negotiates with Habsburg to fight for their rights, according to Jud (2005). Many cities had joined the confederacy and they had successful overcome and control the regions in the northern and southern of Switzerland. Furthermore, Huldrych Zwingli and Johannes Calvin were Swiss Reformers during 1523 to 1536. They were successful influenced many religious beliefs in many other countries. The Reformation in Switzerland had split the country in two regions, according to Jud (2005). The advanced cities such as Basel, Berne, Geneva, Zurich, and Neuchatel had turned into a new confession, while the rural areas in the central of Switzerland such as Lucerne remained Catholic.

Modern History

According to Jud (2005), France named Switzerland as Helvetic Republic in 1798. Therefore, in 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte restores Switzerland's federal government; and by 1815, Switzerland had completely become federal structures. Later, Switzerland became an independence nation. During the revolutionary period in 1847, the Catholic's beliefs had separated from the federation and decided to establish own and a separated union called Sonderbund, as reported by Jud (2005). Therefore, this had lead to a civil war, but Henri Dufour, a General of the liberal troops had successfully ended the war and it lasted for only few days. There were 86 dead and 500 injured soldiers in the war; and Sonderbund had joined back the federation after the civil war. In 1848, Switzerland became a centralized federal state. According to Swissworld, most of the country respected Switzerland neutrality during World War 1 and World War 2; this also caused Switzerland did not involve in any military capacity ("Your gateway to Switzerland," N.D).

Religious, languages, and racial ethnic groups


As the central country in Europe, Switzerland's old religion is Christianity. During the reformation period, some of the reformers had spread their new assimilation of the Christian beliefs to the whole country, according to Jud (2005). For example, Huldrych Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger spread their new assimilation to Zurich and northern Switzerland in 1523. Later in 1526, Johannes Oekolampadius spread his new assimilation to Basel and Guillaume Farel in western Switzerland. John Calvin was the last reformer to spread his new assimilation to Geneva in 1536. Furthermore, the reformation had divided Switzerland into two regions. The huge and advance cities in northern and western of Switzerland had changed into new beliefs and forced their nation to accept it, as stated by Jud (2005). Meanwhile the rural area in central of Switzerland continued to be as catholic. This had carry out a civil war in Switzerland because of there are conflict between these two separate groups.

According to Swissworld (N.D), Catholicism is the major religious in Switzerland because it had more than three millions followers and it is also had represented the country. Besides than Catholicism, Protestantism is the second largest religious in the country with over 2.7 millions followers, as stated in Swissworld (N.D). In the history of Protestantism, Switzerland plays an important part in it. Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin had widely contributed to the international religious influence of their hometown. There are also other religious such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Orthodox, and Judaism can be found in Switzerland. Foreigners had brought Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam to Switzerland when they work and live at there. Research has show that Islam is the third largest religious in Switzerland. Hence, there are also a small part of people in Switzerland do not believe there is God.


As reported by Jud (2005), Germanic (74%), French (21%), Italian (4%), and Rumantsch (1%) are four official languages which spoken by the citizens in Switzerland. However, according to Wikipedia, "Only three of these languages, Germanic, French, and Italian maintain the equal status as the official languages at the national level within the Federal Administration of the Swiss Confederation," ("Diversity of Languages and Language Skills in Switzerland," 2009). Research has shown that Germanic is used in the northern and central of Switzerland, French is used in the western of Switzerland, Italian is used in the southern of Switzerland and lastly Rumantsch is used in the southeastern of Switzerland. Moreover, among the 26 cantons in Switzerland, Germanic is the most broadly spoken language in Switzerland and 17 of the 26 cantons are using Germanic to communicate every day, as reported by Swissworld (N.D). Geneva, Jura, Neuchâtel and Vaud are using French to communicate; and other three cantons, Bern, Fribourg and Valais are using both French and Germanic to communicate, according to Swissworld (N.D). Italian is spoken in Ticino and Rumantsch is spoken by people who had mastered the other three languages and Rumantsch does not change anymore, as stated in Swissworld (N.D).

According to Jud (2005), there are 20 percent of the Switzerland population are foreigners and they have brought their own languages such as Spanish, Serbo-Croatian, Portuguese, Turkish, English, Albanese, and other languages to Switzerland. There are many people will not speak one of these four official languages everyday, while they prefer to speak their homeland languages more. Hence, more than 2 percent of the Switzerland's residents do not understand any of these languages. Therefore, to communicate with native Swiss people, they will use the official languages to communicate with the native Swiss people. As reported by Jud (2005), English will be used by the tourists and foreign business people. In some of the companies in Switzerland, English is widely used by a particular company; especially most of their customers speak English. Even some of the native Swiss people will used some English word as basic.

Racial ethnic groups

According to Encyclopedia of the Nations, Germanic, French, Italian, and Rumantsch are the ethnolinguistic groups that make up the native Switzerland population and have maintain their particular characteristic ("Switzerland - Ethnic Groups," 2009). In ancient time, Celtic tribes were settled in the western and southern part of Switzerland and Rhaetians were settled in the eastern of Switzerland. Later, Germanic tribes, Alamannen and Burgundians controlled Switzerland when the Roman Empire was destroyed. At last, Alamannen had become the controlling group in Switzerland. Today, Alamannic vernacular, Schweizerdeutsch is used by 2 to 3 of the population as their principle language, according to Encyclopedia of the Nations (2009). Moreover, as stated in Encyclopedia Britannica, foreigners had make up 1 to 5 of the total population in Switzerland ("Ethnic Groups and Languages," 2009). For example, in Geneva, more than 1 to 3 is foreigners. Thus, during the 19 century, the foreign-born population in the country is largely increased, according to Encyclopedia Britannica (2009).

Political system

Switzerland has a long and old politic system. This country becomes a modern federal state in 1848. Switzerland is divided into 26 cantons and this country's government is made up of seven members of the Federal Council who are chosen by the United Federal Assembly, according to Swissworld (N.D). The members of the Swiss Government take turns to become the President of Switzerland and the duration of being the President of Switzerland take only a year. According to Jud (2005), the political system in Switzerland is generally consists of three levels which are the federal level, the state level based on 26 cantonal constitutions, and the communal level. Before the year of 1848, every canton in the country was able to split from the confederation anytime if they wanted to do so, as stated in Switzerland Tourism (2007). Therefore, in 1848, Switzerland has made their constitution into a federal state which it is a main power to control each canton.

According to Switzerland Tourism (2007), the cantons in the country do not have the right to spilt from the confederation anymore because the foreign policy is now in the hands of the Swiss Government; and in ancient time, Switzerland's official name was Confoederatio Helvetica and it international short form is CH. According to Jud (2005), "The federal constitution in principle reserves the areas of foreign relations, the army, customs examinations and tariffs, value added taxes and the legislation on currency, measure and weight, railways and communications to the confederation."

Furthermore, Switzerland has 26 cantons and every canton also has their own characteristic and size. Every canton in the country has its own constitution, government, cantonal parliament, and laws. Jud (2005) stated that the cantons have the freedom to make their own decision as long as they respect the federal constitution and do not break any of the country's rules. They also have the freedom to take care of their social services, education systems, and every canton in this country will have their own police force. Besides than this, every canton also have the freedom to set their own level of taxation. According to Switzerland Tourism (2007), among these 26 cantons, citizens of Appenzell Inner-Rhodes and Glarus will meet every year and each citizen who participates in the meeting will get the chance to vote on local issues. Therefore, other 24 cantons did not have the chance to do this. In addition, the Switzerland's citizens have the ability to change the political system through a political system called direct democracy. According to Switzerland Tourism (2007), "Direct democracy allows the people to shape legislation and constitutional changes directly through initiatives and referendums." Initiatives and referendums are the two main methods will be used during the direct democracy, as stated in Switzerland Tourism (2007). Initiatives required 100,000 votes from the citizens; and referendums are divided into two types. According to Switzerland Tourism (2007), there are optional and obligatory. Optional referendum required 50,000 votes from the citizens.

Moreover, Switzerland Tourism (2007) states that each citizen in the country has the right to vote, once they have reached the age of 18. In 2007, citizens in Glarus get the chance to vote once they have reached the age of 16. Some of the cantons in Switzerland even give the chance to the foreign residents to vote in communal or sometimes in cantons. In 1971, women's political right was accepted by all the men voters in the country and women had the political rights at the national level, according to Switzerland Tourism (2007).

Special problems and challenges

As reported by BBC News, in 8th October 2009, Zurich the largest canton in Switzerland has allowed the uses of a controversial poster which urges a ban on the building of minarets in the country ("Zurich allowed anti-minaret poster," 2009). According to the poster, a woman is standing in front of the black minarets and also standing on the Swiss flag. The woman is wearing a black colour traditional Islamic clothing named burka. Most of the Muslims in the country are unhappy with this campaign and this act is very racism. Therefore, Zurich city council protested that the campaign posters were protected by free speech, according to BBC News (October 2009). However, the far-right Swiss's People Party (SVP) will use this advertisement on the next month's referendum on whether wanted to ban the building of new minarets or not. The Swiss Federal Commission against Racism said that "the poster was tantamount to the denigration and defamation of the peaceful Swiss Muslim population." Besides than this, some of the media said the minarets looked like missiles. Later, the Zurich city council said although the poster was "negative and dangerous", but it had to be a part of the political free speech on the 29th November 2009 national referendum. BBC News (October 2009) stated that Geneva, Lucerne, and Winterthur are the cities who had earlier allowed the use of the SVP's advertisement.

Therefore, cities like Basel, Lausanne, and Fribourg had banned this advertisement in public areas. Furthermore, Swiss Muslims have invited the public to visit the mosques because they hope this meeting can give the public a better understanding on their religious and minarets are the symbol of Muslim. Hence, if they continue to argue about this issue, this will lead to a culture war like what happen in 19 century between Protestants and Catholics.


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