Switzerland has a long and strong tradition of political and military neutrality. However, the country finally opted to join the United Nations in 2002, and the Schengen Agreement in 2005.
Switzerland has been an independent country since 1499 (apart from a brief French occupation between 1798 and 1815).
Switzerland is the first and only country to implement a system of government based on the people's administration, also known as direct democracy, which involves the constitutional initiative (public petitions) and the referendum.
There are 26 cantons in Switzerland, each of which acts as a state, with its own constitution, legislature, government and courts.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was founded in 1863 in Geneva, Switzerland, and is still based there. The flag of the Red Cross is the flag of Switzerland with the colours inverted.
The Niesenbahn in the Swiss Kandertal is the longest continuous-cable funicular in Europe. Alongside the path of the Niesenbahn is the longest stairway in the world with 11,674 steps.
The country code for Switzerland, typically displayed next to car plates, is CH. It stands for Confoederatio Helvetica, the Latin for Swiss Confederation - a neutral alternative to using the first letters of one of the four official languages.
Geneva is the seat of the European headquarters of the United Nations and of many other inter-governmental organizations and international non-governmental organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Airports Council International (ACI), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the World Wide Web Virtual Library.
Land & People
There are 4 official languages in Switzerland : Swiss German (64%, many dialects), French (20.4%), Italian (6.5%), and Romansh (< 1%).
Swiss cities regularly rank amongst the most liveable on Earth. Zürich was ranked as the world's most liveable city by Monocle's Most Livable Cities Index 2012, and ranked second by Mercer's bi-annual Quality of Living Survey in 2010 and 2012. Mercer respectively ranked Geneva and Bern 2nd and 8th in 2010, and 8th and 9th in 2012. The Economist Intelligence Unit computed a Quality-of-Life Index in 2005, for which Switzerland came second out of 111 countries.
As of 2012, Switzerland had the 2nd highest life expectancy in the world (after Japan).
There are 208 mountain peaks above 3000 metres in Switzerland, including 24 above 4000 metres. The highest of them is Monte Rosa (Dufourspitze) at 4634m, at the boundary of the Valais and the Piedmont (Italy).
Business & Economy
As of 2013, Switzerland had the 4th highest nominal GDP per capita in the world (after Luxembourg, Qatar and Norway).
Switzerland has the highest employment rate of the 36 OECD countries (2010 data).
The Swiss have a long tradition of watchmaking, and are the incontested leader in luxury watches, with brands like Audemars Piguet, Baume et Mercier, Breitling, Chopard, Franck Muller, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Longines, Patek Philippe, Piaget, Rado, Rolex, TAG Heuer, Tissot, or Vacheron Constantin.
Vacheron Constantin was founded in Geneva,Switzerland in 1755 and is the oldest watch manufacturer in the world with an uninterrupted history.
The wristwatch was invented by Patek Philippe in 1868.
Some of the world's most famous companies are Swiss, such as Adecco (human resources), Credit Suisse (banking), Lindt & Sprüngli (chocolate), Logitech (electronics), Mövenpick (hotels), Nestlé (food), Novartis (pharmaceuticals), Richemont (luxury goods), Schindler (lifts/elevators), Securitas (security), Swatch (watches), UBS (banking), or Winterthur (insurance).