Culture / Religion
Three of Europe's major languages are official in Switzerland. Swiss culture is characterised by diversity, which is reflected in a wide range of traditional customs. A region may be in some ways strongly culturally connected to the neighbouring country that shares its language, the country itself being rooted in western European culture. The linguistically isolated Romansh culture in Graubünden in eastern Switzerland constitutes an exception, it survives only in the upper valleys of the Rhine and the Inn and strives to maintain its rare linguistic tradition.
Switzerland is home to many notable contributors to literature, art, architecture, music and sciences. In addition the country attracted a number of creative persons during time of unrest or war in Europe. Some 1000 museums are distributed through the country; the number has more than tripled since 1950. Among the most important cultural performances held annually are the Paléo Festival, Lucerne Festival, the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Locarno International Film Festival and the Art Basel.
Alpine symbolism has played an essential role in shaping the history of the country and the Swiss national identity. Nowadays some concentrated mountain areas have a strong highly energetic ski resort culture in winter, and a hiking (ger: das Wandern) or Mountain biking culture in summer. Other areas throughout the year have a recreational culture that caters to tourism, yet the quieter seasons are spring and autumn when there are fewer visitors. A traditional farmer and herder culture also predominates in many areas and small farms are omnipresent outside the cities. Folk art is kept alive in organisations all over the country. In Switzerland it is mostly expressed in music, dance, poetry, wood carving and embroidery. The alphorn, a trumpet-like musical instrument made of wood, has become alongside yodeling and the accordion an epitome of traditional Swiss music.
The cuisine of Switzerland is multifaceted. While some dishes such as fondue, raclette or rösti are omnipresent through the country, each region developed its own gastronomy according to the differences of climate and languages.  Traditional Swiss cuisine uses ingredients similar to those in other European countries, as well as unique dairy products and cheeses such as Gruyère or Emmental, produced in the valleys of Gruyères and Emmental. The number of fine-dining establishments is high, particularly in western Switzerland.
Chocolate has been made in Switzerland since the 18th century but it gained its reputation at the end of the 19th century with the invention of modern techniques such as conching and tempering which enabled its production on a high quality level. Also a breakthrough was the invention of solid milk chocolate in 1875 by Daniel Peter. The Swiss are the world's largest consumers of chocolate.
Due to the popularisation of processed foods at the end of the 19th century, Swiss health food pioneer Maximilian Bircher-Benner created the first nutrition-based therapy in form of the well-known rolled oats cereal dish, called Birchermüesli.
is the main variety produced in Ticino.Merlot. The Pinot noir in Valais) and Fendant (called Chasselas, with a small majority of white wines. Vineyards have been cultivated in Switzerland since the Roman era, even though certain traces can be found of a more ancient origin. The most widespread varieties are the Ticino and Geneva), Lavaux (Vaud, Valais is produced mainly in Swiss wine, with their specific mixes of soil, air, altitude and light. terroirsThe most popular alcoholic drink in Switzerland is wine. Switzerland is notable for the variety of grapes grown because of the large variations.
Switzerland has four official languages: principally German (spoken by 63.5% of the population in 2013); French(22.5%) in the west; and Italian (8.1%) in the south. The fourth official language, Romansh (0.5%), is a Romance language spoken locally in the southeastern trilingual canton of Graubünden, and is designated by Article 4 of the Federal Constitution as a national language along with German, French, and Italian, and in Article 70 as an official language if the authorities communicate with persons who speak Romansh. However, federal laws and other official acts do not need to be decreed in Romansh.
In 2013, the languages most spoken at home among permanent residents aged 15 and older were Swiss German(60.1%), French (23.4%), Standard German (10.1%), and Italian (8.4%). More than two-fifths (42.6%) of the permanent resident population indicated speaking more than one language regularly. Other languages spoken at home included English (4.6%), Portuguese (3.5%), Albanian (2.6%), Serbian and Croatian (2.5%), Spanish (2.2%), and Turkish (1.3%).
The federal government is obliged to communicate in the official languages, and in the federal parliament simultaneous translation is provided from and into German, French and Italian.
Aside from the official forms of their respective languages, the four linguistic regions of Switzerland also have their local dialectal forms. The role played by dialects in each linguistic region varies dramatically: in the German-speaking regions, Swiss German dialects have become ever more prevalent since the second half of the 20th century, especially in the media, such as radio and television, and are used as an everyday language, while the Swiss variety of Standard German is almost always used instead of dialect for written communication (c.f. diglossic usage of a language).Conversely, in the French-speaking regions the local dialects have almost disappeared (only 6.3% of the population of Valais, 3.9% of Fribourg, and 3.1% of Jura still spoke dialects at the end of the 20th century), while in the Italian-speaking regions dialects are mostly limited to family settings and casual conversation.
The principal official languages (German, French, and Italian) have terms, not used outside of Switzerland, known as Helvetisms. German Helvetisms are, roughly speaking, a large group of words typical of Swiss Standard German, which do not appear either in Standard German, nor in other German dialects. These include terms from Switzerland's surrounding language cultures (German Billette from French), from similar term in another language (Italian azioneused not only as act but also as discount from German Aktion). The French spoken in Switzerland has similar terms, which are equally known as Helvetisms. The most frequent characteristics of Helvetisms are in vocabulary, phrases, and pronunciation, but certain Helvetisms denote themselves as special in syntax and orthography likewise. Duden, one of the prescriptive sources for Standard German, is aware of about 3000 Helvetisms. Current French dictionaries, such as the Petit Larousse, include several hundred Helvetisms.
Learning one of the other national languages at school is compulsory for all Swiss pupils, so many Swiss are supposed to be at least bilingual, especially those belonging to linguistic minority groups.
Switzerland has no official state religion, though most of thecantons (except Geneva and Neuchâtel) recognise official churches, which are either the Catholic Church or the Swiss Reformed Church. These churches, and in some cantons also the Old Catholic Church and Jewish congregations, are financed by official taxation of adherents.
Christianity is the predominant religion of Switzerland (about 71% of resident population and 75% of Swiss citizens), divided between the Catholic Church (38.21% of the population), the Swiss Reformed Church (26.93%), further Protestant churches (2.89%) and other Christian denominations (2.79%). There has been a recent rise inEvangelicalism. Immigration has established Islam(4.95%) and Eastern Orthodoxy (around 2%) as sizeable minority religions.According to a 2015 poll by Gallup International, 12% of Swiss people self-identified as "convinced atheists."
As of the 2000 census other Christian minority communities included Neo-Pietism (0.44%), Pentecostalism (0.28%, mostly incorporated in the Schweizer Pfingstmission), Methodism (0.13%), the New Apostolic Church (0.45%), Jehovah's Witnesses (0.28%), other Protestant denominations (0.20%), the Old Catholic Church (0.18%), other Christian denominations (0.20%). Non-Christian religions are Hinduism (0.38%), Buddhism(0.29%), Judaism (0.25%) and others (0.11%); 4.3% did not make a statement. 21.4% in 2012 declared themselves as unchurched i.e. not affiliated with any church or other religious body (Agnostic, Atheist, or just not related to any official religion).
The country was historically about evenly balanced between Catholic and Protestant, with a complex patchwork of majorities over most of the country. Genevaconverted to Protestantism in 1536, just before John Calvin arrived there. It became known internationally as the Protestant Rome, being base for such reformers as Theodore Beza or William Farel. Zürich became another stronghold around the same time, with Huldrych Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger taking the lead there. One canton, Appenzell, was officially divided into Catholic and Protestant sections in 1597. The larger cities and their cantons (Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Zürich and Basel) used to be predominantly Protestant. Central Switzerland, the Valais, the Ticino, Appenzell Innerrhodes, the Jura, and Fribourgare traditionally Catholic. The Swiss Constitution of 1848, under the recent impression of the clashes of Catholic vs. Protestant cantons that culminated in theSonderbundskrieg, consciously defines a consociational state, allowing the peaceful co-existence of Catholics and Protestants. A 1980 initiative calling for the complete separation of church and state was rejected by 78.9% of the voters. Some traditionally Protestant cantons and cities nowadays have a slight Catholic majority, not because they were growing in members, quite the contrary, but only because since about 1970 a steadily growing minority became not affiliated with any church or other religious body (21.4% in Switzerland, 2012) especially in traditionally Protestant regions, such as Basel-City (42%), canton of Neuchâtel (38%), canton of Geneva (35%), canton of Vaud (26%), or Zürich city (city: >25%; canton: 23%).