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Switzerland is a small country, but it is also a land of great diversity. Not only have the three main linguistic areas developed their own culture, traditions, economy and cuisine, but the great number of foreigners settled in Switzerland have also brought with them their various cultures and languages. With four national languages (German, French, Italian and Romansh) and over 22% of the population consisting of foreign citizens, Switzerland is a unique melting-pot in the heart of Europe. Although the majority of people (60%) speak German - or, more precisely, Swiss-German - Swiss residents often speak at least two languages. Cross-cultural encounters are part of daily life in Switzerland; plurilinguism is essential.
Lifestyle can vary greatly depending on the area of the country and the background of the inhabitants. Nowadays, the Swiss population is mainly modern and urban, with slightly more than one third of the population living in the five biggest cities (Zurich, Basel, Geneva, and Lausanne), another third in smaller urban areas and the final one-third in rural areas*. Traditions are kept alive especially in these mountain and rural areas. However, even the biggest Swiss city, Zurich, numbers only 372,000 inhabitants.
As in other industrialised countries, the population is growing older, even though the birth rate has been on the rise since 2007. The population growth over the last few years has been due mainly to immigration.
Despite the fact that Switzerland lacks natural resources and that the Swiss economy is highly dependent on exports, its economic situation has been very stable over the years; its GDP per inhabitant is higher than in most industrialised countries. The Swiss population on the whole enjoys a high level of living and Switzerland deserves its reputation of high-quality standards and services in all sectors (health, industry, public transport, education, etc.).
*Source: ESPOP, Federal Statistical Office, 2013