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Thun cityspace with Alps mountain and lake in Switzerland

Language & Culture in Switzerland

Start your study abroad experience in Switzerland

Università della Svizzera is a multi-lingual university with courses taught in Italian and English. It has a strong international orientation with students from more than 100 different countries!

Language in Switzerland

What is the official language in Switzerland? The answer is a little complicated. 

With its central European location, Switzerland boasts a wide variety of languages and cultural traditions, drawing on the countries it borders. The four official languages in Switzerland include German (spoken in North, Central and Eastern Switzerland), French (spoken in Western Switzerland), Italian (spoken in Southern Switzerland) and Romansh - (spoken in South-Eastern Switzerland). It is possible to pursue your higher education in Switzerland in French, German or Italian, but a good knowledge of the language of instruction is required.

Despite this linguistic diversity, Switzerland boasts a high level of English proficiency, and almost 64% of Swiss people use more than one language at least once a week. English is not one of Switzerland’s official languages, but many study programmes are offered in English and are specifically designed for international students, especially at the master’s level. 

Read more: What Languages Do They Speak in Switzerland?

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Culture in Switzerland

Swiss culture is highly influenced by its linguistic diversity, and some cultural differences pervade the linguistic regions. Its diversity, however, makes Switzerland a land of contrasts, and the options for exploring are endless as you get to know the wide range of Swiss traditions and customs. While Switzerland is not a member state of the EU, major metropolitan centres like Milan, Paris and Munich are close enough to make day-trips to other European cultural centers with ease!  

Some Swiss stereotypes like snow, Alps, skiing, chocolate, banks, watches, cuckoo clocks and cows may all ring true, but studying in Switzerland will show you that the diverse culture in the home of the Helvetica font is more than its stereotypes, from the Alps of Monta Rosa to the palm trees of Ticino. Cultural events in Switzerland like film and music festivals, theatre, museums, and dance and performing arts events are common in most areas of Switzerland.

Democracy is a strong central tenet of Swiss culture, and any citizen can petition to challenge a law proposed by the parliament. Referendums also play a central role in Swiss life, with popular voting being a common way to make policy decisions. Some common first impressions of Switzerland include cleanliness, safety, efficient infrastructure and high prices, and many newcomers find that the Swiss people have a high regard for helpfulness, and considerate behaviour towards others. 

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Last update: 29 Nov 2019

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