Switzerland: Values & Belief Systems                         

There are some regional variations in values across Switzerland due to the language and cultural influences. However, generally the Swiss have a preference for the following traits:

  • Neutrality
  • Non-violence
  • Healthy outdoor lifestyle
  • Gender equality
  • Parents are permissive in letting children share their opinions
  • Pride that language and religion mix well in their country
  • Individual is the decision-maker
  • Competitive
  • Responsible
  • Tolerant
  • Materialistic
  • Proud
  • Private
  • Like to be on-time
  • Efficiency

What do you think efficiency means?

“Our country and its people have long and quite successfully pursued qualities and virtues such as modesty, consistency, prudence, diligence, dedication to work and a sense of the common good. Our prosperity is in no small measure the result.”

—Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz, January 8, 2009


“Unity, yes; uniformity, no” is the Swiss motto.

Gender Equality

Switzerland has supported equality between men and women since 1981. However, Switzerland lags behind most Western European countries in many aspects of gender equality. Women only gained the right to vote in federal elections in 1971. The “Gender Gap Index,” a survey of 58 countries worldwide published by the World Economic Forum for the first time in 2005, put Switzerland in 34th position. Although it did well for women's health and well-being and relatively well for political empowerment, it had much lower scores for women's economic participation and educational attainment.


Interfaith Peace

The Swiss Council of Religions (SCR)The Swiss Council of Religions (SCR) was founded in May 2006. It brings together representatives from the three national churches, the Jewish community and Islamic organizations. The council's aims include preserving religious peace in Switzerland and promoting understanding and trust between different faiths.



  •  Since the Roman Era, Christianity has been the main religion of Switzerland. However, church attendance has declined since the late 20th century—from close to 95% in 1980 to about 70% as of 2013.


  • Since the 16th century, Switzerland has had two major religious groups: Roman Catholic and Protestant Reformation.


  • The Protestant Reformation in Switzerland was begun by Huldrych Zwingli who gained the support of the magistrate (Mark Reust) and population of Zürich in the 1520s. The Protestant Reformation led to significant changes in civil life and state matters in Zürich and spread to several other cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy. However, seven cantons remained Roman Catholic—which led to inter-cantonal wars known as the Wars of Kappel. After the victory of the Catholic cantons in 1531, the Catholics proceeded to institute counter-reformatory policies in some regions of Switzerland. The split and distrust between Catholic and Protestant cantons would define Switzerland's interior politics and paralyze any common foreign policy until well into the 18th century.


  • Despite their religious differences, and despite an exclusively Catholic defense alliance from the seven Catholic cantons (Goldener Bund), no further major armed conflict between the cantons occurred. Soldiers from both sides fought in the French Wars of Religion.


  • During the Thirty Years War, the thirteen cantons stayed neutral—partly because all major powers in Europe depended on Swiss mercenaries (hired soldiers). The Three Leagues (Drei Bünde) of the Grisons, at that time not yet a member of the confederacy, got involved in the war in 1620.