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Language and culture

Language boundaries do not always coincide with geographic, cultural or political boundaries.

Although, for example, Italian-speaking Canton Ticino is cut off from its German-speaking neighbours by the Alps, and in Canton Fribourg/Freiburg, the German and French speaking parts are divided by the river Sarine/Saane, in other cases bilingual cities - like Biel/Bienne in Canton Bern, or Siders/Sierre in Canton Valais - actually straddle the dividing line.

Many people feel a greater solidarity with the church they belong rather than the language they speak. This is why, for example, the Protestant areas of the French speaking Jura opted not to join their Roman Catholic counterparts in forming a new canton independent of Protestant Bern, with its German-speaking majority.

"The Swiss include citizens of Uri, Valais, Bern, Zurich, Basel, Ticino; people who speak Rumantsch and people who speak French, valley farmers, mountain farmers, workers, powerful industrialists, healthy people and sick ones, criminals etc. Each individual is influenced by far more than the fact of sharing a political system. Europeans, taken as a whole, certainly have as much in common as the Swiss taken as a whole. When I say Switzerland, I think first and foremost of the German-speaking foothills of the Southern Jura in the canton of Solothurn. Parts of the canton of Bern and parts of the canton of Aargau are not far away, and I do not feel an outsider there. When I go to Basel, Zurich or Lucerne, I can still understand people and see that we share a lot of things apart from the language. I still pay with the same money, I'm not abroad, but I am not at home. In western Switzerland and Ticino, I'm already further away; I can't speak Italian and I have trouble with French, but the money is still the same, the prices and regulations are similar and the soldiers wear the same uniform. I am really glad that they are there with us, the Ticinese, the French speakers, the Rumanstch."


Peter Bichsel (1935 -), Swiss German author, "A Swiss's Switzerland"

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