Switzerland is a country of borders. As a small country, you always have the state border not too far away from you. Switzerland’s state borders are not all the same. There are those used by cross-border workers to enter in the morning and leave in the evening, those are generally traffic hell. There are the secondary ones, almost never checked (with customs officers physically there), whose purpose is to remind people that here is Switzerland, there is abroad. There are those in the middle of fields or in the middle of woods, those marked only with a boundary stone.

Then there are the internal borders. As a very federal state, municipal and cantonal borders are important and have real consequences on people’s lives. Many people outside Switzerland are familiar with the cantons and the fact that they are quasi-states, but it is the municipality that is the first level of Swiss federalism. You are first and foremost a citizen of your municipality. When you want to become a Swiss citizen, you must first become a citizen of your municipality, then of your canton and finally a Swiss citizen.

And then there are cultural borders. The border between Italian and German-speaking Switzerland is easy: the Alps. On this side is Ticino and the southern valleys of Graubünden where Italian is spoken, on the other side German and Rumantsch are spoken. Rumantsch is a charming Neo-Latin language spoken in several valleys in Graubünden. The Italian fascists in their irredentism also considered the Rumantsch speakers to be Italian alongside the people of Ticino. But funfact: the lingua franca between an Italian and a Rumantsch speaker tends to be German.

The border between French and German-speaking Switzerland, on the other hand, is more subtle. The river Sarine (Saane in German) divides the two areas. It is such an important division that it has a name: Röstigraben, Rösti (a dish consisting mainly of potatoes, sautéed or shallow-fried in a pan) ditch. It is important but often not very noticeable. For example, driving on the A1 you go from one area to another without noticing it. After all, we are in flat and gently hilly areas, not even close to the sharp cuts of the Alps; It is therefore remarkable to see how over the centuries the language boundary has remained there.

Of course, every country has its external and internal borders, but the Swiss ones are interesting because they are very marked and in a small territory. Switzerland is a country of borders.