The question “Are Sweden and Switzerland the same?” may sound absurd to many, but 120,000 people worldwide ask themselves this question every year. Sweden has now had enough and is campaigning for a clear distinction between the two countries.
Reasons for the confusion
Time and again, people confuse Sweden and Switzerland, even though the differences are clear. Especially abroad, there is a lack of clarity about the two countries. Even high-ranking international figures cannot always distinguish between the two nations. This has led to considerable misunderstandings and curious stories in the past, such as that of Anna from Sweden, whose mother actually wanted to visit Switzerland and ended up in Sweden instead – with life-changing consequences.
The national tourism organisation, Visit Sweden, has commissioned a survey to measure the extent of the confusion. It found that 50% of US respondents had difficulty recognising cultural differences between the two countries. These results reinforce how widespread the confusion between Sweden and Switzerland is.
Determined to solve the puzzle once and for all, Sweden has proposed concrete measures. Visit Sweden has presented a first draft of an official agreement between the two countries. This is about making clear distinctions in the advertising campaigns of both countries. For example, Sweden should promote sandbanks, rooftop bars and silence, while Switzerland focuses on banks, mountain peaks and traditional sounds like yodelling.
Susanne Andersson, Managing Director of Visit Sweden, underlines the necessity of the initiative by saying: “If people cannot tell Sweden and Switzerland apart, we have to help them. It’s not about changing our names, it’s about becoming clearer.”
The ongoing confusion between Sweden and Switzerland has prompted both countries to seek solutions to define their respective identities more clearly. While the two countries certainly have their own unique characteristics and cultures, it is clear that further action is needed to end the confusion once and for all. It remains to be seen how Switzerland will react to Sweden’s proposal and whether an official agreement will be reached.