According to a recent press release from Visit Sweden, there were 85,000 web searches from the United States over the previous year asking the question “Are Sweden and Switzerland the same thing?”.
Definitely not the same thing, people.
If you’re responsible for one of those 85,000 searches, rest assured that you’ve got plenty of company though, including in some very high places.
Last summer, US president Joe Biden mixed up the countries, mistakenly saying that Switzerland was on track to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation or NATO. Back in 2018, the New York Stock Exchange mistakenly hung a Swiss flag out front in an attempt to honour Spotify – a Swedish company – on the occasion of its initial public offering.
And you know what, I sort of get it.
Both countries are famed for their unspoiled natural beauty, political neutrality and a wealth of winter sports.
Both countries are widely regarded as being home to fairly tidy societies full of citizens who enjoy a very high quality of life.
And probably most importantly, there’s that whole thing with how both nation’s names begin with the letters “Sw”.
Well, Sweden is officially sick and tired of being mixed up with Switzerland.
That’s why late last month, Visit Sweden released a campaign aiming to quash some of the confusion – and no doubt drum up some interest in visiting the splendid Scandinavian nation.
In a widely shared video, a very official-looking Swedish representative tells you, among other things, that Switzerland is the place for banks, while the Swedish coast is the spot for sandbanks. Sweden offers peace and quiet, while Switzerland is overrun with incessant yodellers.
It’s all very tongue-in-cheek and it’s pretty good. Be sure to check it out below.
While it’s tempting to just say we should all simply study geography more intently, this whole situation transcends physical locations on a map.
It’s one thing to not know where a country is, another to think it’s part of a different nation entirely.
This is especially troubling considering both countries have been major players on the world stage for a long time and, well, aren’t located all that close to each other.
Their flags don’t even look alike. (Unlike Slovenia and Slovakia, which I have no doubt I’ll be writing a similar piece about at some point.)
So yes, geography is good and all that and we need to be better. But what’s more scary to me is that this confusion between the countries could lead to some serious trip disappointment, and that’s the last thing I want anybody to experience on a dream European vacation.
Possible examples include but are certainly not limited to:
a) Showing up in Switzerland hoping to visit the ABBA Museum, which is located in Stockholm, Sweden.
b) Asking for fondue – a cherished winter delicacy in the mountainous regions of Switzerland – at a Swedish restaurant.
c) Seeking out plates of meatballs and lingonberries in Switzerland.
d) Splurging on that Swedish watch of your dreams to find out that it isn’t quite up to par with the ones they make down at the base of the Alps.
I could go on and on.
So yeah, in short, Sweden and Switzerland are both great countries and unbelievable European travel destinations, but entirely different places.
However, don’t take my word for it, go visit Sweden and Switzerland for yourself. You’ll have the time of your life and you’ll be guaranteed to never confuse the two countries again. – SCOTT HARTBECK/TravelPulse/Tribune News Service