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JOE BIDEN

Sweden vs Switzerland: 12 facts to help you tell them apart

When US President Joe Biden mixed Sweden up with Switzerland at the Nato summit on Thursday, Sweden's main newswire charitably called it "a classic slip of the tongue". But is it really so hard? Don't worry Joe, we're here to help.

Sweden vs Switzerland: 12 facts to help you tell them apart
Yep: the red and white flag is the Swiss one. File photo: Depositphotos

Biden corrected himself with typical folksy good humour in the very next sentence. “Switzerland? My goodness, I’m getting really anxious here about expanding Nato.”

And of course, he is far from the first to make the mistake. 

The New York Stock Exchange a few years’ back unfurled a Swiss flag when the Swedish music streaming service Spotify listed there. 

And you can see the similarities. The countries do at least share their first syllable (almost). Both have flags with crosses on them. Both are peopled by reserved, orderly folk, with a culture formed in geographically isolated communities drenched in austere protestant Christianity. 

But there ARE differences. 

Kings

Sweden’s current king is Carl XVI Gustaf who has been on the throne since 1973. Switzerland is a federal republic and doesn’t have a monarch, though Roger Federer could perhaps lay claim to the unofficial title.

Sweden’s king (left) and Switzerland’s tennis king (right). Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT & Tim Ireland/AP

Beaches

Switzerland is landlocked, so if you feel like a trip to the beach you’re going to have to travel elsewhere. Sweden on the other hand has around 3,218km of coastline, so swimming spots aren’t hard to come by – if you can handle the cold.

‘Four-thousander’ mountains

“Four-thousander” mountains are, as the name suggests, those with a summit at least 4,000 metres above sea level, and Switzerland is home to no less than 234 of the giants – perhaps not a surprise considering the nation’s fame for skiing.

Sweden on the other hand can’t lay claim to a single one: its tallest mountain Kebnekaise is a mere 2,098.5 metres above sea level.

READ ALSO: Sweden’s highest mountain grows by more than a metre

World Cup honours

Sweden has taken a medal (ie: finished within the top three) at the World Cup on three occasions, coming third in 1950 and 1994, and runner-up in 1958. Switzerland has never gone that far, with their biggest achievement the quarter-finals in 1954 (when they hosted the event) and 1966.


Sweden lost the 1958 World Cup final to Brazil. Photo: AP

Record goalscorer

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of Sweden’s best-known football exports, and holds the record for scoring the highest number of goals in the yellow shirt (62), though many would argue that the Swedes perform better at the World Cup without him.

FOR MEMBERS: Test your knowledge of Sweden at the World Cup

Alexander Frei’s 42 goals make him Switzerland’s all-time top scorer, and the current crop looks unlikely to catch him. 

Olympic football medals

Though the two countries have populations of less than 10 million people, both have won Olympic medals in football. Sweden took Gold in 1948, while Switzerland took Silver in 1924, at a time before the first World Cup when the Olympic tournament was considered the most important in the game.

National languages

Diverse Switzerland has four national languages – French, German Italian and Rhaeto-Romansch – but it’s perhaps more surprising to learn that Sweden has six. Swedish is the majority tongue but there are also five official minority languages in the Nordic nation: Finnish, Meänkieli, Sami, Yiddish and Romani.

Fallout shelters

Both small countries are prepared for the worst, but if you think Sweden’s 65,000 bunkers is impressive, consider Switzerland’s 300,000 private bunkers plus an additional 5,100 for the public.


A creepy Swedish bomb shelter. Photo: Adam Wrafter/SvD/TT

Contributions to the world of alcohol

Sweden’s most famous drink is brännvin, but that can’t hold a candle to the mystique of absinthe. The green fairy was invented in 18th century Switzerland, and is associated with great artists and thinkers, unlike Sweden’s throat-burning spirit.

Nobel laureates

Switzerland has taken the top intellectual honour no less than 26 times, but Sweden goes a few better with 31. Bias, or brilliance?

Tennis singles Grand Slam wins

The achievements of the two nations in the world of sport go well beyond football, and both share a common love of tennis in particular. Swedish players have won a singles Grand Slam on 26 occasions, with the most successful of them all a certain Björn Borg with 11.

Switzerland is even better though, with 28 singles Grand Slam titles. By far the most impressive of the winners is Roger Federer, who has 20…so far.

Large Hadron Colliders

Switzerland has one, Sweden has none. Sorry Sweden.


The Large Hadron Collider. Photo: Laurent Gillieron/AP

Member comments

  1. It just shows how ignorant, uneducated and stupid the majority of people in the world are. I am not surprised by this .

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NATO

Swedish and Turkish foreign ministers to meet to discuss Nato

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that he would meet with his Swedish and Finnish counterparts to discuss their bid to join Nato on the margins of the alliance's meeting in Bucharest on Tuesday.

Swedish and Turkish foreign ministers to meet to discuss Nato

“We will come together with Swedish and Finnish foreign ministers tomorrow in Bucharest under a trilateral format,” Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by the private NTV broadcaster.

Ankara has accused the two Nordic nations of providing a safe haven for outlawed Kurdish militants it deems “terrorists” and held back on ratifying their Nato membership despite an agreement in June.

“The process is progressing positively, but there are still steps to be taken,” Cavusoglu said. “In fact, Sweden is the country that needs to take more steps.”

Finland and Sweden dropped decades of military non-alignment and scrambled to become Nato members in May, after Russia invaded Ukraine.

New Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson visited Ankara early this month to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as Stockholm hoped to secure Turkey’s approval.

Ahead of that trip, Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg, who met with Cavusoglu and Erdogan in Istanbul, said both countries were committed to working with Turkey to address its concerns, adding it is time to welcome them.

Among all Nato members, only Hungary and Turkey are left to green-light their application.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said last week parliament would approve Finland and Sweden’s accession to Nato next year.

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