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.
— sven carlsson (@svenaxel) April 3, 2018
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.
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
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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