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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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SWEDEN AND TURKEY

Turkey calls for ‘concrete steps’ before backing Sweden Nato bid

Turkey said on Wednesday Sweden's new government was more determined to address Ankara's security concerns in return for Nato membership but called for "concrete steps".

Turkey calls for 'concrete steps' before backing Sweden Nato bid

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with his Swedish and Finnish counterparts on the sidelines of a NATO gathering in Bucharest on Tuesday.

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

“The statements (coming out of Sweden) are good, the determination is good but we need to see concrete steps,” Cavusoglu told reporters in Bucharest. “We told them we haven’t seen concrete steps on these issues”.

The progress included the most vexed issue of extradition of criminals and the freezing of terror assets, Cavusoglu said.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billström spoke optimistically about Tuesday’s meeting.

“I have to say that I felt after this meeting that yes, there is progress in line,” he said.”We are moving forward with the implementation of a trilateral memorandum which was signed in Madrid.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also sounded upbeat, saying he was confident that Sweden and Finland would “soon” join Nato.

“Turkey, Sweden and Finland are engaging directly as well as with Nato to make sure that Turkey’s concerns are fully addressed, including concerns about its security,” he said. “That process has been moving, moving forward. And I’m very confident and
again, based on what I’ve heard these last couple of days, that Finland and Sweden will soon be formally new members of the alliance.”

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

The decision requires a consensus within the US-led defence alliance, but only Turkey and Hungary are yet to give consent to their membership.

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