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Swedes implore Chinese: 'We are not Swiss'

Published: 01 Nov 2013 12:21 GMT+01:00

Swedes invented cheese with big holes and world-famous chocolate, while the Swiss invented the monkey wrench and the ball bearing.

Or did they?

Nope, Swedes invented the monkey wrench and while the Swedes have Västerbotten cheese and Marabou chocolate, neither are of noteworthy fame beyond Swedish borders.

The Anglophones have it relatively easy — Sweden and Switzerland sound quite different, although Americans have a tendency to confuse the two.

Spanish-speakers struggle with the Suecia versus Suiza conundrum.

And that also holds true for the Chinese, where the two European countries' names sound a wee bit too close for comfort.

"You often encounter this," Swedish Consul General Victoria Li told the TT news agency.

"Sweden is 'Ruidian' and Switzerland is 'Ruishi'.

"The first symbol is the same."

To tackle the name mixup, Li has launched a competition on social media, inviting people to come up with funny ways to keep the two countries apart.

The poster for the competition, which is open until November 20th, is choc-a-bloc with objects and people associated with the two countries.

The Swedish map has a Dalecarlian horse (a traditional wood carving) and then a smörgåsbord selection of male images associated with the country — five in all: A viking, two gay men getting married, Alfred Nobel, and finally a guy on parental leave with a baby strapped to his chest.

Author Astrid Lindgren's flame-haired rebel child Pippi Långstocking gets a look-in too.

The rather lacklustre gallery of images on the map of Switzerland might shed some light on Swedish ignorance of the Swiss, meanwhile, but that's a different story.

At least tennis ace Roger Federer, highly popular in China, is represented, along with such images as a watch, an Alphorn player and bags of money nestled with bars of gold (representing Switzerland's banking sector).

And talking about sports stars, let's not forget that Swedish table-tennis champ JO Waldner, while perhaps not as well known internationally as Federer, is a Chinese house god.

"He's a superstar over there, dubbed 'the eternally green tree' or something," said Swedish designer Anna Forsberg who used to live in Beijing and Kunming.

"I was actually quite surprised by how well acquainted people in China were with Sweden," she said.

"Although, of course, maybe you without knowing it fed people prompt words like Volvo if they didn't seem to pick up on the country name in conversation."

Once the Swiss-Swedish competition wraps up in China, the winner will be shipped off on holiday to both destinations.

But they'll have to report back on their impressions.

Staff reporter (news@thelocal.com)

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