Swaziland to change its name – and Switzerland’s partly to blame

Swaziland to change its name – and Switzerland’s partly to blame
King Mswati III is fed up with the confusion. Photo: Jinty Jackson/AFP
The southern African country of Swaziland has announced it is to change its name, partly because people keep mixing it up with Switzerland.

The country’s king made the surprise decree on Thursday – during celebrations jointly marking the monarch's birthday and the 50th anniversary of independence from Britain – that Swaziland would revert to its original name eSwatini.

READ ALSO: Switzerland versus Swaziland – how they stack up

But according to the Tages Anzeiger, the country isn’t just shedding a relic of its colonial past, but is also trying to avoid confusion with Switzerland.

Both are small, landlocked, mountainous countries but whereas one is in southern Africa and is classed as a lower-middle income country, the other is in western Europe and one of the wealthiest nations in the world. 

READ ALSO: Switzerland or Swaziland? the FBI appears confused

But it seems the similarity of the countries’ names does lead to diplomatic confusion.

“On foreign trips we are always being referred to as Swiss,” complained King Mswati III, according to the paper.

Indeed even the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has in the past got its Swazilands mixed up with its Switzerlands. 

In a report last year into alleged Russian hacking it listed IP addresses as being from Swaziland when they were actually Swiss.

But it’s even more common for Switzerland to be confused with another European country – Sweden.

Earlier this month the New York Stock Exchange made an embarrassing faux pas when it tried to honour the Swedish company Spotify.

Instead of raising the blue and yellow flag of Sweden it hoisted the red and white flag of Switzerland. Fortunately the mistake was quickly spotted and rectified.

Last year, the airline Swiss airline launched a tongue-in-cheek competition aimed at ending the never-ending mix-up by offering to take 24 winners on a tour through the non-existing 'Swederland'.