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Swiss ambassador weighs in on the ‘Sweden versus Switzerland’ debate

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Swiss ambassador weighs in on the ‘Sweden versus Switzerland’ debate
IKEA: Swedish or Swiss? Photo by Jueun Song on Unsplash

In October, the Swedish tourist board launched a tongue-in-cheek campaign in a bid to end the confusion of people mixing up the Scandinavian country with the Alpine nation. Now a Swiss ambassador has responded.


The two nations are often mixed up in some of the English-speaking world, because both start with the letters ‘sw.’

Apparently, this is a good enough reason for US president Joe Biden to mistakenly welcome Switzerland into NATO (which was, needless to say, a shocking revelation to the neutral Swiss), or for Wall Street to celebrate the listing of Stockholm-based Spotify on the New York Stock Exchange with a Swiss flag.

It is interesting to note, however, that neither the Swedes nor the Swiss ever confuse their country with the other, so there is no identity crisis there.

As a result of these and other incidents when the two countries have been mixed up, the Swedish (not Swiss) tourist board launched a campaign to remind those not in the know about the geographical reality.

For instance, in its video, Visit Sweden tourism board proposes that each country sticks to an agreed list of topics.

Switzerland, for instance, can have red flags, while Sweden gets red cabins. Switzerland can have LSD (it was invented there), while Sweden gets "a different kind of the surreal experience": the Northern Lights.

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


That was Sweden’s take on the mix-ups. What is Switzerland’s response?

It comes from Jacques Pitteloud, Switzerland’s ambassador to the United States, who has taken to YouTube to share his own humorous (and not at all neutral) take on this hot-button debate. 

As Pitteloud points out in the three-minute video, now that the African nation of Swaziland had officially changed its name to Eswatini, only one geographical confusion still remains — the one between Switzerland and Sweden.

He goes on to concede that while IKEA “is an example of Swedish ingenuity, engineering, and simplicity, how would you put all this furniture together without a proper instrument,” — yes, you guessed it: a Swiss army knife.

Pitteloud with a Swiss tool to assembly IKEA furniture. Photo Youtube screenshot

READ ALSO: Do Swiss soldiers really use the army knife?
The Ambassador also played Switzerland's eternal trump card — by evoking ‘Roger Federer sneakers’ as the ultimate expression of Switzerland’s fashion sense, versus Sweden’s Fjällräven backpacks.

At the end of the video, we see Pitteloud singing along to ABBA’s song, ‘Dancing Queen,’ before realising that the ‘wrong’ music is playing. After he asks for the right one to be put on, we hear the sounds of the alphorn.

You can see the video here.


But wait.

There is an interesting point that neither the Swedish or the Swiss side has evoked.

And that is, that IKEA’s founder Ingvar Kamprad had lived in Lausanne, Switzerland, for nearly 40 years before his death.

There could be two reasons for this: one, that, like many of his countrymen as well as wealthy people from other Nordic countries, he preferred Switzerland's lower taxation rate. Or, two, he too mixed up Switzerland with Sweden.


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