I’m from Sweden, NOT Switzerland…

I am sure it is something about coming from a European, famously neutral country starting with “Sw”.  People always think I am from Switzerland.

I tell them quite clearly that I am from Sweden and then they turn around and introduce me to their friends and say, “This is Bjorn, he’s Swiss.”  It drives me crazy.

Swiss stuff that doesn’t apply to Sweden

Why do people mix these two countries up?  Sweden is not Switzerland.  Not even close.  We don’t have Heidi.  We are not big on goofy-yet-charming goat bells. We are not known for our chocolate (unless you happen to be an IKEA addict and you spend too much time in the food section).  Evil dictators don’t clamor to invest in our banks.

No use

As much as I explain the above to people they still just nod and then come up to me two weeks later and try to tell me about their other Swiss friend or they ask me for travel tips for Zurich.   Come on!

Fun Swedish Stereotypes

It’s not like Sweden is running low on stereotypes.  Whenever there is a dumb lumber jack character in a movie or commercial, he has a Swedish accent.  Whenever there is a foreign, blond bikini-clad hottie in a role, she most likely is also Swedish.  Whenever my right wing friends get riled up about socialism they list Sweden as one of the countries where doomsday has been realized.  I could go on and on.  There are TONS of stereotypes, good and bad to choose from.  Associate me with ANY of them but lay off with the freaking “Swiss” label.

So What?

Why is this a big deal?  Well, at first it wasn’t.  But trust me, the 50th time you hear it, it gets old.  When you are from a small country, identity can be important.  You want to be recognized as unique, not confused with being from somewhere else.  It’s kind of like the time I was working in the Filipino fishing village I called home for a while and I was asked where in the United States Sweden was… Ugghghghghghg.


Am I being oversensitive?  Yes.  But you know what?  I don’t care.

THERE: end of mid-week rant.



Bjorn Karlman

13 thoughts on “I’m from Sweden, NOT Switzerland…”

  1. Hahaha. . .i can identify with you but I think a lot of your problem arises from living in America *runs and hides for cover*
    I have constantly had to tell people I’m from NORTHERN Ireland. . .no,not just Ireland. . .it’s not a united country.so,my issues are slightly different and more politically based.i have,however,been asked by an American,where in England is Ireland!?:-S maybe we need to surround ourselves with people who know stuff about geography,politics and history. . .

    1. Hahaha! I love how you jump straight to the conclusion that this is an American thing:) How British of you…

  2. I can identify with this post! Being from Argentina, I get asked the dumbest questions (mostly by Americans, tee hee…) such as, where in Europe is Argentina? Why don’t you look South American? Can you teach me how to make tacos? What – you don’t eat Mexican food – I thought Argentina was in Latin America! So “Don’t cry for me Argentina” is NOT your national anthem? Wow… And one that cracks me up – “oh, you’re from Argentina, no wonder you have an accent” (I grew up in Lesotho, where I acquired my accent).
    My Austrian friend has the same issue as you, but with Australia. She recently bought a t-shirt that says, “Austria – no Kangaroos”.
    I guess many countries aren’t a reality for most people – until they meet someone from that country and start paying attention…

    1. ““Don’t cry for me Argentina” is NOT your national anthem?” Hilarious!!! I don’t know WHY I think that is so funny but it is:)

      When I lived in Buenos Aires it really DID feel like a European city though… what is it they say? – Buenos Aires is the most American of European cities?:)

  3. My ancestors were from Switzerland and I love geography, travel, maps, etc. so I am definitely not among those who confuse Sweden-Switzerland, Austria-Australia. You just have to laugh, as I did when a friend stepped out of heated discussion recently by saying “I’m Sweden.”

  4. I just am amazed when I here the ignorance and thoughtlessness revealed in of questions that are asked of foreigners, people with disabilities, or any type of minority in America. I’ve always been prone to keep my mouth shut and listen if I didn’t know what I was talking about: I don’t know why more Americans can’t do that, I think if we did we’d have a much better reputation.

    Something you have to understand about Americans, though, is that most of us don’t even know exactly where we are from. We’re in America now, that’s all that really matters to us most of the time. I think one reason American’s are perceived as being bad at geography is that we don’t think about it as much as others do. Our identity is not tied to our ancestral lands the way people in other countries are, so to us one piece of land is pretty much as good as another; the only thing that matters is whether its inside or outside of America (on a side note, I wonder if the fact that we refer to our country by the name of the continent it’s in has anything to do with this as well).

    I also think we have a disadvantage in that coming from a large country that dominate world events it’s easy for others to recognize where our country and what it’s all about, but harder for us to do the same for them, and therefore they come off as educated while we come off as ignorant. I’m not saying any of this excuses ignorance or stupidity on the part of Americans; the fact people still get it wrong after you explain to them the difference between Sweden and Switzerland shows that they aren’t even interested in learning. Hopefully it sheds some light on where we’re coming from though. Of course, as a teacher who’s in the trenches I can say from first hand experience that our education system has numerous problems as well. And, we can always blame the media for our stupidity too, they certainly have their role to play in the dumbing down of America.

      1. I was just thinking of the usual complaints about the media: all the misinformation we see in TV shows, movies and such, and the lack of accurate information. Most of what you see in hear in our media is the informational equivalent of junk food.

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