Finland vs. Sweden

Have you heard of the quarrel between The Netherlands and Belgium? Or about the one between Australia and New Zealand? Those are quarrels that usually happen between two nations that share a border or are otherwise situated geographically close together. And usually the quarreling partners are also nations that are somewhat alike in customs, culture and heritage.

A quarrel (or a bicker if you will) in this case is more like a quarrel between brothers or sisters, I’d say. Nasty things might be said and harsh words used, most likely in a humorous tone though. There might be some name-calling, sayings and aphorisms to put the other one down and usually the quarrel has long roots in the history of the nations. In the end it’s all very innocent and neither one of the partners take it too seriously.

This is the type of a quarrel also between Finland and Sweden.

Finland vs. Sweden

Finland was a part of Sweden until 1809. Then, as a result of a war between Sweden and Russia, Finland became an autonomous part of Russia for little over a century before declaring it’s independence in 1917.

So for centuries Finland was a part of Sweden, part of the same country. Our official language was Swedish; Finnish only achieved its status as an equal legal language in 1892. Nowadays though only about 5,5 % of Finns speak Swedish as their mother tongue but Swedish still holds its legal status as country’s second official language.

So why is that most Finns seem to think very little (very little good anyway) of their neighbors? Why is it that we have sayings after sayings describing them in not so charming way? And they have them about us too. To Finns Swedes are fancy pants, cowards or queers and I don’t even care to know what we are to them.

There’s even a t-shirt that describes the perfect Scandinavia: it’s a map of Scandinavia with just a lot of ocean between Finland and Norway…

The biggest of rivalries is of course in sports. That includes every sport possible, every single one. It doesn’t matter how bad we Finns do, just as long as we do better than Swedes. The latest one of the sweet victories for Finns was the Ice Hockey World Championships in 2011 when Finland beat Sweden 6-1 in the final and won the gold medal. It was the second time Finland has ever won the World Championships (first one was in 1995) and to win it over Sweden (again!) makes it so much better than just winning it. (If you want to know how many times Sweden has won it, you’ll just have to look it up yourself).

Where does this bickering really come from then? I cannot really speak for Holland and Belgium or Australia and NZ but for Finland and Sweden I feel it’s precisely because of the fact that we are so much alike and because we have that history together. And we are afraid that that’s how other nations will see us as well. Bickering and putting each other down is a way to differentiate one country from another. Yes, we are neighboring countries in Northern Europe but if you’ve been to Sweden, you haven’t been to Finland. So if you meet me and hear that I’m from Finland, you are not going to impress me by saying you’ve visited Sweden. Not if that story doesn’t continue with words “on my way to Finland”. No, Finland and Sweden are not the same. Alike yes, but not the same.

So we put each other down to make ourselves noticed. But mostly I think the whole quarreling thing is just a healthy and normal way to test one another’s nerves in a way siblings do.

And don’t get me wrong, I really like Sweden, the Swedes and Swedish!

by Mari in Thoughts and stories

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