Sweden: Switzerland with sex appeal

Sweden is Switzerland with sex appeal. That's the verdict of Simon Anholt, who carries out an annual survey of the international images of the nations of the world.

It’s not unusual for foreigners to confuse Sweden with Switzerland, saying Swiss when they mean Swedish and vice versa. This might have something to do with the similarities between the two names, but according to Anholt the countries are also both viewed as steady and reliable.

“Sweden is seen as trustworthy, like Switzerland, but exciting at the same time, which is an unusual combination,” Anhold told news agency TT before addressing a seminar at the Stockholm School of Economics.

“Swedish design, fashion and creativity account for the excitement. And the people are reputed to be attractive,” Anholt said.

Anholt is a British author who advises a number of governments worldwide. He is also the man behind the Anholt Nation Brands Index, which analyses and ranks the brands of countries. Some 30,000 people in 38 countries worldwide are asked four times a year about their impressions of various countries and their politics, business life, education, culture and tourism.

In the first index, published two years ago, Sweden came first, but it has since fallen to seventh place. This fall is due to a change in the way questions are asked, Anhold says.

“Sweden performs well and has a reputation that is a little better than it deserves,” he said.

People view Sweden as the country with the best political system, and a country that is well run. Products from Volvo, Ikea and Absolut have contributed to the trustworthy image.

Sweden does not perform well on the cultural front. Despite being estimated by some as having the third largest music industry in the world, practically the only music connected to Sweden in people’s minds is from Abba. The lack of an internationally-recognized landmark also reduces Sweden’s standing.

“Copenhagen is much better known that Stockholm, thanks to the Little Mermaid. Sweden’s best-known landmark is actually the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi.”

The top nation in the brand index is the United Kingdom, followed by Germany and Italy.

“The UK has a mixture of old and new culture, Shakespeare and the Spice Girls. The country is viewed as important but non-threatening, in contrast to the United States which is viewed as important and threatening,” Anhold said.