Why Do Some People Think That Swedes Hate Finns?

Sweden and Finland are more different from each other than it looks at first glance. There is some friendly rivalry between the countries, but it rarely turns into anything bitter.

If this is the case, why do some people think that Swedes hate Finns?

Some people think that Swedes hate Finns because many Finns feel the Finnish language isn’t treated as an equal to Swedish.

There are also some negative stereotypes about Swedes in Finland. However, Swedes have mostly positive views about Finns.

Finns have a legitimate concern about the status of their language, but that doesn’t stop both countries from having friendly relations.

This article will go in-depth into the reasons that may stir some conflict between Finland and Sweden.

map of Finland
Do Swedes look down on Finns? See below

Do Swedes Look Down on Finns?

Swedes don’t look down on Finns. This might have been the case when Finland was under Swedish rule centuries ago, but today most Swedes have positive views of Finns.

However, there has been some controversy over the language policies of both countries.

In general, Swedes don’t hold many negative stereotypes of Finns. It might be that Swedes don’t know their neighbors as well as they could, but they usually have positive views about them.

There is a widespread belief that says Swedes look down on Finns. Although this is far from today’s reality, a couple of factors might contribute to it.

The first one is the disagreement many Finns feel over what they see as the dismissal of their language by Sweden and the imposition of the Swedish language.

The second one is the historical relations between Sweden and Finland. 

The Language Controversy

The main issue in the relationship between Finns and Swedes today is the views of both countries on the Finnish language.

Finland and Sweden have different ethnicities and cultures, but perhaps their biggest difference is in their languages.

Swedish is a Scandinavian language, which means it shares Germanic roots with languages from neighboring countries such as Norway and Iceland.

Meanwhile, Finnish is a Uralic language, which means it has more in common with Hungarian and Estonian than with Scandinavian languages.

Finnish is one of the few languages from the European Union that aren’t Indo-European.

During Sweden’s rule over Finland, Swedish was the language used by the Finnish elite and government, while Finnish was relegated to the peasantry.

However, Finnish gradually became the country’s main language thanks to government reforms after the 19th century.

Today, 90% of Finns speak Finnish as their first language. However, Swedish remains a compulsory school subject and is spoken by around 47% of Finns.

The situation of Finnish in Sweden is quite different.

To start, Finnish isn’t a compulsory school subject in Sweden and is not as widespread.

More worryingly, many Finnish speakers in Sweden complain that institutions are somewhat hostile towards their language.

There have been reported cases of kids being told not to speak Finnish in school. [1]

This double standard makes some Finnish people feel uneasy and gives them the impression that they’re being looked down upon.

While Swedes don’t hold negative feelings toward Finland, the expectation of Swedish being spoken in Finland and not vice versa can be seen as unfair by some Finns.

Sweden’s Rule Over Finland

It’s safe to say that Finns were once looked down upon by Sweden and other countries, but this dates back to medieval times.

In the 13th century, Sweden was already a Christian kingdom, while Finland was largely unchristianized.

During this time, the rulers of Sweden decided to bring Finland under their rule, Christianizing the territory and imposing their customs. [2]

Sweden managed to maintain control over the Finnish territory until the 18th century, but a sense of unity and unrest grew over time among the Finnish people.

Sweden’s conflicts with Russia heightened this discontent.

Finland comprised Sweden’s border with Russia, and during the Russo-Finnish wars of the 18th century, the Finns took most of the toll.

This was seen as an unfair cost of being part of Sweden, and it became one of the main arguments for declaring independence in later years.

However, Finland never had to fight for its independence from Sweden. In the 19th century, Russians took over Finland, which remained an independent duchy.

When the Russian nobility was overthrown in the bolshevik revolution in 1917, Finland was able to declare independence without external opposition, although it went through a series of civil wars.

Finnish flag
How do Swedes view Finns? See below

How Do Swedes View Finns?

The Swedes view Finns in a positive light. The Swedish stereotype of Finns is of quiet, alcohol-loving, and slightly strange people.

There is some friendly rivalry between Sweden and Finland, mainly in hockey championships.

If there is some sourness between Swedes and Finns, it rarely goes beyond friendly banter. Many Finns jokingly refer to Sweden as a successful but cocky older brother.

Meanwhile, Swedes see Finns as being quiet, slightly crazy, and having weird customs.

However, Finns may not view Swedes as kindly as Swedes view them. It is somewhat common in Finland, especially among young boys, to tag Swedes with slurs.

The negative stereotype of Swedes being “weak” and “effeminate” is receding as homophobia becomes less acceptable in Finland.

It also seems to be that Finns know more about Sweden than Swedes know about Finland.

This is reflected in the fact that most Finns speak some degree of Swedish, while very few Swedes speak Finnish.

Scandinavian flags
Are Finland and Sweden allies? See below

Are Finland and Sweden Allies?

Finland and Sweden are allies. They are part of the Nordic Defense Cooperation, together with Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway.

The purpose of the NORDEFCO is to strengthen the countries’ defense capabilities through cooperation and explore common solutions.

Finland and Sweden cooperate as allies, but their people have slightly different views on global politics. [3]

The main security question for both countries is whether or not to join NATO. The matter has taken urgency as the threat of Russian aggression becomes more likely.

The Swedish public seems to be more malleable on the matter, changing their position as events unfold.

In 2016, around 45% of Swedes supported joining NATO, but that number may have grown in recent years. [4]

Meanwhile, only around 20% of Finns support joining NATO. They prefer to maintain their status quo as a neutral nation.


Swedes have mostly positive views of Finns, even though they don’t know them that well. There is some rivalry, but it isn’t ill-meant.

[1] Source
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Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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