If you take a close look at the picture above, you'll see a Swiss flag (red with a white cross) on the left side of the street, and a Swedish flag (blue with a yellow cross, behind the European Union flag) on the right side of the street. Those are the Swiss and Swedish embassies in Marylebone, central London, directly across the street.
I was visiting the Swiss one this morning to officially apply for my new passport, as my old one is set to expire soon. Picture taking, fingerprinting, form-filling .... the like. Nothing too unusual there.
But what I do find kind of hilarious is how close they've put these two embassies, simply because of the confusion between the two countries. Living in the U.S. for over 15 years, I cannot tell you how many times I was asked the question - seriously - "Oh, you're from Switzerland! So do you speak Swedish?"
Now, I'll grant you that I don't necessarily expect people to know the fact that Switzerland actually has four official languages (German, French, Italian, and Romansh). But Swedish? And when you answer that question with, "No, I don't speak Swedish, but I do speak French," confused looks tend to ensue.
And it's not just language that would confuse people. I remember once years ago I went on a date with a Swedish guy I'd met online, and he introduced himself virtually by saying, "Oh, you're Swiss! I'm from Sweden, and most people think that is Switzerland." We had a good laugh over what else they might get confused about. I told him I'd take cuckoo clocks, fondue, and yodeling, and he could take blond hair, IKEA, and smoked herring. Oh, how we bonded on date number one! (Alas, by date number three he'd lost interest. Not meant to be. Sigh.)
So I amused myself this morning by wondering whether the two embassies ever get each other's foot traffic. Probably not too often, I decided. But it's got to happen every once in a while.
I'll need to go back and pick up my new passport once it's ready, in about two weeks.
Hopefully I'll go to the correct side of the street when I do.