Swedes’ view of Finland

Novus has been entrusted with investigating the Swedes’ view of Finland. Swedes are increasingly positive about Finland, crisis management and the joint NATO application contribute to the positive attitude. More than half of Swedes see Finland as an equal country, potentially thanks to President Sanna Marin. Despite that, our survey shows that it is sauna, sisu and lakes that, like previous surveys, are Swedes’ strongest associations with Finland.

Fanny Göterfelt, senior consultant at Novus, was in Finland to present the report, which was noticed by the Finnish media. Examples of how the study was received in Finland can be read here: Svenska Yle Svenskarna ser mer positivt på Finland än tidigare as well as in HBL Så här tycker svenskarna om Finland – och om Sanna Marin.

The positive results are clear: Swedes are interested and want to know more about Finland. The NATO process has strengthened the perceived cooperation between Sweden and Finland. The desire to visit Finland has also increased significantly since the previous survey, and Finland is seen as an exciting country with a good, functioning society.

The view of Finland as an equal country has also increased significantly. Half of Swedes agree that Finland is a country characterized by gender equality. Perhaps half can be seen as a small percentage for some, but it is the biggest increase compared to the survey in 2017 when only a quarter of Swedes agreed with this statement. Finnish media talk about the Sanna Marin effect. And perhaps it is not just the effect of one person, but the many young women in politically important positions.

The result was happily received in Finland and the Finnish media were interested in understanding how the Swedes’ image of Finland looked. They were also pleasantly surprised by the increase in positivity and interest above all among the younger age group 18–29 year olds, who distinguished themselves as interested and positive to a greater degree.

Despite a generally increased positive attitude towards Finland, the security situation overshadows interest in other areas. A third of Swedes have read articles about Finland in the daily press in the past six months, but significantly fewer come into contact with other Finnish culture. Saunas, sisu and lakes remain Swedes’ strongest associations with Finland, and interest in learning more about Finnish design and sustainability has decreased since the survey in 2020. There is also uncertainty as to whether Finland is at the forefront of climate work or not, and barriers remain when it comes to settle in Finland, where language is cited as a major obstacle.

The results also show how the security policy situation is central to the Swedes and that stereotypical images of a country are difficult to change.

However, Finland’s landscape is highlighted as something exciting and enticing to discover, and it is now that thinking begins about how to take these (positive) results further. How do you create new associations with the Swedes? How do you ensure that a generally positive interest in Finland also generates attention for other parts, such as Finnish culture, which ultimately leads to a larger tourism industry and that more Swedes consider actually settling in Finland? How do you work to maintain interest, in addition to NATO processes and crisis management?

This report is certainly only the beginning of a larger effort to anchor the (positive) image of Finland among the Swedes.

On behalf of the think tank Magma and in collaboration with the Institute of Finland, the Embassy of Finland – Stockholm, the Culture Fund for Sweden and Finland, Novus has conducted a survey on the Swedes’ image of Finland. The survey is compared to previous surveys we did with similar questions in 2017 and 2020.

Fanny Göterfelt
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