The similarities between Sweden and Ireland
Life & Style

The similarities between Sweden and Ireland

IT MIGHT sound surprising, but Ireland and Sweden have more in common than you might think. A Statista survey on the hobbies and interest showed that both cultures enjoy cooking, With around 10% of those surveyed agreeing cooking is a great way to spend free time.

Both countries have some of the most heart-warming and culturally significant meals. But that is not all; hobbies like football, hiking, spending time outdoors, great social events and online poker are common in both countries too.

Leif Johannsson observed that "Sweden and Ireland have many common things to discuss. We are relatively small countries, both of us."

Both Swedish and Irish languages stem from the Indo-European language family. Swedish being Germanic and Irish being Gaelic, they can sound very similar to the untrained ear. With an increasing number of Irish people relocating to Sweden, some 2,500 Irish citizens live in Sweden. Maybe there are more similarities than meets the eye.

What else do these beautiful countries have in common?

Great Outdoors

Both regions are classified as rural due to the large green spaces and the range of natural landscapes. A study comparing Varmland in Sweden and Connemara in Ireland found that women believed that the natural environment gave a huge enhancement to their quality of life.

Swedes are so enamoured by spending time in the great outdoors; they have a specific word for it. Friluftsliv, pronounced similar to ‘free-loofts-liv’, is an intrinsic part of Nordic life. It means open-air living, or free air life - coined by Henrik Ibsen. On the other hand, Ireland is home to some of the oldest outdoor sports, like hurling and Gaelic football. Hurling has been around since 1272 BC, making it an outdoor sport that is deeply ingrained in Irish history.

Quality of Life

Ireland and Sweden both rank in the top ten for countries that offer residents the highest quality of life.

The 2020 study used the original assessment criteria that were created in 1990.

The Human Development Index ranking factors in:

  • Life expectancy
  • Years of completed schooling and expected years of schooling
  • Per capita income

Ireland comes in second, with Sweden sitting in 7th place. Out of 189 countries, that is a huge achievement. The lead author of the report, Pedro Conceição, noted that the Irish economy has almost doubled since the 1990 results.

The quality of life in both countries has been cited as stemming from education. The Swedes place high importance on the education of their children, and balancing study with happiness.

Education is part of the reason, according to the index, that Ireland has climbed its way to second out of 189 countries. In 1990, the average years spent in education was 9.7, which has risen to 12.7.

Defining Moments

Ireland is famed for its welcoming atmosphere, a plethora of pubs and large social celebrations. Similarly, Swedes love to meet up, drink some heavier spirits like vodka and have some huge cultural celebrations. With this, meeting with friends and family is high on the agenda for both countries.

The closest comparisons are The National Day of Sweden and St Patrick’s Day. These celebrations have a lot of history behind them, and St Patrick’s Day is celebrated globally.

The National Day of Sweden celebrates two historical events in Swedish history. The adoption of a new constitution and the day that Gustav Vasa was elected as king. It has been celebrated since 1983, and the 6th of June marks Sweden becoming an independent state, being a public holiday since 2005.

Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated on the 17th of March and has been a religious holiday for over a thousand years. The first St. Patrick’s Day is said to have been held in 1601; however, Ireland started to celebrate it in 1903. It is a celebration of the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. Cèilidhs, parties, huge feasts, and a lot of green usually accompany the festivities. Unlike many countries, Ireland doesn’t have a marked celebration to commemorate the day they became independent.


Both Sweden and Ireland have a long-standing relationship with mythology and folklore. While some are wildly different, there are some crossovers. Leprachauns, elves and dwarves are part of the folklore in both countries. Dwarves were said to be masters at blacksmithing, while elves were peaceful and beautiful and lived long lives - making them wise.

Leprachauns (“Leath bhrògan”) are said to have been in Ireland before humans, and which you can’t trust them; you should certainly look for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. On the other hand, mermaids and Fossegrimmen (also known as Grim) are both sea dwelling beings. Mermaids, according to Irish legends, have the face of a pig with razor-sharp teeth. They are said to come to shore to have relationships with men before disappearing into the sea. The Grim sits under waterfalls and plays music with a fiddle. He is said to create the sounds of nature like water and trees. If you bring him some stolen meat, he can teach you to play too. Legend has it that Torgier Augundsson, a renowned fiddle player, exchanged his soul for the skills.

While these two beautiful countries sit thousands of miles apart, they have more in common than you might think. From folklore to the proud celebrations of the country and the great outdoors.

Sweden and Ireland might just be a match made in heaven, and the thousands of Irish that have relocated to Sweden certainly think so.