Slovakia and Slovenia:

Yes, There is a Difference

By Tamara Kanuchova | Magazine | October 26, 2021

Cover Illustration: The Biele Pleso (White Iceberg Lake) in the High Tatras, photographed in 2020. Tamara Kanuchova / The Amsterdammer

“Hello everyone, I’m Tamara and I come from Slovakia.”

“Oh, the capital is Ljubljana, right?”

“No. No, it’s not. Our capital is Bratislava. Don’t get me wrong, I get your confusion. It’s funny how many articles about ‘how to differentiate between Slovakia and Slovenia’ I found while writing this article. Now just imagine how people look at me when I try to explain that in the Slovak language, Slovakia is called ‘Slovensko’, while Slovenia is called ‘Slovinsko’.”

Despite our countries being separated by two different countries, and having a different history, there are a lot of instances where people have confused Slovenia and Slovakia. Sports events love to play the Slovenian anthem for the Slovak team or just swap the flags. Also, you have probably heard of Melania Trump, and you probably know she is from a Slavic country. However, there have been a lot of tweets about her “Slovak heritage,” when in reality, she is from Slovenia. But we are of course not keeping things simple seeing that Trump’s ex-wife Ivana was born in Czechoslovakia (Yes, that country does not exist  since 1993, in case you were not even confused about Slovakia and Slovenia because you still believed in the existence of Czechoslovakia). My favorite case however is from 2018, when the prime ministers of both countries stepped down on the same day, probably just to disconcert the international media even more. If you feel like you are not lost by now try this short Quiz.

Before moving to Amsterdam I had never met anyone from Slovenia. But then in the first few days after I settled in, I met my (now very good) friend from Slovenia and later many more of his friends. Getting to know them made me realize that even though I am disappointed every time someone mixes us up, I didn’t really know a lot about Slovenia myself. I knew about Ljubljana, Melania, and that the country is very green. What I should know, according to a Slovenian, is lake Bled (which looks great, no sarcasm), the center of Ljubljana, the historical town of Piran, and the Seven lakes valley. What my friend knew about Slovakia before was Bratislava, that it’s close to Vienna, it’s cheap and we stole their name (not going to comment on the last one). My “must do’s” for Slovakia are Bratislava, High Tatras- our highest mountains, wine tasting in Modra or visiting Demänovská ice cave.

Finally, I realized that after highlighting all the differences in order for people to tell us apart, I ignored all that we have in common. It is still fun to learn about both the differences and similarities of the other country. To start, the languages are very similar. We can understand each other quite a lot by mixing all the Slavic languages we kind of know (Czech and Polish in my case, Croatian and Serbian in the case of my friend, for example). Also, even though historically we are from different branches of Slavs, you can see the small cultural similarities that all the Slavs have (the villages in our countries have a very distinct vibe that you just have to experience, and people from both of our countries spend their summers in Croatia). 

So, which one should you visit? I urge you to explore both countries and contribute to the ongoing conversation about which is better than the other.

I am already looking forward to visiting my friends in Slovenia soon!

+ posts