I realized a few years ago I needed a way to quickly keep Slovakia and Slovenia straight. I came up with two basic tricks that have never failed me.
Slovenia and Slovakia are two different countries — always have been (well, as long as “always” means “since the early ’90s”).
And, based on no data but my raw assumptions (we call that “Internet style”), I’d say they’re the two countries in the world that cause the most confusion. More than the two Congos or Niger and Nigeria, which I could tackle in similar posts in the future assuming this post gets more than the zero reads I’m expecting it to.
I decided a few years back I was going to figure out a way to remember the difference between Slovenia and Slovakia. Not, ya know, deeply — just a surface level understanding so I wouldn’t confuse them in conversation or bar trivia. Perhaps one day I’ll get a deeper understanding if I visit them. An Eastern European trip isn’t totally out of the question for me. After all, both Slovenia and Slovakia border Hungary, where all four of my grandparents were born — and where the current anti-Semitism level is right around the European average of “strong to quite strong.” Book your tickets now!
Here are the two stupid, basic tricks I use to remember the difference between Slovenia and Slovakia. Which are also, perhaps, an odd insight into how my brain works.
1 | “Slovakia” is the end of the word “Czechoslovakia”
I know Slovenia and Slovakia were formerly parts of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. When Czechoslovakia split on January 1, 1993, they really just split the word in half. The Czech Republic went one direction, Slovakia went the other direction. That helps me remember the geography of Slovakia — I know it’s next to the Czech Republic, not one of the former pieces of Yugoslavia. Slovenia isn’t as conveniently named after the country it sprung from, but process of elimination reminds me it was a part of Yugoslavia.
2 | When in doubt, it’s Slovakia
Slovakia is a larger country in every way — more than double the size, more than double the population. It has the better-known capital city (Bratislava vs. Ljubljana). Any dumb American movie set in one of the two was set in Slovakia, not Slovenia. (Eurotrip and Hostel spring to mind.) If you were going to wind up visiting one, it’s probably going to be Slovakia.
Suffixes and Eurotrip. That’s all it takes.