Since I live here I have discovered and heard of many interesting and funny facts about Finland and its people. With this post I would like to share some of them with you!
Did you know that…
… one and two cent coins are not used in Finland?
Although officially available, one and two cent coins are not used and shops are not obliged to accept them. Individual prices are still shown but cash payments are rounded to the nearest 5 cents. However, paying in cash is rather unusual anyway. A majority of everyday payments is done with debit/credit cards.
… Finland counts as the most densely-forested country in the world?
About 75% of the total land area are covered with forests. Around 90% of which are used in the forest industry and about 10% for energy generation. Finland is one of the leading countries in utilizing wood for energy purposes. The most common tree species are pine, spruce, and birch.
Forests are an essential part of everyday’s life in Finland as a source of recreation and inspiration. The law of every man’s right (the right of public access) allows everyone to enter the forests, observe the nature, and benefit from nature’s gifts. For example, each year tons of wild berries and millions of mushrooms may be picked freely, independent of who owns the land. The majority of Finns enjoy wildlife experiences like hiking, skiing, biking, horseback riding, or hunting and own a holiday home in or near the forest at a lake.
… the government offers expecting mothers a so-called maternity package?
All expecting parents living in Finland or covered by the Finnish social security system get a free maternity packages before the baby is born. This starter kit contains a lot of useful items including clothes in different (neutral) colors and sizes and child care products. The box in which the package is delivered can be transformed into a little bed for the newborns, a small mattress and blankets are included. The parents can choose to take the packages or a money grant of 140e but most of them decide for the packages since it is worth much more.
… Santa Claus officially lives in Finland?
He resides in a house right on top of the Arctic Circle near the city of Rovaniemi in Lapland. The Santa Clause Village is open for visitors every day of the year. His post office receives around 700000 letters every year from children all around the world. Here is his address, in case you also want to drop him a line: Santa Claus Village, FIN-96930 Arctic Circle. Among many other attractions and shops in the village you can find there a mailbox where postcards are collected and stored all year around and send just before Christmas to your loved ones.
… there are no public pay phones in Finland any more?
In 1998, Finland became the first country with a higher mobile phone density per capita than fixed home phone lines. By 2005, TeliaSonera Finland, the last pay phone operator, decided to discontinue its pay phone service for being not necessary any more. In 2007, Finland became the first country in the industrialized world where more households have mobile phone connections than fixed home phones and I assume this trend has been increasing until today since I have not seen or heard of anybody here having a fixed phone line at home.
… Finland is the only European country which made it among the top 4 in all PISA studies?
The PISA (program for international student assessment) conducted every three years, evaluates education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students.
Finnish schools reached the highest level of achievements for reading, mathematics, and science but also handcrafts, cooking, creative pursuits, and sports, are important. Finnish schools have sports but no sports teams. Competition is not valued. What they do value is equality over excellence, they emphasize equal opportunities to all. Compulsory school in Finland does not begin until the children are 7 years old and it is not mandatory to give students grades until they are in 8th grade. When researching for this article about the Finnish school system I read many times that there is no homework assigned to the students. However, as my Finnish work colleges confirmed, this is not true. Students in Finland do get homework.
For more information about the Finnish school system check this page out.
… when driving you must keep your head lights on all the time?
Since 1982 it is a law that you always have to turn on the head lights of your vehicle, in summer as well as in winter. In case you forget, oncoming vehicles will remind you by flashing their lights.
… Finns invented some unique outdoor competitions?
World championships in swamp soccer, air guitar playing, wife carrying, rubber boot throwing, or wild berry picking (just to name a few!) are carried out annually and are well-visited events! Many of them became internationally famous and are imitated in other countries.
The rubber boot throwing competition was already invented in the 19th century. Since 22 years the best throwers are competing for the world champion title and the world record, of course, is held by a Finn with 68 meters. The rule is that men throw shoes in size 43, women size 38.
To become world champion in wife carrying the man has to carry his wife hanging up-side-down over his shoulders through the official track of 253m length and cross two dry and one water obstacle. Only condition is that the wife has to weigh at least 49 kg but the heavier the better since the first prize is the equivalent of the wife’s weight in beer!
Explanations of other silly events you can find at Visit Finland.
… the amount you get fined for speeding depends on your annual income?
The amount of the fine is calculated according to the money you have to spend per day (based on your yearly income) divided by two. I like this system a lot (maybe because I did not get a ticket yet). I think it’s more fair than in many other countries. In 2003 for example, a well-known Finnish millionaire was given a fine of 170000 euro for driving 50mph in a 25mph zone in Helsinki.
… there are over 2 million saunas in Finland?
With around 5 million inhabitants that makes about one sauna per 2.5 people or per household. There are actually more saunas than cars in the country! Even Prisoners are allowed to use the sauna once a week: The sauna experience is considered a necessity in Finland for well being, so prisoners are allowed to use the sauna but only once a week – they are in jail after all!
Very common in summer as well as in winter (!) is to jump into one of the lakes during your sauna session. It’s great! I’ve done it once, in January !!!
… you are given a hat and a sword when you get a PhD diploma?
A doctoral hat is not surprising and pretty common in many countries but in Finland it is tradition that students also get a sword with it. The sword is independent Finland’s official civilian sword. It has the persons name, the date of the dissertation, and the date of the degree ceremony engraved on it. The university’s golden symbol will also be on the sword.
… slot machines are monopolized by a non-profit company that gives all its earnings to charity?
Finnish people love to gamble! I shortly introduced the Finnish passion for gambling in a previous article. All the earned money goes to domestic charity projects like pensioner care and also to gambling addiction treatment (Does this make sense?).
… Finland is very food allergy friendly?
Luckily, I don’t have any food allergies but I have heard from people who have that Finland is one of the most food allergy friendly place they have ever visited. When I think about offerings in cafeterias and restaurants, there really are always gluten-free, lactose-free, and vegetarian options. Not that I would consider a vegetarian diet as an allergy (haha!) but for example in German restaurants it can sometimes be difficult to find vegetarian options. Not here! Special diet requirements are not only considered almost everywhere but also nicely indicated in the menus and easy to find.
… Finns love karaoke?
Many times I observed the same thing in Finnish bars: at an hour close to midnight a decent looking, quiet place all of a sudden turned the tv’s and stage lights on and people who had been sitting calmly at their tables drinking their beers line up to sing their favorite (mostly Finnish) songs in front of everybody. More than once I was positively surprised about the voices of those random, slightly drunk people. As soon as they grab the microphone they turn into amazing singers! Often I had the impression I was the only one in the whole bar who was not performing at least one song. Everybody does it – young girls in groups, old grannies, middle aged rockers… Karaoke really seems to unite people here! The singers mostly choose one of those beautifully melancholic Finnish songs which everybody in the audience seems to know and happily sings along.
Karaoke bars literally are everywhere in Finland. Even in the smallest places you can find at least one. One book describes the Finnish karaoke tradition. It is called ‘Karaoke Nation’. No need to mention that the karaoke world championship is a Finland-based competition!
Have you heard of or discovered some other interesting facts about Finland and Finnish people? Share it with us in the comments below!