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What Is Finland Known for & Famous For
When you think of Finland, many things come to mind; forests, lakes (187,888 of them, after all), reindeer, and more. Finland is a small Nordic country in Northern Europe that borders Sweden, Norway, Russia, and the Gulf of Bothnia. It’s a beautiful country known for its wide variety of attractions and features.
Finland is known for and famous for many things, including abundant natural beauty and magical Northern Lights. Finland also boasts rich traditions and culture and offers visitors delicious local food and beverages. This beautiful part of the world also claims to be Santa’s hometown.
If you’re curious about what Finland is famous for and want to know more about this unique country, keep reading! I’ll detail some of the fascinating things about Finland, so you’ll be prepared for a future visit or the next time Finland gets brought up in conversation.
1. Northern Lights
Finland is a great place to see the Northern Lights. People have the best luck seeing the aurora borealis in the northern part of the country, in Finnish Lapland. This part of Finland is within the “aurora zone,” a section of the earth where one can marvel at the Northern Lights most frequently and most visibly.
The Northern Lights occur throughout the year, but you can only see them when it’s dark. Therefore, if seeing the Northern Lights is one of your main priorities, it’s good to visit Finland in winter when it is dark for longer.
Finland has a big sauna culture; there are more saunas in the country than cars! In Finland, a sauna is a place of health and cleanliness used for healing and relaxation.
There are many rituals and traditions associated with saunas in Finland. For example, Finnish people beat their bodies with birch twigs while in a sauna to improve their circulation. Another tradition is the bridal sauna, where a bride enjoys the sauna with her friends during her bachelorette party.
3. Ice Hockey
In Finland, ice hockey is well-loved and followed. The first ice hockey leagues in Finland emerged in the 1920s, and the sport has only risen in popularity since then.
The men’s national ice hockey team is one of the “Big Six,” a group of the world’s top men’s national teams. The other countries in this unofficial group include Canada, the United States, the Czech Republic, Russia, and Finland’s greatest rival: Sweden. Games between Finland and Sweden quickly get rowdy and intense.
Finland is a nature lover’s paradise. It’s the most forested country in Europe; trees cover approximately 70% of the land. Furthermore, Finland has more than forty national parks highlighting the country’s islands, lakes, peat lands, and more. Visitors can enjoy hiking, climbing, canoeing, and snowshoeing.
Finland encourages people to enjoy nature with their “Everyman’s Rights,” allowing them to go wherever they’d like as long as they respect nature.
People often refer to Finland as the “land of a thousand lakes,” but this is a disservice to the country, as Finland has far more than a thousand lakes. Approximately 180,000 lakes cover almost ten percent of the country.
Using the Finnish classification for a lake, you will refer to any body of water bigger than 500 square meters. Finland has more lakes than any other country, making it an excellent destination for those who love water-related activities.
The multitude of Finnish lakes is perfect for a relaxing weekend in a lakeside cabin, enjoying nature and gorgeous Finnish scenery.
The food in Finland takes advantage of the incredible fields and forests covering the country and builds its cuisine around fresh and natural ingredients gathered from nature. As a result, fish is a staple of the Finnish diet, as one may catch them easily in the abundant lakes.
Finnish recipes are unique because they use lots of berries, mushrooms, and other ingredients found in the forests.
Finnish food is largely traditional and relies on tubers, dark rye bread, fermented dairy products, meat, and fish. This reliance on these staples is because they were traditionally available to the Finnish in former times.
7. Finnish Pancakes
Finnish pancakes go by many names, including Lettu, Lätty, Ohukainen, and Räiskäle. They are thinner and more crepe-like than American pancakes but just as delicious! If you wish to follow tradition, you can enjoy these pancakes on Thursdays, and don’t forget jam and whipped cream.
Most cabins and houses in Finland have an open fireplace where people can cook Finnish pancakes in a big, flat frying pan. They’re simple to make and only require a few essential ingredients:
- Baking flour
- Barley flour
Because they’re so simple and tasty, many Finns enjoy this dish multiple times a week.
Mämmi is a traditional dessert in Finland served during Easter, usually on Good Friday. It looks like pudding and has the consistency of porridge. Typically, the Finnish serve the dish with milk or cream.
To make Mämmi, you need water, rye flour, powdered malt, salt, orange zest, and dark molasses. The end product looks a little like mud and tastes like dense, dark bread.
Salmiakki is salted licorice, a favorite sweet amongst Finns and people from other Nordic countries. The Finnish also add it as an ingredient in chocolate, ice cream, and liquor. Most bags of assorted candies in Finland feature salmiakki.
It’s believed that this candy originated from drugstores, as ammonia chloride, which they used in salmiakki, is an ingredient often included in cough medicine. The story goes that the cough medicine was combined with licorice to encourage sick children to take their medication, and eventually, they adopted the flavor combination into a regular candy.
Karjalanpiirakka, also known as Karelian pastries or pies, are traditional pastries that originated from the region of Karelia. Today, people enjoy eating them throughout Finland and parts of Estonia, and northern Russia.
Traditionally, the pastries had a rye crust with a barley and talkkuna filling. Nowadays, the pies have a thin rye crust and a filling made of rice, mashed potato, and carrots. Before serving, the Finnish spread butter and boiled egg mixture over the pies.
11. Angry Birds
If you have a smartphone, you likely went through an Angry Birds phase. The game was highly successful and inspired many video games, a televised animated series, and two films. You may not know that Angry Birds is a Finnish media franchise created by Rovio in 2009.
There’s even an Angry Birds Land in Tampere, Finland, within the Särkänniemi amusement park. The attraction features an adventure course, rides, games, and treat kiosks.
12. Nokia (Phone)
If you were of age when cell phones started becoming popular, there’s a good chance that a Finnish technological company, Nokia, made your first cell phone. Nokia Corporation is a telecommunications and consumer electronic company; its headquarters are in Espoo, Finland.
Nokia cell phones are remembered today as sturdy and nearly unbreakable, but the company has a long history of making more than just technology. The company began as a pulp mill and evolved to making rubber products and cables. Since the 1990s, the company has focused on technology and has made significant contributions to the mobile telephone.
Finnish people are known for being direct and purposeful with their words, so they rarely engage in small talk. The Finnish take words seriously, so they expect people to mean what they say, so many Finnish people are silent rather than engage in light conversations that aren’t particularly meaningful.
A common Finnish proverb is “Take a man by his words and a bull by its horns,” illustrating how carefully Finnish people think about what they say and what they mean.
Alcohol is part of Finnish culture, especially for holidays and spending time with friends. Most official Finnish holidays, such as Vappu and Juhannus, include drinking as part of the festivities. The Finns also have a specific word for drinking at home in your underwear with no intention to go out: kalsarikännit.
Visitors and locals may buy Mild alcoholic drinks with less than 5.5% alcohol at grocery stores. However, if they seek more potent beverages, including wine and spirits, the only option is to purchase from Alko.
Finland is known for its love of vodka, especially strong vodka. Some Finnish vodka brands contain nearly 40% alcohol volume. Typically, vodka is consumed as a shot to get drunk as quickly as possible.
Flavored vodka is popular in Finland, with the most beloved flavors being mint, lime, and tar. Finlandia, a famous Finnish vodka brand, has many different flavors. One may use this vodka in the Arctic Circle cocktail, which comprises Finlandia vodka, lime juice, and ginger ale.
16. Santa Claus Village
Santa Claus Village is an amusement park in Rovaniemi, Finland, which opened in 1985. The amusement park claims to be “Santa’s official hometown” and is a popular tourist destination.
Popular attractions include:
- Santa’s Post Office
- Snowman World Winter Zone
- Mrs. Claus’s Christmas Cottage
- Elf’s Farmyard
- Arctic Circle Husky Park
- Santa’s Reindeer.
This charming and festive place is a must-see for anyone visiting Finland.
17. Clean Air
According to data gathered and released by the World Health Organization, Finland has the cleanest air in the world. This distinction rests on the level of airborne particles, which is six micrograms per cubic meter in Finland. This figure is lower than any other country.
Experts attribute The clean air in Finland to the number of trees covering the land of Finland, and these trees clean the air and make it fresh and healthy to breathe. Clean air is good for the respiratory tract and helps people sleep better.
18. National Sleepy Head Day
Finland has some amusing traditions, but National Sleepy Head Day is my favorite. On July 27, Finns sleep in, but the last one to wake up gets thrown into the closest lake.
Alternatively, the family may dump a bucket of water on the Sleepy Head. The belief behind the holiday is that the person who sleeps late on this day will be lazy and unproductive for the rest of the year.
In Naantali, locals select a celebrity to toss into the sea on the morning of National Sleepy Head Day. Their identity is kept a secret until the last minute. Past stars include every city mayor, president Tarja Halonen’s husband, the CEO of Neste Oil, and many others.
19. Coffee Drinkers
Finns are some of the biggest coffee drinkers in the world. According to the International Coffee Association, the average Finn drinks twelve kilograms (26.4 pounds) of coffee yearly. This figure makes Finland second to only Luxembourg for per capita coffee consumption.
There are many reasons Finns love coffee. It is a cold country, so people must drink hot beverages to keep warm. Coffee also has sentimental value, as it’s a large part of the culture. Coffee is so essential that some collective labor agreements contain two fifteen-minute coffee breaks.
20. A Weird Language
Finnish is a fascinating language known for being tricky for foreigners to learn. The language contains many literal English translations, such as jääkaappi, which is the Finnish word for “refrigerator” and translates to “ice cupboard. I also like “hyppytyyny tyydytys,” which means “bouncy cushion satisfaction.”
Finnish uses compound words, which means words combined instead of written out individually. This word combination means that Finnish has one of the longest words in the world:
This ridiculously long word translates to “airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic non-commissioned officer student.”
21. A Very Happy Place
According to the World Happiness Report, one of the most interesting things about Finland is that it has held the title of the happiest country in the world for five years in a row. Residents in Finland certainly have many reasons for being happy:
- Clean air
- Good education system
- All the saunas one could ever want.
However, it may be surprising to some when interacting with Finnish people. They are reserved, so they aren’t exactly leaping with glee very often. There’s even a saying in Finland: “If you’re happy, you should hide it.” Finnish people don’t like to boast, so they don’t rub their happiness in people’s faces.
Finland has one of the best education systems globally, prioritizing common-sense practices and equity over excellence. Here are some things that make Finland’s education system so successful:
- There’s no standardized testing.
- Teaching programs are rigorous.
- Teachers are required to have master’s degrees.
- All students receive free meals and access to psychological counseling and individualized guidance.
- Students start school when they’re seven years old.
- Students only spend twenty hours in school each week, so they have time to develop their lives outside school.
Finland is home to incredible wildlife, mainly due to the country’s number of forests, lakes, and arctic fells. Here are some of the most notable creatures you may see in Finland:
- Whooper swan
- White-tailed eagle
In addition, Finland is home to one of the most endangered species in the world: the Saimaa ringed seal. These seals are the rarest seals because they only live in Lake Saimaa.
In Nordic culture, nudity and sexuality are separate, and nudity is common in Finland because of the importance of saunas in Finnish culture. Paljus are also common in Finland. These are wooden hot tubs that many Finnish people have in their yards, and they often enjoy soaking in the nude.
Some Finns even strip down and dance in the water fountains after a Finnish national hockey team wins. In general, nudity is more casual in Finland than in many other countries.
25. Finnish Folklore
Finnish folklore and Finnish mythology are varied and fascinating. Finnish bishop named Mikael Agricola identified many deities and creatures in 1551. The Finnish people then used these creatures to create Kalevala, the national epic of Finland that Elias Lӧnnrot gathered.
Some of the creatures are not just unique to Finland, such as the elf Tonttu and the water creature Näkki, which have counterparts in other Nordic mythology. Most Finnish folklore involves animals and a strong emphasis on the natural world.
26. Lappish/Sámi People
The Sami people, also called the Lappish people, are an indigenous group of people that live in Lapland, which includes northern Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the Kola Peninsula in Russia. As of the late 20th century, approximately 6,000 Sami people lived in Finland.
The Sami people are known for reindeer herding, fishing, mining, and creating handcrafted goods. Scandinavian countries tried to assimilate the Sami people for a long time, but recently, they have become more determined to maintain their traditional culture.
Finnish Lapland has approximately 20,000 more reindeer than people, with 200,000 reindeer living in the region. Reindeer are essential to Sami culture, as these people rely on reindeer for food and fur.
It’s against the law in Finland to disturb or frighten reindeer. Reindeer are cute creatures but can also be dangerous, especially after the rutting season in autumn.
28. Wife-Carrying Competition
Finland is known for its unique traditions and events, and the annual Wife-Carrying Competition is one of the best! The competition takes place in Sonkajärvi, Finland. Husbands must carry their wives around an obstacle course, including a pool, and compete with other husbands for the prize.
The champion wins his wife’s weight in beer and an official statue. There are other prizes for second and third place, the most entertaining couple, the best costume, and the most robust carrier.
29. The Moomins
The Moomins are characters in a series of books and a comic strip. They are white and round with large noses and look like hippopotamuses, but they are trolls. Finnish illustrator Tove Jansson created this family of characters who live in a house in the fictional city Moominvalley.
The Moomins have inspired television series, films, and two amusement parks. One park, called Moomin World, is in Naantali, Finland. The other is in Japan.
Finland-Swedes are a group of Finnish people living in Finland, but they speak Swedish (although many speak both Swedish and Finnish). Approximately 290,000 people who live in Finland identify Swedish as their native tongue, including most of the population of the Aland islands.
Finland-Swedes have their own newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, TV channels, theaters, festivals, and traditions.
31. Women’s Rights
Finland is one of the most progressive countries concerning women’s rights. In 1906, it was the first European country to give women the right to vote. Women hold prominent positions in Finnish politics, society, and academia.
In Finland, women have a “high degree of equality” among men. In 2018, Finland ranked first in the world for leveling the gender gap in access to education. Finland’s parliament was the first in the world to include female members.
Finally, Finland is one of the best nations for working women, and the employment rate for Finnish women is higher than the average for the European Union.
The people in Finland are guaranteed their fundamental rights under the constitution. These include:
- Freedom of speech
- Freedom of religion
- Freedom of association
- Freedom of assembly
- Freedom of expression.
The parliamentary system features free and fair elections and multiparty competition. In general, women and ethnic groups have equal rights.
33. Safe Country
In 2017, Finland was in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report determined Finland to be the safest country in the world, according to the World Economic Forum. Finland has incredibly low crime rates, and the people are honest.
People are typically safe from other people in Finland but are also at less risk from natural disasters. Blizzards are common, but other natural disasters, such as tornadoes and earthquakes, are extremely rare.
34. Outdoor Activities
The beautiful nature in Finland is ideal for outdoor activities. Some of the most popular activities are:
The best time for outdoor activities is in the summer, from June to the end of August.
35. Winter Wonderland
Finland is truly a winter wonderland, as Santa Claus’s village is in Rovaniemi, and reindeer live in the wild. Winter is one of the best times to visit Finland because of the many outdoor activities, the Christmas cheer, and the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights.
Finnish winter is brutally cold, and daylight hours are few, but it’s still a great season. The best places to visit are Lapland, Lakeland, and Helsinki.
36. Very Clean
In 2016, the Environmental Performance Index named Finland the world’s cleanest country. By global standards, Finland has extremely clean air, forests, lakes, and drinking water.
Finland also uses more clean energy than average, with approximately 38% of Finnish energy production from renewable sources.
37. Maternity Leave
Finland has one of the most generous parental leave policies in the world. In February 2020, the government enacted a policy to grant mothers seven months of paid leave. Non-biological parents enjoy the same parental leave privileges. Furthermore, single parents get fourteen months of paid leave.
Fathers also get seven months of paid leave. Parents can transfer up to 69 days of their holiday to the other parent if they’d like.
38. One of the Most Difficult Languages
Learning a new language is never easy, but Finnish is one of the most difficult. Finnish has complicated grammar and compound words, so sentences and words can quickly become long and confusing.
The language also has many colloquial forms, so even if you learn the proper grammatical rules, you may not recognize the slang most Finnish speakers use.
39. Sun Never Sets in Finland
North of the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn’t set from May to August. This lack of sunlight means that summer in Finland features 24/7 daylight, although the nature and tone of the light are different. The light is more warm and reddish during the nighttime hours.
Many Finnish families take advantage of this season by renting a cottage by a lake and using the wee hours to hike, canoe, and fish.
In Finnish culture, politeness is all about not inconveniencing other people. Here are some general guidelines for how to be polite in Finland:
- Be on time.
- Don’t prolong interactions unnecessarily.
- Take off your shoes when entering someone’s home.
- Be straightforward.
- Respect personal space.
- Avoid sitting next to someone on public transport if another seat is available.
- Leave room for people to pass on sidewalks and streets.
- Be quiet in public spaces.
- Mind your business.
Finnish people are generally more introverted than most Americans and may seem aloof to those that don’t know their culture. This reticence is likely due to the more reserved culture and the time spent living in more isolated communities or summer cottages.
Being shy and introverted is not considered a negative trait in Finland, and people tend to respect boundaries and personal space. Visitors may interpret their receive as aloofness when it is merely a cultural expression of respect for other people’s space.
Marimekko is a Finnish company that Armi Ratia founded in 1951. The company sells textiles, clothing, and home furnishings. Marimekko’s designs are known for brightly colored fabrics, interesting prints, and basic styles.
The two most famous Marimekko designers are Vuokko Nurmesniemi and Maija Isola. The latter is known for the Unikko poppy.
For such a small country, Finland has a lot to offer! If you’re planning a trip to Finland, you’ll have much to enjoy, from the Northern Lights to Finnish pancakes to Santa Claus village. If you want to visit a place with lots to do, beautiful nature to enjoy, and fascinating culture, Finland should be on your travel bucket list.
- Nordic Visitor: Best Time and Place to See the Northern Lights in Finland
- Her Finland: Finnish Sauna Etiquette
- Her Finland: Finnish Pancakes
- Culture Trip: Why Do Finnish People Love Salty Liquorice So Much?
- This is Finland: A Guide to Finnish Customs and Manners
- Visit Finland: Things to Know About Finnish Air and Its Benefits
- This is Finland: Exploring the Finnish Affinity for Coffee
- The Washington Post: Is Finland Really the Happiest Country in the World?
- Scandification: Exploring Finnish Mythology Creatures and Finnish Folklore
- Britannica: Sami People
- Svenskfinland: Who Are the Finland-Swedes?
- The Borgen Project: The Progress of Women’s Rights in Finland
- World Economic Forum: The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017
- Slow Finland: Finland is the World’s Cleanest and Greenest Country