Six Things You Didn’t Know Were Finnish

Finland is technically not a Scandinavian country, but it is indeed a Nordic country with historic ties to Sweden and a sizeable Swedish-speaking population. It also gives the Scandinavian countries a run for their money in the global rankings. Finland scores in the top 10 for reported happiness, is one of the most egalitarian countries, and is consistently praised for their education system. They are also the world’s largest consumers of coffee, and have more heavy metal bands per head than any other country. Finland, you have absolutely earned a place in our hearts and we present you six things you didn’t know were Finnish.

1. Sauna culture

Today, the sauna can be found all over the world, but Finland has many unique sauna customs that have evolved over the centuries. If the sauna is located near a lake bathers may jump into the water to cool off rather than taking a shower. Otherwise, a roll in the snow works just fine. Another Finnish tradition is to take birch branches into the sauna, moisten them, and then gently brush yourself with them to help open up your pores and increase blood circulation. This is seen to enhance the sauna experience. 

Finnish sauna house culture lifestyle scandinavia

A Finnish sauna house. It is not uncommon to go for a roll in the snow to cool off after a sauna in the winter.

2. Santa Claus

The debate is over: Santa Claus is real and he is from Finland. There is an actual place in Finland called the Santa Claus Village, just above the Arctic Circle, in a town called Rovaniemi. The village has a post office which receives letters from children (and sometimes adults too) from all over the world – and each letter is replied to by Santa’s Little Helpers. The village in Rovaniemi is open year-round and open to visitors from children and adults alike.

Finnish Santa Claus north pole christmas

The real Santa Claus lives in the Santa Claus village in northern Finland.

3. Ice skates

Ice skating, which is the oldest human-powered means of transportation, was estimated to be invented in Finland around 3000 BC. Scientists have discovered ancient ice skates in the area made out of animal bone. They are believed to be invented as a means of transportation in order to travel more quickly and use less energy than walking around all the lakes – Southern Finland has more lakes within 40 square miles (100 square kilometers) than any other region in the world. It is no surprise then that Finland has such a strong ice hockey team!

Finnish Ice Hockey

The Finnish ice hockey team shuts out the Americans in Sochi 2014.

4. Angry Birds

After Angry Birds was first released in December 2009, it was inescapable. Nearly five years later, the game has been downloaded over TWO BILLION times and has spawned a wave of toys, a television show, and themed beverages. This video game franchise was started by a Finnish computer company called Rovio Entertainment in Helsinki and is one of the largest mobile app successes. Although Angry Birds is a global phenomenon, it still maintains its ties to the Finnish identity. Angry Birds enthusiasts can visit the Angry Birds Land theme park in Särkänniemi, Finland.

Angry Birds Finnish game app

Angry Birds was created by the Finnish company Rovio Entertainment in 2009.

5. Wife carrying as a sport

Wife carrying is a sport in which male competitors race while carrying a female teammate. The objective is for the male to carry the female through a special obstacle track with the fastest time. There are the Wife Carrying World Championships which are held annually in Finland, and the prize is determined by the wife’s weight. It might sound like a joke, but it is actually taken very seriously by competitors, and has even been exported to other countries such as Hong Kong, Australia, and the United States. 

Finnish wife carrying sport

Joni Juntunen and Jaana Haavikko from Finland compete to take fifth place during the Wife Carrying World Championships in Sonkajarvi, Finland.


Xylitol is a substance used for dental health and as a sweetener alternative to sugar. It is primarily made from the birch tree branches found in Finland. It offers numerous health benefits such as the prevention of cavities, plaque reduction, and even helps with ear infections in children. 

Xylitol Finnish

Many brands of chewing gum contain xylitol

This was a hard list to narrow down to just six things! Finland is an example of how a small nation can achieve great things and have a significant global impact. Kiitos Finland for all your contributions!

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Images from here, here, here, here, here, and here.


Anna Guastello
15 Sep 2014

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7 thoughts on “Six Things You Didn’t Know Were Finnish

  1. Vicki Chuang says:

    Finland is the quirky but awesome cousin of the Scandinavian countries. Great article, Anna! Looking forward to Part 2!

  2. Scandinavia is only Norway and Sweden, and one part of Finland. Nordic Countries are the all 5. #fact


  3. This article is pretty much the same that my friend wrote already in 2001. A coincidence…?

  4. “Another Finnish tradition is to take birch branches into the sauna, moisten them, and then gently brush yourself with them” Gently brush…ummm…either the writer’s family traditions differ somewhat from our’s or her pain threshold is just remarkable. If you come out NOT covered in red stripes and nicely pink you’re doing it wrong. Please insert “whip vigorously” and you’ll get the point.

  5. IRC is missing from the list! :)

  6. Also–since culturally, Finland and Estonia are closely related–we Estonians consider ourselves to be Nordic, and even Scandinavian. You know we’re all related, due to those Vikings landing on all areas of the North and Baltic seas and snatching women off the shores…

  7. SMS text messages, Linux, world¨s first GSM phone call…..