We’re now in 2017, Finland’s 100th anniversary! Which means it’s time to bombard you with all kinds of bragging about what makes us so great, unique, funny, handsome, and all that jazz. Well, not really. Maybe just a few odd facts will suffice for now?
2017 is here, Finland’s 100th anniversary! Which means it’s time to bombard you with all kinds of bragging about what makes us so great, unique, funny, handsome, and all that jazz. Well, not really. Maybe just a few odd facts will suffice for now?
The Longest Word
Many countries like to believe they have bragging rights to the longest word in the world. Due to the way some languages are structured, it is technically possible to chain together as many smaller terms as one wishes to create single larger “words”, but nearly all of the time these have no real everyday usage.
In Finland, there are at least three rather long words which have at least at some point been used to some extent. The longest?
At a grand total of 61 letters, it means “airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic non-commissioned officer student” and is an actual military term. At a somewhat distant second and third are kolmivaihekilowattituntimittari which means “three phase kilowatt hour meter” (32 letters), and peruspalveluliikelaitoskuntayhtymä (“a public utility of a municipal federation for provision of basic services”, 34 letters).
Have you heard of the “Asian Glow” or “Asian Flush”? This is a term which applies mostly to East Asian people such as Japanese, Chinese and Koreans, and is a facial flushing reaction to drinking alcohol. Approximately half of all people of East Asian descent, and actually 20% of Finns, experience this – and it has nothing to do with how drunk a person is. Actually it means that these populations have more genetic mutations which cause a deficiency in ALDH2, an enzyme which prevents acetaldehyde buildup in the body. Normally acetaldehyde converts to harmless acetic acid, so this can be a problem when it fails to do so efficiently – not just a social nuisance. Thankfully, there are amino acids such as L-Cysteine which can help.
Among Europeans and other global populations, ALDH2 deficiency is very rare. Is this one more genetic link between Finns and Asia?
Coat of Arms Confusion
Finland’s coat of arms has always officially been a lion, despite the bear playing a prominent role in the country’s kalevala mythology – and the lion? Well… none at all, really. At one point, a new coat of arms with two bears was proposed, and rejected because another country is internationally associated with the bear (Russia). Instead, Finland continues to owe its use of the leijona to another country anyway – Sweden.
Perhaps for the next 100 years, a contest should be held for a new coat of arms all our own?
When your kid-oriented metal bands beat other country’s serious bands…
At some point, you have to ask yourself when they will just officially crown Finland the metal music capital of the world. As per a recent map placing Finland head and shoulders above every other European country in bands per million people (630), or Lordi winning Eurovision in 2006, it’s clear that it is the country’s equivalent of pop music.
But that’s not all. If you were to go to Finland with your child and ask them to put on “that dinosaur show for kids” expecting Barney, you’d be in for a bit of a surprise when they turn this on:
Why do modern Finns love metal so much? Perhaps there is some pride behind it, with so many great acts hitting upon international success, from Nightwish to Children of Bodom and Apocalyptica… but also, I think it just resonates with the general Finnish attitude and idea of strength or sisu.
The Introversion is Real
Finns are said to be some of the world’s most introverted and private people. One compelling scientific reason for this can be noted which holds true no matter where in the world Finns go. In the early 20th century, researchers in America noted that in stark contrast to the normal inclination to migrate to highly populated urban centers, the majority of Finns chose rural districts around lakes, most notably Lake Superior, which is why Michigan, Minnesota and Ontario are all highly populated with Finns – just where you would expect to find them.
The same pattern could also be found in Russia, with Finno-Ugrics dominating the countryside surrounding Saint Petersburg between the Gulf of Finland and the giant Lake Ladoga. Just to the northwest of course, one will find Finnish Lakeland, home to approximately 50,000 of Finland’s 180,000 lakes. If one were to distribute the country’s entire population, there would be approximately one lake per 30 people. So perhaps it’s some kind of evolutionary side effect that we demand our privacy, which is secondary to our need for a place to sauna!