14 facts you probably didn’t know about Finland

Devil horns, caffeine junkies, freaky sports and even stranger weather conditions... there's a lot more to Finland than you think

You probably already knew it as the home of Saint Nick and for having one sauna for every two citizens, but how much do you really know about Finland? Quiz yourself with these 14 surprising facts about the unique Nordic nation.

1. Feel like a failure? You’re a winner in Finland

Further cementing the nation’s wonderfully off-beat sense of humour, Finland has an annual Day for Failure every October 13th. Started in 2010, the ceremony celebrates bad news and ill-fortune as a way of learning for the future. Better luck next time, losers!

2. They have record-beating nature

A couple kayak through Finland's lakes.

Kayaking through the Land of a Thousand Lakes. © Harri-Pekka Savolainen

It’s affectionately referred to as the Land of a Thousand Lakes, but that number doesn’t even come close. There are a whopping 187,888 lakes within the territory of Finland – the most of any country in the world. If you’re more comfortable roaming around by foot, there’s a total of 179,888 Finnish islands to explore.

3. Who you gonna call? No one in Finland

A country that’s famous for “Connecting People” with Nokia mobile phones, you won’t find a single payphone within the territory of Finland.

4. They have some of the world’s strangest sports

When it comes to eccentric past-times, Finland is a gold trophy winner.

Strangest of all is the Wife Carrying World Championship. Taking place in Sonkajärvi every July, the extreme obstacle course event has carried over to an international phenomenon, with couples from Denmark, Hong Kong to Australia and beyond travelling to the country to take part. It’s an odd way to spend a honeymoon, but we’re not ones to judge.

Other esoteric sports that host their annual world championships in Finland include mosquito hunting, mobile phone throwing, swamp football, rubber boot throwing and the Air Guitar World Championship.

5. You can sleep, swim, sail, fish or forage anywhere you like

Two guys warm by the fire in the forest during winter in Finland.

Warming by the fire in Inari, Finland. © VisitFinland.com

Like many Nordic countries, Finland has some of the world’s best “Freedom to Roam” opportunities. This means that you can pitch a tent, forage for wild lingonberries or catch zanders in the lakes for free and without worry.

6. They invented the first Internet browser for users

Many nations try to claim ownership of creating the Internet, but the Finns were the first nation who had the idea to bring it to the general public.

Launched in 1994 by three technology students, Erwise was the world’s first Internet Browser with a User Interface (UX). While it received appraisal from World Wide Web creator, Sir Tim Bernors-Lee, the graduates failed to find the necessary funding to continue developing the project and it became a thing of Internet legend. A few months later, Mosaic and Internet Explorer surfaced, and the rest is web history.

7. They invented a lot of other cool things, too

Finland is surprisingly pioneering for a small nation of 5 million. Other Finnish-born inventions include the rescue toboggan, the heart-rate monitor, salty liquorice (‘Salmiakki’), the Linux OS, ice skates, Angry Birds, the Molotov cocktail, the SMS and, of course, the sauna, which also happens to be the most used Finnish word outside of the mother country.

8. They have some pretty freaky seasonal weather

A crowd of twenty somethings sit in a skate park during the Flow Festival.

Day (or night?) at Helsinki’s Flow Festival. © Jussi Hellsten

It’s no secret that Finland suffers from some pretty dark and gloomy winters but, come the summer, the country lives up to its nickname as the Land of the Midnight Sun. Visit the north of the country during the months of June and July and you’ll see the sun never drops below the horizon.

9. They have the world’s best pizza

Finland’s hearty cuisine has its fans and foes. Former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, ruffled a few feathers in 2005 when he remarked that Parma ham was completely superior to the Finns’ smoked reindeer, and that his whole culinary experience while visiting was an “endurance”.

Well, it turns out revenge is a dish best served stone baked. Three years later, the Finns fought back and went on to win an international pizza contest, ahead of Italy, with a pizza playfully titled the “Pizza Berlusconi”. Its signature ingredient? Smoked reindeer. The baked treat has become so successful that you can still order it from Kotipizza, Finland’s largest pizza chain.

10. The Finns love coffee more than anyone else

You can keep your Italian espressos; forget your Australian flat whites – when it comes to java, the Finns do it best – and the most. The average Finn consumes 12 kg of the brown stuff every year. It’s impossible to put a specific figure on how many cups of coffee the average Finn will drink in a day, but we’d wager that it’s more than your doctor (if not a native Finn or fellow caffeine freak) would recommend.

Coffee bean experts sniff freshly roasted coffee

Embracing the java at a coffee cupping session. © Freese Coffee Co.

11. They also love milk more than you

Unsurprisingly, Finland has world’s highest annual consumption of milk per capita – around 1 litre per person every day – making the Finns’ choppers coffee stained, but mighty strong. Weird considering that a 17% of Finns are lactose intolerant.

12. The national speeding fines will make you wince

Are you fast and furious and mega rich? Then you better not get caught zooming through Finland. The cost of traffic and speed violations is calculated by the offending driver’s annual income. One unfortunate, mega rich speed demon was once fined 200,000 euros for a single speeding offense.

13. It’s the undisputed home of heavy metal

A masked member of Lordi wows the crowd at a concert.

A friendly member of the heavy metal band Lordi. © alterna2

Icy and industrial, perhaps it’s no wonder that Finland has the most heavy metal bands per capita. World-famous acts like Children of Bodom, Nightwish and Eurovision Song Contest winners Lordi all hail from Finland, and are all able to channel their nation’s dark and wild nature within their music.

14. The Finns are tango crazy!

You don’t need to go all the way to Montevideo or Buenos Aires to get your freak on, tango style. Its 13,000 km away from sunny South America, and yet the Nordic nation has been kept in a tango fever ever since it arrived on their icy shores in 1913.

The golden years for Finnish tango hit in the mid-sixties, when locally produced tango tunes were knocking The Beatles’ singles off the top of the charts. Today, tangophiles travel from all the world to dance cheek to cheek at the legendary Tangomarkkinat festival in July, and visit the local museum dedicated to the old ballroom spectacle.

Learn more about Helsinki, the Finnish capital, in our exclusive interview with inspiring local photographer Jussi Hellsten.