Ahh Finland… Oh, uh… Let’s talk about this place that I totally have no preconceived biases towards… It’s time to learn Geography NOW! Hey everybody, I’m your host Barby Welcome to the dark sheep of Northern Europe All the other Nordic countries are like:
-La la la la la la! while Finland is like:
-*growling sound* We’ll get into the heavy metal thing in a bit …but first! Now just remember: Finland is Nordic, but DON’T call it Scandinavian! There’s a huge difference! That title only belongs to Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. First of all, Finland is located in Northern Europe, lying on the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Bothnia, east of all that Scandinavian stuff To the west, they border Sweden on the Torne river or the ‘Tornionjoki’ until it reaches the tripoint border with Norway at the Three-Country Cairn Stone. And to the east, they border big old Russia with another tripoint border with Norway that looks like this. The country is divided into 19 regions, or maakunta with the autonomous region that we’ll talk about a little bit later and the capital of Helsinki, located in the south on the Gulf of Finland which is also the second most northern capital in the world after Reykjavík, Iceland. The country also owns about 180,000 islands, the highest concentration of which found in the Baltic off the coast in the Åland Archipelago. Keep in mind, parts of Finland also lie within the Arctic Circle, that’s how far up north they are. And the three busiest airports are Helsinki, Oulu, and Rovaniemi Now my favorite part: territorial anomalies! First of all, with Russia, there are too many split islands and pene-enclaves the islands of Äikkääniemi and Suursaari, Tarassiinsaari islands and lakes, the island in the Koitajoki river Seriously, just play around with Google Earth, and see how many you can find. Finally, we get to Sweden, and things get interesting. Most of the borders with Sweden run along rivers that eventually flow into the Torne river then we get a strange golf course that is split between the two countries in the town of Tornio and Sweden. Not only that, but then you have the strange Märket island right next to Åland in the Gulf of Bothnia which has an inverted S-shaped border. It had to do with the lighthouse that was built belonging to Finland but then Sweden was like, ‘Hey! It’s too close to our side of the island!’ So they drew a border that was like this to give each side equal shares of the land. See this archipelago cluster of islands right here? Yeah, it belongs to Finland, even though most of the people here speak Swedish. Åland is Finland’s strange little administrative anomaly Long story short, it used to belong to Sweden, but then the Russians took over it, in addition to Finland but then after the Russian Revolution, Finland became free and then the UN decided Åland should belong to Finland with autonomy but then the Soviets started attacking again, and then Finland was like, ‘NOPE’ and then fought back relentlessly, defending themselves and Åland and Sweden just kinda sat there, and didn’t really do much for Åland, as they decided to stay neutral. Finland defending Åland was kinda like the turning point Now it’s kinda like: ‘Åland! Come back to me!’ ‘Look, Sweden, we had some great times, but you kinda really didn’t do much for me when things got crazy.’ ‘I mean, Finland defended me, okay? And he treats me well, okay?’ ‘His tax incentives are great!’ ‘It’s time to move on…’ ‘It’s not me… it’s you.’ *sobbing* ‘Åland!’ Also, Finland kinda threatened that if Åland was ceded back to Sweden, they would demand the Tornio valley. Now before the whole Soviet thing, Finland operated the regions of Karelia, Salla, Kuusamo, Petsamo, and some extra islands in the gulf. After the wars with the Soviets, these regions were all ceded back to Russia, affectedly cutting off their access to the Arctic Ocean. Very quickly, some notable sights and landmarks would have to be the old castles like Savonlinna, Hämeenlinna, Olavinlinna, and the most renowned Suomenlinna. You can probably guess what ‘linna’ means by now… Rovaniemi is otherwise known as the home of Santa Claus, where you can go reindeer sledding Inari and Ivalo is where you can get a real Saami traditional cultural experience Of course, Helsinki is the epicentre of Finnish architecture and culture with landmarks such as the Temppeliaukio Church, excavated into a rock Mannerheim street, the busiest road with all the shops and austere post-Soviet influenced blocky colonnaded buildings or the iconic Helsinki cathedral. Now, those are all great, but Finland isn’t really much of a tight metropolitan type of country. They love their space, and have quite a bunch of it. See what lies outside these cities, shall we? Now if you want me to make this simple, some would argue that Finland is the best winter wonderland in the world. I mean, Canada’s cool, but they have too many bears, and Iceland is too explodey, and Russia is too… cold. Seriously though, the land is generally flat, except in the north by the border with Norway in which the highest mountain can be found, Mt. Halti, although the peak is in Norway. However, in 2017, Norway plans to give Finland the peak for their 100th anniversary of independence from the Soviets. Finland is just wonderfully crisp and refreshing usually ranking in the top 3 countries in the world with the cleanest air quality. This is partially because Finland is almost 80% covered in forests, one of the highest concentrations per square kilometre in the world only behind countries like Gabon and Suriname. This makes Finland the largest producer of wood in the EU, and one of the top in the world. Not only that, but Finland has about 188,000 lakes, most heavily concentrated in Lakeland and in addition to lakes, about 10% of the country is comprised of all water bodies like rivers, ponds, and streams. When mixed with the land, this makes about one third of the country home to swamps and bogs making it the highest wetland proportioned country in Europe, and disputably the world. ‘Ehhh, maybe… But our floods are crazier!’ Fittingly, the name for swamp in Finnish is ‘suo’, and the word for Finland is ‘Suomi’ I mean, technically they also have like 9 other words for swamp like räme, neva, letto, luhta, lähteikkö, aapa, palsa, jänkä and korpi And they love these swamps, one Finnish pastime is jumping in the mud (sometimes naked) and either playing soccer or wrestling. The landscape of Finland is shaped that way, because imagine what happens when you crush something under a heavy glacier for a really long time and then after the glacier melts, you’re left with pockety erosion and mineral residue all over. Not only that, but Finland is experiencing a post-glacial rebound in which the land is steadily rising along the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia. Every year, Finland gains about 7 square kilometres, and is technically rising out of the sea. The longest river is the Kemijoki, that passes through Lapland and reaches the Gulf of Bothnia. And the largest lake, as well as the fourth largest in Europe, Lake Saimaa is located in the southeast. Because Finland is so far north, they are known for being the land of the midnight sun as during summer, you can literally see the sun for 24 hours a day in the northern parts by the Arctic Circle. And of course in the wintertime, there’s hardly any sunlight at all but if you’re lucky, you can witness an aurora borealis, especially in the northern parts. Oh, and by the way, the national animals are the whooper swan and the brown bear. Finnish agriculture is of course very standard for northern European countries lots of rye wheats, turnips, potatoes, and of course, fishing is huge out here However, due to the abundance of lakes and rivers, Finns prefer their own domestic freshwater fish, like perch, zander, and muikku, as opposed to the sea fish. Speaking of which, coming to Finland, chances are you will eventually try reindeer meat in some shape or form, whether in stew or grilled in Lapland, you might even find bear on the menu You can try mämmi, a pudding made of rye and of course, every Finn will make every visitor try the strong, salty salmiakki they love salmiakki so much, that they made it into an ice cream, and it’s so good and I’m so mad they don’t sell it in my home town! And in the winter time, they build ice hotels, and there’s this cool waterfall in the Paratiisikuru area, and the Urhokekkonen National Park. Okay, let’s talk about Finnish people! Okay, if you go to Finland, you will most likely experience a rather intense, yet intriguing social construct. First of all, the country has about 5.5 million people, and is the most sparsely populated country in the EU The country is about 90% ethnically Finnish, about 6% are Swedish, and the rest is made up of everything else under the sun like Russians, Estonians, Asians, and Africans. They use the Euro as currency, they use the type C/E/F outlets, and they drive on the right side of the road. Of course, the Finnish people speak the Finnish language, which is arguably one of the hardest languages on earth to learn. Conjugation is a mess, nouns and adjectives have inflectionary forms… whatever that means Nevertheless, Finland has one of the best schooling systems in the world in Finland, school hours are shorter, less homework is given, and there are virtually no mandated standardised tests apart from the exam you take in your final senior year of high school. Also, if you get your PhD, you have the option to get a sword and a top hat along with your diploma. This is also why Finland is one of the most English-friendly countries in Europe. Children are taught around ages 9 to 11, and most people of the younger generation can at least hold an impressibly fluid conversation. Finland is actually a conscription country, in which all men ages 18 and up are required to serve either in the military or civilian services anywhere from 165 days to a year, depending on the type of service applied for. Åland Islands are exempt from the military conscription, but are required to serve in some kind of institution, like the coast guard or civil services. Finnish culture is… actually pretty funny the stereotype is that Finns are incredibly quiet and don’t talk that much in most public transactions just mind your business, and no small talk The cartoon ‘Finnish Nightmares’ illustrates this concept pretty well. Check it out. Which is funny, because Finland is huge on the boisterous, loud, and flashy heavy metal culture having the highest concentration of heavy metal bands out of any other country in the world with nearly 650 per 1 million residents Finns also invented the wife-carrying competition, in which a man must carry either his wife or girlfriend, or any girl that agrees to get tossed around in an obstacle course and the winner gets the woman’s weight in beer It’s very strategic, because if you want to win, you might want to carry a lighter wife but if you want more beer, you better do your squats bro. Now if you must know one thing about Finnish culture, you have to know about sauna The Finns invented the sauna, most homes, hotels, and apartments have a sauna built into them They actually had a sauna competition at one point, but then a Russian guy died, and they had to kinda cancel it. Overall though, Finns are kinda brought up in a mindset known as ‘sisu’ it’s kinda hard to explain the exact definition of it, but it kinda means something like, ‘guts’ or ‘determination’ and ‘never giving up’ which really helped them along the fight with the Soviets. Sisu is to Finland what janteloven is to Denmark. There are so many other things I wish we could talk about, but we’re running out of time. But we do have time for friend time! Historically, Finland was kinda always a little lonely I mean, few if any trading routes ever went through this area. Even the Mongols were like, ‘Ehh… we’re good. Nah, nah… carry on.’ Nevertheless, over time, Finland did develop relations, and to this day, is one of the most diplomatically outreached countries in the world I mean, the Finnish passport is the number 1 ranked and most sought-after, as it has the highest number of visa-free countries applied to it. First of all, Finland generally gets along with other Nordic countries However, they have the biggest frenemy relationship with Sweden. They’ll trade and share a beer or two, but when hockey season comes, the bloodbath begins! When it comes to Russia, Finland kinda has to be their friend, because Russia has the longest border with them, and business is important. Nevertheless, Russia is kinda seen as like the next-door neighbour that you once got into an argument with but then you kinda fixed things up, but then you kinda really didn’t get over it and then you have to see them every other day in the morning as you go to work. Germans are always welcome in Finland, and Hungarians are like the long-lost distant cousins that they just discovered, and are trying to build a relationship with. Their best friends though might be Estonia and Norway Everybody loves Norway! It’s like the Cameroon of Europe Norway has never had any controversy with Finland, and with the recent mountain gift proposal, relations are only strengthening. Estonia is like the nagging little sister that tries to imitate her bigger brother I mean, they both even have the same national anthems but in the end, they are family, and Finland always loves her. In conclusion, Finland really is a winter wonderland, with quiet people that transform into metal monsters after a pint of long drink topping their days off baking themselves in human ovens for fun. And with that, we ‘finish’ the Finnish episode AAAAHAHA You waited for that for over 10 minutes! Stay tuned! The F… M-Mace… …’the country that must not be named’… …is coming up next.