Finland is called “the land of a thousand lakes”, and that is certainly true. No one will probably ever count how many lakes there really are in this country but the estimated number is nearing 190 000.

People often claim that Finnish is too complicated to learn, but it is not true. On the contrary, its language system is incredibly regular, and therefore also simple (moreover, there are almost no annoying exceptions like irregular verbs and so on).

Finnish has many dialects and Finns are not afraid to use them. Even a presidential speech can be delivered in a dialect and no one will bat an eye (could you picture the President of the United States delivering his State of the Union speech in African American English, for example?).

Finland is reputed for its quality education. Teachers are among the elites, with their social standing comparable for example to doctors or lawyers.

The world-renowned company Nokia was founded in Finland.

Finland has a law guaranteeing every citizen the right to high-speed internet connection.

Finns love coffee. They are actually the first in the world in coffee consumption; on average, every Finn allegedly consumes 12 kg of coffee a year, which corresponds to three or four cups a day.

And who hasn’t heard of Finnish sauna? There are over two millions of saunas in Finland, which isn’t shabby at all, considering there are five millions of Finns.

Historical trivia

Do you know who were the first inhabitants of Finland?

Before Finns settled in the area of today’s Finland, the area was inhabited by the Sami (Lapps). Members of this ethnic group still live in the country today, in its northernmost reaches.

Did you know that Finns played a role in the Thirty Years War that ravaged 17th century Europe?

Finnish units fought in the Swedish army. They sowed fear on the battlefield and earned the nickname Hackapelites. The name is derived from the battle cry “hakkaa päälle” which can be translated as “cut them down”.

Have you heard of the Kalevala?

It is an impressive literary work, a national epic full of references to Finnish mythology, compiled in the first half of the 19th century. The first full English translation was published in 1888. Czech readers were also introduced to it quite early, in the translation by Josef Holeček, published in 1894; it is, to this day, considered to be a translation of very good quality.

Did you know that Finnish women were the first in Europe to gain voting rights?

Women in Finland have had the right to vote since the Finnish parliamentary elections of 1907.

Did you know that Finland is a relatively young state?

Finland as an independent state has not been on the map of Europe for very long. In the past, it used to be a part of larger kingdoms – Sweden or Tsarist Russia – and only declared independence in 1917.

Did you know that Finland was the first country in Europe where the highest political posts were occupied by women?

In 2003, the country was led by a female President and a female Prime Minister; although this situation only lasted for two months.

Famous people

The work of world-famous architect and designer Alvar Aalto is considered part of the national heritage. Buildings designed by him can be found not only in Finland, but also in Germany, Denmark, Switzerland or the United States.

Linus Torvalds cements the Finns’ reputation as a nation of people gifted with technologies and computers. He is responsible for the development of the Linux operating system used all over the world.

Writer and illustrator Tove Jansson was (just like Linus Torvalds) a Swedish-speaking Finn. Her Moomin characters have become popular far beyond the borders of Finland.

Politician, former Finnish president and diplomat Martti Ahtisaari has another special achievement to be proud of: he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Prize committee appreciated - to name a few - his participation in the peace negotiations in Kosovo or his efforts to resolve the Iraq crisis.

Film director Aki Kaurismäki is a worldwide phenomenon in the film industry. His work has won several international awards, for example, his film Mies vailla menneisyyttä (The Man without a Past) was awarded the Grand Prix at the Cannes International Film Festival. It was also nominated for an Academy Award.

Basic Finnish phrases

Hello! Hei!
I am Jan Novák. Minä olen Jan Novák.
Who are you? Kuka sinä olet?
I am Czech. Minä olen tšekki.
How are you? Mitä kuuluu?
Fine, and you? Hyvää, entä sulle?
Thank you. Kiitos.
You’re welcome. Ei kestä.


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