Every Wednesday I offer Tips for Adulthood.
This week’s list was inspired by my recent trip to Finland. One thing that happens as you grow older is that you often get stuck in boring cocktail parties where it’s up to you to come up with interesting topics for conversation. So the next time you’re at a loss for what to say to that incredibly dull person seated next to you at the dinner table, here are a few things to pull out of the hat. Since most people know very little about Finland, you’re bound to impress:
1. Finland only became independent in 1917. This floored me. Sure, there’s been a Finnish people around since the Stone Age. But for much of the past 800 years, Finland was under the control of Sweden and Russia. So it’s only been a modern nation state for less than 100 years. Not bad for the inventor of Nokia, eh?
2. Finland is mostly forest and lakes. Something like 76% of Finland is composed of forests and there are over 187,000 lakes. When you fly into the country you see this immediately, but, again, I had no idea.
3. The Finnish National Epic is the Kalevala. Yes, that very same one that has inspired countless hotel rooms. But that’s not all. Turns out that when Tolkien was writing The Lord of the Rings, the well of Nordic myths soon ran dry. So he turned to the Kalevala for ideas. Try that one out on your Tolkien fanatic friends.
4. Reindeer is surprisingly OK. Try some. It’s the Other Red Meat. Finnish porridge, on the other hand, can be an acquired taste. It’s made of barley, not oats, which is a real head fake. But, then again, we all know that hunger makes good sauce.
5. The Finnish language is very similar to Estonian. Before I traveled to Helsinki, I knew that Finnish was a very rare language, baring little similarity to anything other than Hungarian. I was proud to know even that little factoid. But it turns out, Finnish is actually even closer to Estonian. Trust me. I sat through a five hour wine tasting with a lady from Estonia (another Fun Finn Fact: Finns like to drink). If you’re really well behaved, next week I’ll give you five obscure facts about Estonia…
Image: Finland Saariselkä by youngrobv via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.