From odd pairs to perfect matches, there are dynamic duos in all fields around us. Take a look at these ten inseparable Finnish pairs, each telling their own story about Finnish culture and heritage.
- Liver casserole and lingonberry jam. Liver casserole (in Finnish: maksalaatikko) was Finland’s first ready-meal in 1957 and has been a success story ever since. This traditional casserole is made of ground liver, rice, onion, raisins and spices. The flavor combination is perfect when served with lingonberry jam.
- Viivi and Wagner. A hugely popular newspaper comic strip about the relationship of a vegetarian student woman (Viivi) and a real pig (Wagner) whose favorite hobbies are to drink beer and be a couch potato. In many Finnish homes (mine too!), reading this comic strip is a mandatory task at the breakfast table. Also, don’t be surprised if you are visiting a Finnish company and find a strip copied to the office kitchen, printing room or toilet. Viivi & Wagner started appearing in 1997, so the collection of stories is massive and also partly available in English.
- Adult education center and August. In every town in Finland there are activities and hobbies arranged very inexpensively by adult education centers (in Finnish: kansalaisopisto or työväenopisto). They offer a wide range of language, art, sport and social science studies along with practical courses about IT, cooking and crafts. The quality of teaching is great. The adult education center operations started at the beginning of 20th century in Finland. I think it is one of the best innovations of leisure time and learning, giving all people possibilities to educate themselves in a variety of ways. The enrollment period is in August and you must be fast to book your place for your studies.
- Sauna and throwing water on the stove. A Finn is in horror if he walks into a sauna and finds no water to throw on the stove. This kind of wannabe sauna is torture for us as it completely kills the essence of sauna experience; being able to adjust the amount of steam and hotness, listening the sizzling sound of water drying on the stove. Occasionally I have been so desperate abroad with this situation that I have even resorted to carrying water with my hands into the sauna.
- Hayflower and Quiltshoe. This is a charming children’s book series about two sisters and their adventures (in Finnish: Heinähattu ja Vilttitossu). The stories are authored by two sisters and many of the events come from their own experiences. I rolled on the floor laughing when reading these books as a child. They are very popular and also filmed into family movies in Finland. The books have been translated into nine languages. At least Swedish, Estonian, Japan and Lithuanian versions are available.
- Long johns and winter. To my ear, the English term “long johns” is as sexy as the Finnish equivalent of “pitkät kalsarit” (Maybe some of my readers can verify?). Anyway, long johns are a staple clothing item for Finnish winter. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t own a pair nor I cannot understand how anyone would survive a winter without them. Long johns are the best, no matter how ugly they are. I have three pairs.
- First born and baby box. In Finland, expectant mothers receive a maternity package (aka baby box) as a gift from the government. This box has a lot of needed things for the baby’s first year, e.g. quality in- and outdoor clothes, bedding things and baby products. The box itself doubles as a crib. This tradition is almost 80 years old. First boxes were given out in 1938 to help decrease infant mortality rate and in Finland, they are one of the lowest in the world. Pretty much all Finnish families take the box at least for their first born child.
- Christmas and ham. Xmas traditions are unique to every country. In Finland, the most epic Christmas food is ham. The perfect ham is first hunted in stores (so many options: Organic, Frozen, Danish), then cooked for hours in the oven and served with mustard, peas and dried plums. Eating of the ham will continue three days and then everybody is fed up by it. Until next Xmas, of course!
- Wizard ‘Väinämöinen’ and Finnish zither. The old wizard ‘Väinämöinen’ is the main character of the Finnish national epic ‘Kalevala’. Playing the zither and singing is his magical force. Spoiler alert: Väinämöinen really wants to find a wife but his quests are always unfortunate and not even the zither can help with finding a spouse.
- School and mental calculation. The Finnish primary school has always relied on mental calculations. A math test almost always includes a mental calculation section and mental calculations are also trained separately as “little tests”. Pretty much all kids hate these but the impact for the brain is great.
What other inseparable Finnish pairs are there? Please leave your comment below!
(Photo credits & rights of Viivi & Wagner- comic strip: Juba Tuomola.)