I’ve been living in Finland for just over six months now and I’ve found that when you live in a foreign country for long enough, you start to see patterns that don’t exist in your own country. You particularly start to notice things that each country likes and doesn’t like. For instance, over here I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to heavy metal bands but I can’t get salt and vinegar flavoured Pringles anywhere.
I’ve been thinking lately about Finland and the ‘Germans love David Hasselhoff’ trope and wondering why certain things become hugely popular in one place compared to another. Why do some things become a more integral part of a country’s national identity than they do in the country they originated from? I’m going to look at some things that are weirdly popular in Finland and try to find the answer.
One of the first things I noticed when I visited the DVD section of the local supermarket was the amount of British drama DVDs. That’s no surprise since Britain has some of the best actors and writers in the world. (Not that I’m bragging or anything…) What I did find strange were the DVDs of what I assume are old episodes of the British soap opera Emmerdale. Of all the popular soaps, why the most depressingly boring of them all? Why the one that for some reason my grandma watches religiously but I had to stop watching because I realised I like feeling happy?
I thought that maybe the concept of seemingly normal people dealing with normal issues appealed to Finns. Except that these ‘everyday’ issues involve euthanising your paralyzed gay lover, discovering you just made out with your long lost sister and a plane crash destroying half your village.
- Ginga Nagareboshi Gin (or Silver Fang Gin)
Anime and manga are generally very popular in Finland, but Silver Fang Gin, despite being very obscure in most places, is hugely popular throughout the Nordic countries. It became one of the few anime to receive a Finnish language dub, although by all accounts being popular wasn’t enough to get it a good dub.
It’s obviously because it’s about dogs and bears and snowy climates, and definitely not dumbed down for children. Just like in the show, there really are dogs in Finland trained to hunt bears. (And they’re adorable!) I’m wondering if it’s also because the bears are the villains in the series, and bears are often used as a symbol for Russia.
- Conan O’Brien.
Now this one is kind of weird. Don’t get me wrong, Conan O’Brien is great and all, but supposedly the main reason he’s popular in Finland is because he bears a slight resemblance to the former president Tarja Halonen.
Apparently O’Brien started this rumour himself and it just caught on, which makes much more sense. I wonder if he looked through pictures of world leaders to find one he looked like so he could become popular in their country and get a free trip there. He must have been disappointed when it turned out to be Finland and not a warmer country.
- The Spoony Experiment.
Now this one does make perfect sense. Spoony, real name Noah Antwiler, is an internet critic who reviews movies, video games, table top games, and anything nerdy. Finland is basically the kingdom of the nerds (yet for some reason we still get bullied in Finnish schools) and I think his extreme geekiness and how comfortable he is with his nerdy lifestyle appeals naturally to Finns. Finland has never had its own king, but I reckon Spoony should be our first.
Spoony even said in the commentary of one of his videos that he was invited to a Finnish comic con and a fan dressed as his incredibly obscure one off character ‘Stereotypically-drunk Mexican Cyborg Early 90s Otaku Kid’. Spoony personally gave him his seal of approval as ‘the number one fan in Finland’.
- Donald Duck.
Another slightly confusing one. Donald Duck or Aku Ankka comics are amazingly popular in Finland. You can buy them down at the local corner shop. It’s strange to consider now that Donald Duck was initially criticised in Finland because he doesn’t wear trousers and is supposedly living in sin with Daisy Duck. Whoever made that claim probably wouldn’t like me pointing out that The Moomins walk around naked all the time and are completely accepting of homosexuals.
Why do Finns love him so much? Maybe it’s because Donald’s a sailor. Maybe it’s his anger issues. Maybe it’s because he’s the dark horse of the Disney characters, despite obviously being the best of them all.
Finland is just one of the countries where Donald Duck comics are produced, and have been since 1951. There was even a Donald Duck version of the Kalevela, the Finnish national epic poem, which is kind of like if Bananaman made a version of Game of Thrones. Actually, that might have potential…